08. National Long Distance Cycling and Walking Network

A National Long Distance Cycling and Walking Network is needed to enhance visitor and recreation experiences, as well as ensuring that Scotland’s population has better access to the outdoors for health and well-being. Making better links between existing routes will improve connections between urban and rural, and inland and coastal areas. Whilst it has significant potential as a tourism resource, we also believe that this network can support active travel and contribute to health and well-being. The development should focus on making best use of existing path networks – Scotland’s Great Trails, the National Cycling Network and the Scottish Canal Network. It should seek to close key gaps, upgrade connecting routes, build on local core path networks, and link with public transport. Other proposals to strengthen this network over this period do not need planning permission to be implemented but form part of a wider strategy to help achieve the vision for the national network over a 20 year period. A coherent plan for the network will be developed by key partners, led by Scottish Natural Heritage, immediately after adoption of NPF3. The national development description shows the priority 5 year projects within the context of the wider strategy.

Implementation Lead(s): Scottish Natural Heritage; sustrans; Scottish Canals; Scottish Government; Local Authorities;

Local authorities to facilitate the bringing forward of the network, including those elements requiring planning permission (list A) and those that do not (List B). Only planning applications for list A will be processed as national developments

List A

  • Clyde Walkway extension – New Lanark to Biggar
  • Crook of Devon to Kinross
  • Cross-Scotland Pilgrim Way – Tyndrum to Glen Ogle / Glen Ogle to Crieff
  • Darvel to Muirkirk
  • John Muir Way – Strathblane to Glasgow spur
  • North Solway Coast Path – Drummore to Portpatrick
  • Speyside Way extension – Aviemore to Newtonmore
  • Route 73 of the National Cycle Network – Brodick to Corrie
  • Route 753 of the National Cycle Network – Gourock-Ardrossan: Largs to Inverkip / In & around Fairlie
  • Route 76 of the National Cycle Network – Manor Powis Roundabout
  • Route 765 of the National Cycle Network – Stirling to Callander: Doune-Burn of Cambus
  • Southern Upland Cycleway: Stranraer to Portpatrick

List B

  • Arran Coastal Way improvements
  • Clyde Coastal Path improvements
  • Clyde Walkway improvements – Newton Farm section / Craighead Retreat section
  • Cowal Way improvements
  • Dundee Green Circular – alternative to Docks section
  • Great Trossachs Path – Callander to Inversnaid
  • Fife Pilgrim Way – Culross and North Queensferry to St Andrews
  • Hebridean Way – Harris & Lewis
  • John Muir Way – Kilpatricks section
  • Route 73 (South) of the National Cycle Network – Newton Stewart to Cairnryan
  • Caledonian Canal Towpath
  • Crinan Canal Towpath
  • Forth & Clyde Canal Towpath Monklands Canal TowpathUnion Canal Towpath

Locations: All Scotland

Further reading: National Walking and Cycling Network Project Plan

Environmental Mitigation: Effects of proposals to be assessed in full in ongoing Environmental Impact Assessment. Continuing community liaison. Co-ordinated approach to consenting may be beneficial. Habitats Regulations Appraisal will be required for some of the specific projects and the mitigation included in the Habitats Regulation Appraisal Record should be used to inform planning processes and be applied as appropriate.

National Planning Framework 3 Strategic Environmental Assessment (as updated)
National Planning Framework 3 Habitats Regulation Appraisal

Ongoing Activity and Milestones:
19 March 2015 – National Walking and Cycling Project Plan launched in Falkirk by the Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Communities and Pensioners Rights, Alex Neil MSP

Project plan launch 19 March

‘The preparation of a Communications Plan is underway to ensure that all partners and stakeholders are aware of or effectively engaged in delivery, and that users are inspired to explore the developing network

Project Steering Group
Project Steering Group inaugural meeting.  The inaugural meeting of the National Walking and Cycling Network Steering Group took place on February 17, 2015.  The organisations represented in the group are: SNH, sustrans, Scottish Canals, Scottish Government, CoSLA, VisitScotland and Regional Transport Partnerships.  Broad areas of discussion covered: Project Plan, communications and promotions, routes and funding update, and monitoring of network use and condition. The fifth meeting of the Steering Group took place in June 2016. The next meeting is on 14 September 2017.

