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Self Guided Walking Holidays & Cycling Holidays 

The John Muir Way

This coast-to-coast trail across the heart of Scotland celebrates the life and work of inspirational conservationist John Muir (1838-1914), often referred to as the ‘Father of National Parks’. Experience mountains, lochs, canals and coastal scenery as you walk west to east from Helensburgh via historic Edinburgh to Dunbar, Muir’s birthplace.

The John Muir Way was introduced in April 2014, the centenary year of his death. The New York Times described Muir as, ‘one of the greatest thinkers of America’. Muir’s activism was pivotal in preserving some of North America’s great parks—Yosemite Valley, Sequoia National Park and other wilderness areas. Macs Adventure are in turn proud to support the work of the John Muir Trust—a not-for profit charity that owns and cares for some of the finest wild areas in the UK (www.jmt.org).

The John Muir Way stretches 134 miles/215km across the heart of Scotland and includes the original (shorter) John Muir Way in East Lothian. Begin your walk on the shores of the River Clyde at Helensburgh, where you’ll find classic sandstone and Art Deco architecture, before setting off for the shores of bonnie Loch Lomond. At this point you’ll even follow part of the West Highland Way!

Continue under the craggy Campsie Fells through farmland and pretty villages to the Forth and Clyde Canal, where you’ll witness the Falkirk Wheel, an impressive feat of engineering!

Reach the coast and visit photogenic Blackness Castle and classic Hopetoun House—an ideal spot for a traditional afternoon tea. The trail leads on to the impressive bright red Firth of Forth Bridge at Queensferry, before you reach a highlight of the tour— cosmopolitan and cultural Edinburgh. Stay in the heart of the capital and spend time exploring the famed castle, cobbled ‘Royal Mile’ with its hidden alleyways, and perhaps treat yourself to a supper of haggis or ’neeps and tatties’ in one of the city’s excellent pubs or restaurants.

Return to the coast and walk alongside the wildlife-rich Musselburgh Ash Lagoons and sandy beaches. The excellent Scottish Seabird Centre at North Berwick is a must-visit. Finally you walk into the charming town of Dunbar, where you’ll find the Birthplace Museum of John Muir—a fitting end to your walk.

Our John Muir Way self-guided walking tour includes 11 nights hand-picked accommodation in high quality B&B’s, country inns, and guesthouses with breakfast included, route notes and maps, luggage transfers, a pre-departure information pack and 24-7 emergency support should you need it.


Highlights

  • Hiking through Scotland’s heartland; mountains, canals, lochs, coastal paths
  • Exploring iconic Edinburgh with its castle, museums, galleries and restaurants
  • Peaceful flat walking along the Forth & Clyde Canal, visiting the Falkirk Wheel
  • Tasting a wee dram of whisky at charming Glengoyne distillery near Dumgoyne
  • Relaxing by the banks of bonnie Loch Lomond, and perhaps taking a boat trip

      DAY 1: Arrive Helensburgh

      Your Scottish long distance trail starts on the west coast, at the lovely town of Helensburgh, nestled on the banks of the Clyde. It was from this area that an 11-year old John Muir set sail well over a century ago, bound for North American shores.


      Settle into your friendly family-run bed and breakfast. Helensburgh is easily accessible by rail from Glasgow. Scotland’s largest city itself offers plenty to explore, and you may wish to add on a night here; we’ll be happy to make arrangements.


      Overnight: Helensburgh


      DAY 2: Walk to Balloch, by Loch Lomond

      Helensburgh is known for its grand houses and in particular for the Hill House, an icon of design created by renowned Art Deco designer Charles Rennie Mackintosh. If you have time, a visit to the house is well worthwhile before you set off on your journey.


      Once in the hills enjoy fabulous sweeping views of your next destination, the bonnie banks of Loch Lomond, shimmering against the backdrop of the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park. Descend to Balloch, and perhaps take time this evening for a stroll alongside the water or if you arrive in the afternoon, take an optional paddle steamer or boat trip out onto the loch.


      Walk: 9 miles, 4 hours


      Overnight: Balloch


      DAY 3: Walk to Strathblane

      An early start is the order of the day as today is the longest stretch on the John Muir Way, but also one of the most rewarding. Begin with a stroll through Balloch Castle Country Park, admiring views over Loch Lomond, before you start your ascent through small settlements and farmland to the pretty village of Croftamie.


      From here, you’ll follow the classic West Highland Way for a short while as you stride towards the whisky distillery at Glengoyne, at the foot of a volcanic plug —Dumgoyne. Tours of this charming picture-postcard distillery are recommended (payable locally). Continue to Strathblane, where you can relax and perhaps reward yourself with a wee dram of local whisky.


      Walk: 18.5 miles, 6-7 hours


      Overnight: Near to Strathblane (a transfer may be provided to/from the end/start of the walk). Note - if you wish to cut this long day into two sections, then we can happily add an extra night for you at the lovely village of Killearn; just get in touch.


