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Written by
FionaOutdoors
FionaOutdoors

New John Muir Way launch

The new John Muir Way is set to open next month and will be launched with a nine-day John Muir Festival. We have been keeping tracks on the progress of this extended, coast to-coast long-distance walking trail since its announcement last year. We do love a long-distance walking trail here at Macs Adventure! The original John Muir Way, which also celebrated the life and work of the pioneering conservationist and father of America’s national parks, has been well trodden over the years between Dunbar in East Lothian and South Queensferry, near Edinburgh. Now this trail has been extended to chart a route across Scotland to the west coast at Helensburgh. This is on the same Clyde estuary coast from where Scots-born Muir set sail for America with his family when he was a child. As walkers will discover the 134-mile trail takes in a wide variety of landscapes, including canal towpaths, hills, farmland, lochs, villages, towns and cities. Most of the route is on easy-going terrain although some sections are a bit more challenging, including Gouk Hill, between Balloch and Helensburgh. The new John Muir Way actually makes use of some other existing walkways, such as the West Highland Way, and links together established routes and paths. There are some newly built sections and hundreds of John Muir Way signs to keep you on track. I have been delighted to spot many of these new waymarks on running and cycling routes in east and west Dunbartonshire, and close to my home.

Why John Muir?

Muir was born in Dunbar, on East Lothian’s coast. While he lived only the first 11 years of his life in Scotland before sailing with his family to the US for a new life in the 1940s, he remained fondly connected to his home country. He is said to have talked a great deal about the fabulous countryside of East Lothian during his adventures and travels in America. His name has always been linked to Scotland and he is remembered for his work creating the first of America’s great national parks. The opening of the new John Muir Way on April 21 marks his birthday on that day in 1838 and the centenary year of his death.

Walking the John Muir Way

JMW.me.jpgIt’s estimated that it will take seven to 10 days to walk the entire John Muir Way. However, many people will choose to walk shorter sections of the long-distance trail over a few hours or a day. The John Muir Way route is split into 10 sections. It can be walked from east to west or west to east. The coast-to-coast route takes in a wide variety of landscapes, including hills, farmland, canal towpaths, lochsides, villages, towns and cities. Most of the route is on easy-going terrain although some sections will be a bit more challenging, including Gouk Hill, between Balloch and Helensburgh. It’s also possible for cyclists to ride the trail, although several different paths are provided in certain places to avoid damaging historical sites.

Walking from Balloch to Helensburgh

One section that has been newly mapped out is from Balloch in West Dunbartonshire to Helensburgh, Argyll & Bute. Earlier this month, on a gloriously sunny late winter’s day, I set out to walk the final nine-mile section of the John Muir Way. Most of the John Muir signs are in place although there is a section in woodland where walkers need to cross very muddy terrain following red-and-white plastic tape tied around trees. (This will presumably be replaced with something more permanent by the time the route launches officially on April 21.) Something else to note is that the John Muir Way signs are small round discs with an arrow in white and purple colours. Beware of becoming confused with Helensburgh and District Trust walking signs that are the same colours but in a different format. I ended up taking a detour and then having to backtrack because I mistook the similar signs. On the whole though, the signs are easy to follow and take walkers from the popular tourist attraction of Loch Lomond Shores to the seaside town of Helensburgh on quiet country roads, woodland trails and moorland paths, as well as a final section along a busy road but on the tarmacked bike path. The views are fabulous at many places on the route, including Loch Lomond, the loch’s islands and the mountains, such as Ben Lomond, in the distance. Towards Helensburgh, the views move to the beautiful Clyde estuary. If you are looking for a day’s walk that is easily accessed from train stations including Helensburgh or Balloch and like the feeling of remoteness yet not too far from civilisation this would make a good choice. These will also be some guided walks on this section as part of a week of John Muir Festival events from April 17 to 26. See SNH and John Muir Festival. See two of our previous John Muir Way blogs: New John Muir Way will become the most popular in Scotland New Scottish walking trail to celebrate John Muir

John Muir Trust

Macs Adventure is now supporting the John Muir Trust. While the John Muir Trust are not behind the new John Muir Way, they do carry out their activities in the spirit of the great conservationist.
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