Strategic Development Plans Work is underway with local authorities and other partners to identify strategic routes, including NWCN priorities. Agreed routes are now included within the SESplan Main Issues Report and the Clydeplan Proposals Report, and have also been agreed with Forth valley and Ayrshire local authoritiesA CSGN wide strategic routes network map has now been prepared.

Network Monitoring Framework

SNH, Sustrans and Scottish Canals have devised an approach to monitoring the NWCN across Scotland, including establishing baseline data by 2017 followed up ongoing monitoring. The approach will involve route user interceptor surveys and the use of people counters. Data will be collected on the numbers of users and profiles, types and purpose of trips (recreation and active travel), users experiences, and economic impacts and health benefits. The user surveys are now complete and are being analysed. In addition, online public and business survey are underway until end March 2017 to help us understand how the National Walking and Cycling Network is being used, how it could be improved and what benefits it provides.. The surveys can be accessed on the link below.


In addition, online public and business survey are underway until end March 2017 to help us understand how the National Walking and Cycling Network is being used, how it could be improved and what benefits it provides.

Network Promotion

We have now produced a NWCN tube map and a short animation below to illustrate, in schematic format, the vision to improve strategic paths provision in Scotland and create a better connected network.- see link below


We have also develop a short 6 minute film which describes how the network is being developed and who is involved, and highlights the benefits we are seeking.

Good news stories
Firth of Clyde Rotary Trail
The creation of the Firth of Clyde Rotary Trail, from Mull of Galloway to Milngavie, by the Rotary was celebrated at a recent public launch in the town by Sally Magnusson. The opening of the Clyde Coast Path (an NWCN priority) has allowed the creation of the Firth of Clyde Rotary Trail by filling the missing gap between North Ayrshire and Milngavie. This crucial new section allows people to take much longer journeys now eg. Mull of Galloway to Glasgow, Inverness, Dundee, Edinburgh and Berwick

Good news stories
Firth of Clyde Rotary Trail
The creation of the Firth of Clyde Rotary Trail, from Mull of Galloway to Milngavie, by the Rotary was celebrated at a recent public launch in the town by Sally Magnusson. The opening of the Clyde Coast Path (an NWCN priority) has allowed the creation of the Firth of Clyde Rotary Trail by filling the missing gap between North Ayrshire and Milngavie. This crucial new section allows people to take much longer journeys now eg. Mull of Galloway to Glasgow, Inverness, Dundee, Edinburgh and Berwick

Clyde Coast Path Opening Sally Magnusson

Great Trossachs Path
This recently-opened route is also a great example of improving connections between paths by linking together the West Highland Way and Three Lochs Way with the Rob Roy Way

Caledonian Canal Towpath Improvements
Benign winter and spring weather has allowed contractors to successfully improve the towpath sections of the canal linking Inverness with Fort William. The paths have been cleared of vegetation and resurfaced, giving better sight lines and multi-use access to a wider range of people

Caldonian Canal Towpath thumbnail

Burncrooks - helicopter drop

The picture shows aggregate stone being flown in by helicopter over the summer.

2016 March, 23 –   There has been good progress made on various routes over the past few months with the highlight being the opening of a new section of the John Muir Way over the Kilpatrick Hills on March 21, 2016. This £500K project, led by Forestry Commission Scotland with additional funding from Scottish Natural Heritage and Sportscotland opens up a new upland route linking Carbeth to the Balloch area.

The photograph shows the project partners and community representatives cutting the ribbon to officially open the path.

John Muir Way Pic Peter Devlin

Cross-Scotland Pilgrims Way:
St Fillan’s Community Trust hosted a launch of a new completed local section of the Pilgrims Way on 12 August. The work has been led by the Community Trust, with significant capital funding from SNH and Sustrans. This is a good example of key partners working together to implement projects which provide both local and national benefits.