      DAY 4: Walk to Kilsyth

      You’ll be walking in view of the dramatic and rugged Campsie Fells today, as you follow the trail ever-westward to Kilsyth. Today’s hike is just 13 miles, and with lovely open stretches on good tracks.


      Kirkintilloch’s historic town centre is the ideal stop for elevenses, before joining the classic Forth and Clyde Canal for a lovely stroll along the flat canal path.


      Head up and over the 2,000 year-old Antonine Wall on a steeper path to find a Roman Fort at Bar Hill. The Antonine Wall is a UNESCO’s ‘Frontiers of the Roman Empire World Heritage Site’, alongside Hadrian’s Wall and the German Limes. It was never a stone wall, but consisted of a turf rampart fronted by a wide and deep ditch, and was incredibly symbolic.


      Finally arrive at Auchinstarry Marina where you can enjoy great British 'pub grub' and replenish your energy.


      Walk: 13 miles, 4 hours


      Overnight: Kilsyth


      DAY 5: Walk to Falkirk

      Enjoy a lovely walk along the Forth and Clyde Canal, once a busy shipping link between the Firth of Forth in the west and the Firth of Clyde in the east, but now a haven for fishermen and canal boats.


      Walk by the incredible feat of engineering, the Falkirk Wheel, the world’s only rotating boat lift which joins two canals across Scotland—it has to be seen to be believed!


      Walk: 13 miles, 5 hours


      Overnight: Falkirk area


      DAY 6: Walk to Linlithgow

      Meander along the canal on pleasant grassy tracks and join the River Avon Heritage Trail.


      Arrive at historic Linlithgow, birthplace of Mary, Queen of Scots. This friendly and charming town offers a lovely high street with good facilities, where you’ll find a blend of old and new. Visit the preserved ruins of the Royal Palace next to Linlithgow Loch. At Annet House Museum & Garden you can see a permanent exhibition dedicated to Mary, Queen of Scots.


      Walk: 8.5 miles, 4 hours


      Overnight: Linlithgow


      DAY 7: Walk to South Queensferry

      Head towards the coast as you leave Linlithgow and stroll through rural countryside. Follow in the foosteps of fishermen’s wives who hauled their catches along the Fisherrow Walk to Bo’ness.


      Bo’ness or Borrowstounness is a lovely historic town where you’ll find 16th century architecture, a steam railway and Scotland’s largest railway museum. Continue along the coast to Blackness Castle, a 15th century icon now maintained by Historic Scotland. 17th Century Hopetoun House Estate is the ideal spot to take afternoon tea and rest your legs.


      Reach the southern end of the Forth’s road and rail bridges at South Queensferry. Here you can relax with views over the harbour and pick a fine restaurant to sample the freshest fish from Scotland’s waters.


      Walk: 14 miles, 7 hours


      Overnight: Queensferry


      DAY 8: Walk to Edinburgh

      From Queensferry, pass by the coastal Dalmeny estate (home to the largest Napoleonic collection outside of France) then you’ll soon encounter the outskirts of historic Edinburgh. Negotiate through Edinburgh’s streets and if you have time, visit the Castle as well as the capital’s museums and galleries. If you feel like a rest day, this is the ideal time to add one into your arrangements! Contact us to tailor-make your tour.


      Settle into your friendly accommodation located in the heart of the city, which is yours to explore.


      Walk: 15.5 miles, 7 hours


      Overnight: Edinburgh


      DAY 9: Walk to Prestonpans

      As today’s walk is only 10 miles, you might like to spend more time this morning discovering Edinburgh before setting off towards Prestonpans. Head towards Musselburgh where you’ll reach the coast once more. The Musselburgh Ash Lagoons and sandy beaches provide the ideal feeding ground for visiting birds, including Redshanks, Dunlin and Eider Ducks.


      Walk: 10 miles, 4 hours


      Overnight: Cockenzie


      DAY 10: Walk to North Berwick

      Follow the coastal route (pass Cockenzie Power Station, which is a literal fishing hot spot!) and you’ll soon come to Seton Sands with stunning long beach views.


      Scotland is a golfers’ paradise, and you can watch the locals tee-off as you wind your way around Kilspindie and Craigielaw golf courses to reach Aberlady, a picturesque village.


      From here, you may wish to stop at 400-year old Dirleton Castle; note that its towers date from 1240 and are amongst the oldest castle ruins in the country.


      Turn back to the coast at Yellowcraig, before reaching the seaside town of North Berwick. A must-see is the award-winning Scottish Seabird Centre here, and find out more about the folk that would have lived alongside John Muir at the Coastal Communities Museum.


      Walk: 16.5 miles, 5 hours


      Overnight: North Berwick


      DAY 11: Walk to Dunbar

      Heading south again, perhaps take the (optional) climb up to Berwick Law for stunning 360 degree views over Edinburgh and Arthur’s Seat to Tantallon Castle, with its seaside position.


      On your final day’s walk you’ll be on country tracks and quiet inland roads which lead first to East Linton then on to the John Muir Country Park.


