Thousands of miles of 'hidden paths' across Scotland to be mapped for first time

Thousands of miles of ‘hidden paths’ that criss-cross Scotland’s countryside are to be mapped for the first time.

Thursday, 17th September 2020, 4:45 pm
Ramblers Scotland hope that more walkers will get out and about as a network of hidden paths are mapped for the nation. (Photo by Ross MacDonald / SNS Group)
Ramblers Scotland hope that more walkers will get out and about as a network of hidden paths are mapped for the nation. (Photo by Ross MacDonald / SNS Group)

Ramblers Scotland has spent the last year collecting information on paths in the west of the Central Belt, many which have never made it onto a map.

In West Dunbartonshire alone, early data from the trial suggests there is a potential path network of more than 300 miles, more than double the length currently shown on maps published by Ordnance Survey.

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Similar results were found in North Ayrshire, Renfrewshire, Inverclyde, West Dunbartonshire and Clyde Muirshiel Regional Park – as well as parts of Argyll & Bute and Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park.

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Ramblers Scotland is now set to expand the project with it hoped that a whole hidden network of walking routes will soon be recorded.

Brendan Paddy, director of Ramblers Scotland director, said improving public access to path information would boost the nation’s health and wellbeing at a time when two in five Scottish adults are still not getting recommended levels of exercise.

Mr Paddy said: “Scotland has world-class access rights, but we lack a national path network which appears on all maps.

“The trial has shown the huge potential to help many more people enjoy these hidden paths – offering better links between communities, new opportunities for fun days out, and more space for people to boost their health outdoors.”

The ‘hidden paths’ found during Ramblers Scotland’s trial include some popular routes, like Duncolm Hill - which at 401 metres is the highest point in West Dunbartonshire and the Kilpatrick Hills.

Catherine Watt, a volunteer walk leader with Glasgow Ramblers, has experienced unmapped paths in her area – including much-loved trails at Cairnhill Woods in Westerton, East Dunbartonshire.

Mrs Watt said: “Experienced walkers will already know that some Scottish paths aren’t shown on printed maps, but it’s fascinating to learn just how many exist here on our doorstep.

“We look forward to Ramblers Scotland making this data freely available to the public and I’m sure it’ll prompt many people – including me – to start planning new adventures on foot.”

During the next couple of years, Ramblers Scotland intends to publish easily-accessible data showing paths all across Scotland, including far more than the 13,000 miles of ‘core paths’.

It is also working with many partner organisations to agree a definition of what standards a path should meet for it to be mapped – and it is also inviting any organisations with path datasets to get in touch about including them in the project.

Ramblers Scotland commissioned an independent survey in 2018 which showed that three-quarters of Scottish adults think that more paths on the ground and on maps would help people get active.

Information on the unmapped paths has been shared by Argyll & Bute Council, Inverclyde Council, West Dunbartonshire Council, North Ayrshire Council, Renfrewshire Council, Clyde Muirshiel Regional Park, RSPB Scotland, Green Action Trust, Woodland Trust Scotland, Scottish Forestry, Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park, Paths for All, ScotWays and NatureScot.

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