Field Notes: 5 years of the John Muir Way

On John Muir Day, John Muir Award Scotland Project Manager Sarah McNeill reflects on the 5th anniversary of the opening of the John Muir Way

Zeki wild along the way 2 image detail

The John Muir Way is a long distance route like no other – 134 miles, coast to coast, running through the heart of central Scotland between Helensburgh in the west, to John Muir’s Birthplace of Dunbar in the east. The route boasts beautiful coastal scenery, sweeping landscapes, wildlife sites and historic visitor attractions.

Created by Central Scotland Green Network and Scottish Natural Heritage, the John Muir Way is one of Scotland’s Great Trails. Within 5 miles of over 1.3 million people, it offers as much to local communities as it does to long distance walkers and cyclists, welcoming visitors from across the globe.

Today, on John Muir’s 181st birthday, we mark exactly five years since the opening of the John Muir Way. Commemorating the vision and passion of John Muir, the route is a tribute to his inspirational work and focus on protecting wild places, which continues to grow increasingly relevant today. It provides opportunities for all to increase understanding of John Muir’s legacy and philosophy by getting closer to nature.

The John Muir Way is designed to be accessible to as many people as possible regardless of age, ability, group size or interest, to encourage people to get active and experience the outdoors and nature. The route offers surprising variety and contrast – from coast, to loch, to National Park, to city, there is something for everyone.

Last year, when studying Outdoor Education in Edinburgh, I lived within five minutes of the John Muir Way. I felt that it was created for, and around, my own community. Weekly, and sometimes daily, short experiences in and around the route allowed me to journey into deeper connections with nature. These regular ‘micro journeys’ were a contrast to my other week long expeditions hillwalking in the Cairngorms or canoeing down the river Spey. For me, the John Muir Way represented accessible nature on my doorstep. Wildness can be found everywhere – and it all needs to be cherished.

With support from Scottish Natural Heritage, the John Muir Trust has been delighted to encourage people to enjoy the benefits of connecting with wildness along the John Muir Way:

  • Nearly 3,000 people achieved their John Muir Award on the John Muir Way since it was launched 5 years ago (this includes a 40% growth last year).
  • The Trust has helped produce a John Muir Way activity guide, packed with ideas and resources for citizen science, adventure, Curriculum for Excellence, volunteering and getting creative.
  • We also helped collate and publish a John Muir Way report celebrating youth engagement for Scotland’s Year of Young People 2018.
  • We’ve shared how different people enjoy the John Muir Way – from seeking adventure (Zeki Basan’s Wild Along the Way film) pictured above; to young people actively engaging in nature through practical, environmental activities (#NatureJam film); and family experiences (The Family Adventure Project video blog).

Johnathan Kemsley“The John Muir Way has a story to it and this story brings its wild places to life. I’ve seen this in the way people want to conserve it… They feel as though they are part of something when they are caring for it, and I certainly feel a part of that when I walk along it.” - Johnathan, Conserver John Muir Award Recipient

On John Muir’s 181st birthday, I think he would be proud to see the number of people, like Johnathan, using the John Muir Way as a place for nature connection, biodiversity action, outdoor learning, community activity, training and skills, adventure and resilience, curiosity and creativity, health and wellbeing.

Exciting times lie ahead as we see and encourage greater use of the route. In 2018, we have seen a 40% increase in John Muir Award activity on the John Muir Way – just imagine what this resource will be doing for people in central Scotland in the next five years.

John Muir Way Providers Map

To view a summary report on how the John Muir Trust has engaged with the John Muir Way during 2018, please contact sarah@johnmuiraward.org

John Muir Day celebration offer

JM Day 2019 - colour logo

As part of the John Muir Day celebrations the Trust is offering a 50 per cent discount for new members who join before the end of April. Use the promo code CELEBRATE at checkout - T&C’s apply.