Ian Ross: John Muir Way is a great opportunity

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You may have already seen news of the coast-to-coast John Muir Way, which officially opened on Easter Monday. It’s a walking and cycling path which cuts through East Lothian, the Central Belt and the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park, taking in 134 miles of Scotland’s beautiful scenery and landmarks.

Highlights include the rocky coasts of East Lothian where Muir played as a child, Blackness Castle, Linlithgow Palace, the Roman hill forts on the Antonine Wall, the Falkirk Wheel, and the wild scenery of Scotland’s first national park.

But what does it mean for Edinburgh? For city residents, as well as the 3.2 million people living in central Scotland – 60 per cent of the country’s population – it means there are even more chances to get out, enjoy the outdoors and get healthy. This includes sections like the Brunstane Burn path, which links Holyrood Park and east Edinburgh with Musselburgh.

The John Muir Way will also bring Edinburgh economic benefits. A recent study estimated that almost 195,000 users of the John Muir Way will create or secure more than 60 jobs and pump more than £1.4 million into the Edinburgh economy over five years.

Whether you’re a business or simply looking for a grand day out, the John Muir Way is terrific news. Right now, you can take part in the John Muir Festival, which runs until Saturday, as part of Year of Homecoming. Come along to the Royal Botanic Gardens on Saturday to hear poems inspired by walking along the John Muir Way in the Real Life Science Studio from 3.30pm to 5.30pm. Or come along to the free festival finale at Loch Lomond for an evening of music, street theatre, artistic installations, food stalls and fireworks from 7.45 to 11.30pm. For more information, see www.johnmuirfestival.com.

Or perhaps you’d prefer to get right on the Way and get walking! For more information on where to join it near you or how to walk or cycle the entire route, see www.johnmuirway.org.

A lot of inspiration and hard work is behind this new route, starting with the man himself, John Muir. After nurturing his love of nature as a young boy in Scotland, Muir moved to the US, eventually co-founding the environmental organisation the Sierra Club. Muir is known as the father of the national parks in the US.

The idea for this cross-country route itself came from Keith Geddes, who is the chair of the Central Scotland Green Network (CSGN), and building the Way has been an amazing co-operative effort between CSGN, Scottish Natural Heritage, nine local authorities, the national park, and many others.

• Ian Ross is chairman of Scottish Natural Heritage