 Community launch for new section of Pilgrims way in St Fillan’s.jpg

Other progress on this route includes:

  • Newburgh to Crieff, feasibility work is underway, led by the Scottish Pilgrims Route Forum
  • Muthill to Crieff, implementation underway, led by Muthill Community Trust
  • Crieff to Comrie, ongoing negotiations with landowners to agree route and related works, led by Crieff Community Trust and Perth & Kinross Council
  • Tyndrum to Crianlairich, preparations for implementation led by Loch Lomond & The Trossachs Countryside Trust

Other route updates:

Crook of Devon to Kinross: Phase 1 implementation complete, led by Loch leven TRACKS

Southwest Coastal Path: Early works to improve Rhins paths completed, lead by Dumfries and Galloway Council. Ongoing work to develop full funding package for remaining route improvements

Arran Coastal Way: Ongoing improvements, led by Arran Access Trust

Cowal Way: Improvements complete, led by Colintraive and Glendaruel Development Trust

Hebridean Way: Improvements complete, led by Western Isles Council

Speyside Way extension: Ongoing, led by Cairngorms National Park

NCN Route 74: construction is underway in south Lanarkshire

NCN Route 753: ongoing work to the Fairlie coastal route

John Muir way Glasgow spur – feasibility work underway

Fife Pilgrim Way – HLF supported phase 1 development work underway, led by Fife Coast and Countryside Trust

Canal towpath network – £3.8M of investment in towpath surfacing/upgrade including:

  • 11km on the Union Canal
  • 15Km on the Forth & Clyde Canal
  • 4.75Km on the Crinan Canal
  • 7Km on the Caledonian Canal


Update – August 2017

Building on the achievments of the first year, 2016/17 has seen continued progress towards delivery of the project plan. The three lead partners have between them invetsed £5.5M on building and upgrading an estimated 65Km of paths and routes. Additional works have included feasibility studies, promotions and monitoring.

Achievements for 16/17 include:

5 year priorities – A list (requiring planning consent)

  • Crook of Devon to Kinross – continued work on landowner liaison and planning
  • Cross Scotland Pilgrim Way
  • Tyndrum to Glen Ogle – build of Phase 1 Tyndrum to Dalrigh completed. Continued landowner liaison on Dalrigh to Crianlarich
  • Glen Ogle to Crieff – build of Phase 3 at St Fillans, Crieff to Comrie feasibility, Muthill to Crieff bridge design works/flood mitigation
  • John Muir Way spur – further feasibility work
  • Speyside Way Extension – specification and planning preparation underway
  • NCN 73 – new sections under construction
  • NCN 753 – feasibility and design around Largs, construction around Fairlie
  • NCN 765 – feasibility and design around Doune


5 year priorities – B list

  • Arran Coastal Way – ongoing improvements have led to SGT status
  • Clyde Walkway improvements – landowner/developer liaison underway, capital spend planned for 17/18
  • Cowal Way multiuse improvements
  • Fife Pilgrim Way – management planning, fundraising and landowner liaison
  • NCN 79 – surface improvements to Cairngorm National Park section
  • Scottish Canals have successfully completed the towpath upgrades to hard construction on the Lowland Canals  Forth & Clyde, Forth & Clyde Glasgow branch and Union and the whole length of the Crinan Canal. Additional work has included feasibility and design work, creation of new moorings and canalside infrastructure, public events and hosting of the World Canal Conference


Longer term priorities

  • Cross Scotland Pilgrim Way
  • Iona to Tyndrum – planning for project Officer to be in post in 17/18
  • Crieff to St Andrews – route finding, feasibility
  • Deeside Way extension – feasibility, landowner engagement
  • North Solway Coastal Path – Lady Bay and Corsewall improvements
  • Other sections of the wider network have been improved as opportunities arise eg improvements to SGT accessibility

A full update on route development can be found at www.snh.gov.uk/NWCN

Highlights of the year include the completion of the upgrading to the whole of the Lowland canal towpath network and the additon of the Arran Coastal Way to the family of Scotland’s Great Trails (SGT’s).  The Arran Coastal Way offers a challenging and rewarding 65-mile / 105 kilometre circular route around the beautiful Isle of Arran and brings the total number of SGT’s up to 29.

