Celebrations for the second anniversary of the John Muir Way begin on 16th April and run until 24th April, with events across the Central Belt, honouring the famous Scottish American environmentalist’s birthday and his namesake trail.
Ian Ross, Scottish Natural Heritage [SNH] chair, says: ‘Many people have enjoyed walking and cycling the John Muir Way since it opened in 2014, with over 60,000 visitors a year. It’s a wonderful resource for people of any ability or fitness. You can walk a mile along the route near where you live – or walk the entire 134 miles. The route is an easy and enjoyable way for the 3 million people who live in the Central Belt to enjoy the outdoors.’
The festivities include all kinds of events, including a number across the Central Belt run by the charity, Buglife. There will be a bumblebee walk in a wildflower meadow at Balloch Castle and Country Park in Dunbarton, bug walks at Lauderdale Park in Dunbar, a wildflower meadow discovery day at Kinneil Foreshore at Bo’Ness, as well as other events in Helensburgh [Duchess Wood], Strathblane, and the Edinburgh Botanic Gardens. Also on the schedule is a 12-mile walk along the John Muir Way, led by the Friends of Kinneil charity, from historic Kinneil House in Bo’ness to imposing Blackness Castle [below] on 16th April.
Suzanne Burgess, Conservation Officer with Buglife, says: ‘Through the SNH-funded project, John Muir Pollinator Way, Buglife are running a series of walks, talks and workshops during his birthday week to raise awareness of the importance of our grassland meadows for pollinating insects and other wildlife. Events will train participants in how to create and manage grassland meadows, as well as how to identify and monitor our many pollinating insect species such as bees and hoverflies.’
Another showstopper for the week is the first-ever John Muir Coast Festival from 22nd-24th April in East Lothian, which boasts the first-ever night golf event, an ultra-marathon, a free bike hire day and a wakeboarding competition, among other activities.
As well, North Light arts are holding a workshop with the John Muir Artist in Residence, Kathy Beckett, on the 23rd April in Dunbar.
Following the week of festivities, John Muir himself, portrayed by Lee Stetson, will be walking the entire 134-mile route. Along the way, he will perform at a variety of venues, relating stories of his earliest years in Dunbar, his boyhood in the wilderness of Wisconsin, his truly astonishing adventures in the American West, and of his heroic battles to preserve wild lands.
Keith Geddes, Chair of the Central Scotland Green Network Trust, developed the vision behind the route. He says: ‘The vision for the John Muir Way was to ‘bring John Muir home’ by honouring the Scots-born environmentalist and protecting his legacy for future generations. Two years on, it’s tremendous to see the route continuing to go from strength to strength, with thousands of people enjoying the outdoors and the recent opening of the new upland section linking the route at the Kilpatrick Hills.’
Malcolm Roughead, Chief Executive of VisitScotland, says: ‘The John Muir Way is a fantastic way to savour the Central Belt’s magnificent views, taking in some of the best of Scotland’s natural and cultural heritage. This exciting programme of events looks set to celebrate the second anniversary of the walking route in style with performances from John Muir himself, portrayed by Lee Stetson, sure to be a real highlight.’
The John Muir Way boasts some of the most beautiful coastal scenery, sweeping landscapes, wildlife sites and historic visitor attractions across Scotland’s heartland. Walkers, cyclists and horse riders can enjoy the rocky coasts of East Lothian where Muir played as a child, the dramatic Blackness Castle on the Forth, historic Linlithgow Palace, Roman hill forts on Antonine Wall, and the unique Falkirk Wheel boat lift, among other highlights.
The route is way-marked with John Muir Way signs, and a website, book, leaflets and map will give people all the information they need to complete all or part of the trail.
John Muir was born in Dunbar [Dunbar beach – below] in 1838, before emmigrating to the United States in 1849. He helped save the Yosemite Valley in California, was a co-founder of The Sierra Club – one of the most influential grassroots environmental organisations in the USA – and successfully campaigned for national parks in America.
Conceived by Keith Geddes of Central Scotland Green Network Trust [CSGNT], John Muir Way was planned and developed by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) with Sustrans, Sportscotland, Forestry Commission Scotland and Local Authorities as key funders, and with support from CSGNT and Scottish Government.