A proposed path running from Tyndrum to Oban has the potential to attract 32,000 visitors per annum and bring £1m a year in to the local economy, according to a report published today by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH). If the plan comes to fruition the new route is likely to be called The Way to the Isles.
Running through impressive mountain scenery, woodlands and alongside lochs before reaching the coast, the route would pass through the villages of Dalmally, Lochawe, Taynuilt and Connel. Covering approximately 45 miles, it would link the West Highland Way to the Oban to Fort William cycle route. In the future it could be extended to Mull and Iona.
The report says that the route would appeal to both local people, for dog walking and recreational activities, and visitors, for either shorter trips or the challenge of going the whole distance. Of the 32,000 potential visitors, analysis suggests that 26,000 (81%) would be day visitors, 6000 (19%) would stay overnight and 3000 (9%) would undertake the whole route.
According to the report, the strengths of the route include the scenery and landscape, local tourist attractions, the wide range of facilities in each village and good transport links, allowing easy access to the path at various points along the way.
However the branding and market positioning are seen as crucial to its success. To be recognised as a key national route, it would have to be extended in the future, possibly to Mull and Iona, and given an appropriate name, such as The Way to the Isles.
Development opportunities along the route are also highlighted in the report. There is potential for existing businesses to adapt or expand what they offer in terms of accommodation, shopping, food and drink and there may be opportunities for farmers and land managers to provide food, accommodation and produce; offer volunteering opportunities and carry out minor maintenance on the route. Circular paths and links to the main villages and local visitor attractions are important to encourage people to use the path and spend money locally.
The study was funded by SNH, in response to interest from the local community.
Stephen Austin, SNH operations officer based in Oban said: “The great thing about this proposal is that it has come from the local community. We’re very keen to see the development of more trails across the country to help people get out and enjoy the outdoors and also help generate income to underpin the rural economy. However this proposal is still at a very early stage. A route has yet to be identified and this will only be done with the agreement and support of farmers and landowners, but this report helps highlight the potential benefits of the path, as well as the need to get the promotion and marketing right.
“We’re setting up a steering group to take the project forward. We hope those living and working in the area will be interested in taking part, particularly from farmers and land managers, who have a vital role to play in its development.”
Kenny Harris from Taynuilt, who came up with the idea for the route, added: “I’m delighted to hear that the proposed path is moving on a little further. I have always thought it could benefit local businesses if it goes ahead, particularly those along the route. I hope it also encourages new business in the area and brings health benefits by helping locals and visitors alike to get out in some of the most beautiful countryside in the world.”