      Walking through landscapes close to where John Muir spent his early years, enjoy the wild beaches and crashing waves as you trace the path high along the cliff-tops then descend to Dunbar and John Muir’s Birthplace Museum, marking the finish of The John Muir Way.


      Take time to discover fascinating facts about this incredible man through the exhibition, housed in the building where John Muir spent his boyhood before emigrating to America. Congratulate yourself on having completed the John Muir Trail.


      Walk: 15 miles, 5 hours


      Overnight: Dunbar


      DAY 12: Onward Travel

      From Dunbar make your way back to Edinburgh or Glasgow (30-40 mins and 1h30 approx. respectively, by train). There are good rail links from the train station. See www.thetrainline.com for timetable information.


       

      Available
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      Availability

      This trip is available from the week before Easter to the end of September. You can start your holiday on any date in the season. To
      make a provisional reservation select "Book" for the itinerary you are
      interested in.


      Because every tour we book is unique,
      availability changes from day to day and our booking process works as
      follows:


      • You provisionally book the tour you are interested in for your preferred dates and pay a 20% deposit online or by phone.
      • We confirm availability and book all your accommodation and options
        and send final confirmation as soon as everything is confirmed (max 5
        working days).
      • If we are unable to accommodate you on your confirmed dates/tour or
        an alternative of your choice your deposit is fully refunded.

       

      Code Tour Name Duration Grade From Book
      WSJMW The John Muir Way 12 Days & 11 Nights £835 Book

      Included

      • 11 Nights hand-picked accommodation with private facilities in country hotels, inns and B&B’s.
      • 11 Breakfasts.
      • A detailed info pack, guide book and map.
      • Emergency telephone support from our office in the event of a problem.
      • Luggage transfers during the walk (18kg per person).

      Excluded

      • Travel to Helensburgh and from Dunbar.
      • Lunches, dinners, snacks and drinks.
      • Travel Insurance.
      • Personal Equipment.
      • Taxi transfers or public transport should you need to skip a stage.
      • Entry fees/tours at any attractions.

      Optional Extras

      • Single or solo walker supplements (as applicable).
      • Additional nights.

       

      Accommodation

      Included in your trip are 11 nights in rooms with private facilities, in carefully selected accommodation in comfortable B&B’s, guesthouses and small hotels.


      We book en suite rooms as standard. If there are no en suite rooms
      available in an overnight location, we may book a room with shared
      facilities, but we would always inform you in advance if this was the case.


      Accommodation Location


      We will always try and accommodate you at the locations detailed in your
      itinerary. Occasionally, because of limited availability (and to ensure you enjoy an excellent standard of accommodation), we may have
      to accommodate you at an alternative location. In the event
      that we feel it is best to accommodate you a little further from the trail, we will advise you of this
      before confirming your booking (and transfers may also be provided). Our expert Scotland team will liaise with your accordingly to make sure you have the best possible experience.


      Single Rooms & Solo Walkers

      This holiday is available to solo walkers, although a solo walker supplement is payable (due to the fact that you are not splitting the cost of the room with another person). If you require single rooms within your party we
      would be happy to accommodate your request, although it is not generally
      possible to secure more than three single rooms in a party. A single
      supplement is payable.


      Meals

      Breakfast is included each morning while lunch and dinner are not
      included so you are free to choose from the available options. Your
      accommodation will often be more than happy to provide a packed lunch on
      request and this can be booked on arrival and paid for locally, alternatively your guidebook
      also includes details of local shops and convenient lunch stops on the
      way. Dinner is available either at your accommodation or nearby pubs and
      restaurants and your info pack will of course have suggestions.


      Navigation & Terrain

      The trail is very well way-marked and you will receive a comprehensive guide book with maps to ensure you find your way. There is an unofficial alternative route that takes you through Edinburgh (as the 'official route' bypasses the city), and we will provide you with information accordingly. The route comprises of hill and mountain tracks (so some ascent/descent), riverside trails, minor roads and highland paths.

      Getting to Helensburgh

      By Air: For international travellers Glasgow and Edinburgh Airports are are the most convenient. From Glasgow Airport there is a shuttle bus into the city centre (25 mins), and from Edinburgh Airport you can take a shuttle bus into the city centre (30 mins) or to Glasgow (60 mins).


      By Train: Helensburgh is easily accessible by rail from Glasgow city centre (45 mins). Returning from Dunbar, it is 30 mins to Edinburgh and 1h30 approx. to central Glasgow. Trains between Glasgow and Edinburgh are regular, duration approx. 50-60 mins. Visit www.nationalrail.co.uk for timetables and tickets.


      By Car: Helensburgh is 32 miles (45 mins) north of Glasgow off the A82. Parking (not secure) is available in Helensburgh.


      Journey Planning: If travelling by public transport the website www.travelinescotland.com has an excellent journey planner.


      Travel Insurance

      It is a requirement of booking with us that you have suitable travel insurance.


       




      Price from: £835 Book Now


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      The John Muir Way - from £835

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