Another highlight was the opening of a key section of the Cross Scotland Pilgrim Way at Tyndrum. The walking and cycling route is situated in the community owned woodland at Dalrigh, Tyndrum. It creates a circular loop from Tyndrum, allowing cyclists to bypass the A82 trunk road.

The path has been created by the Loch Lomond & The Trossachs Countryside Trust, a charitable organisation with the aim of encouraging more people to get out and enjoy the great outdoors. It has been delivered in partnership by Sustrans Scotland, Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park, Tactran, Forth Valley and Lomond LEADER, the Brown Forbes Memorial Trust, the Garfield Weston Foundation, Forestry Commission Scotland, Scottish Natural Heritage and the Strathfillan Community Development Trust. The picture shows partners celebrating the opening of the new route on a sunny day in July.


Update February 2018

Good progress continues to be made on delivering the priorities within the action plan.

Cross Scotland Pilgrims Way

  • Muthill – continuation of support for bridge design over river Earn linking Muthill and Crieff
  • Partnership with Sustrans on Development Officer to take forward the Tyndrum to Oban section – recruitment expected shortly

John Muir Way – Strathblane to Glasgow Spur

  • Landowner permission in place for improvements over 50% of route
  • TCV lined up to start work in 18/19
  • Signage audit still required

South West Scotland Coastal Path – Rhins of Galloway

  • 10km of improvements – HLF/IPA funded, delivered by D&G Council

Speyside Way Extension

  • Inshriach to Insh – 2.6km , scheduled for early next fy, delivered by Outdoor Access Trust for Scotland and CNPA
  • Insh to Ruthven scheduled for 19/20 depending on funding and A9 dualling

Clyde Walkway Improvements

  • Craighead retreat to Blantyre – 1.5 km of route scheduled for this fy. Potential to trial new hydraulic binder process that binds with exixsting path surface, reducing need to import new materials, forming hardwearing durable surface. Delivered through p’ship of CSGNT, PFA and South Lanarkshire Council

Fife Pilgrims Way

  • On schedule for opening of a way-marked route in March 2018 with delivery of interpretation, app and further improvements during 2019

River Tay Way

  • Ongoing feasibility study / landowner consultation. Detailed design for Kenmore to Aberfeldy section

SNH is also undertaking a programme of works to improve Scotland’s Great Trails and other LDRS in response to accessibility audits:

  • West Highland Way
  • Clyde Coastal path
  • John Muir Way
  • Annandale Way
  • Cateran Trail
  • Dava Way
  • John Buchan Way
  • John Muir Way
  • South Loch Ness Trail
  • Southern Upland Way
  • Three Lochs Way

NCN 73, Brodick to Corrie.

  • Tender for the design work has been issued

NCN 753, Largs to Inverkip.

  • A feasibility study for the whole route will be undertaken, along with detailed design for sections which can be commenced immediately to provide local community links.

NCN 753, Fairlie.

  • Ongoing consultation with a view to commencing on this work during 2018.

NCN 76, Manor Powis Roundabout.

  • Ongoing consulation between lead partners and network Rail.

NCN 73, Newton Stewart to Cairnryan.

  • Route review and signage assessment to be undertaken this year.

NCN 74 Gretna to Glasgow.

  • Ongoing signage consultations.

NCN 765, Doune to Burn of Cambus.

  • Ongoing landowner consultations on the route, surveys and consultations are being undertaken this year.

NCN 775.

  • Crieff to Comrie, outline design being worked on.
  • St Filans to Lochearnhead, this scheme has been progressing well with new sections being built on the old railway from St Fillans westwards.

NCN 79, Speyside Way.

  • No funding at this stage for this financial year. A feasibility study has been prepared for the full route, so as and when additional funding becomes available this is available to get additional sections completed.

The route to the Isles

  • A route study tender is being prepared. It has been decided not to progress with a STAG study as its felt that this would be excessive for this tranche of work.

Roslin Peebles cycleway.

  • Plans and landowner agreements are in place for the Peebles to Roslin section. Options are being looked at for Eddleston to Roslin.

The project partners also continue to work on promotions including:

  • regular posts on social media:1.


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