IT IS a route which boasts some of Scotland’s most stunning scenery, from mountain vistas to glistening lochs.
And a new “pathway to the isles”, from Tyndrum to Oban, could bring a tourism bonanza worth £1 million a year to the villages along the way, a report claims.
The results of a study, published by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) today, concludes that a path on the route could bring in 32,000 visitors a year to a host of fragile communities.
Taking in the villages of Dalmally, Lochawe, Taynuilt and Connel, the path would link the popular West Highland Way to the Oban to Fort William cycle route.
Although the proposed route has still to be named, the study suggests marketing it as the “pathway to the isles”, as Oban is already known as the “gateway to the isles”. In the future, it is suggested that the path could be extended to Mull and Iona.
SNH funded the study in response to interest from the local community. Kenny Harris, 50, from Taynuilt, is one of a number of residents who suggested the government body look into the feasibility of a new path through the impressive mountain, woodland and lochside scenery.
He said he believed that farmers and small businesses could capitalise on the magnificent setting to bring in extra income.
Mr Harris said: “It would be really good for everybody, including the shops in the villages. There is nothing to stop a farmer on the route, who has a spare shed, from turning it into a bunkhouse.
“I have seen, on Loch Lomondside, on the West Highland Way, how that has subsidised farming, and I think the new route would marry in perfectly with the West Highland Way, using some of the old historical paths. Some of the infrastructure is already there.”
He added: “The route has got some of the best scenery in the world. When you are coming along and you see the Cruachan range and Loch Awe, you can’t get any better.”
The report says the route would appeal to both nearby residents, for dog walking and recreation, and visitors, for either shorter trips or the challenge of going the whole distance.
It states: “Of the 32,000 potential visitors, analysis suggests that 26,000 (81 per cent) would be day visitors, 6,000 (19 per cent) would stay overnight and 3,000 (9 per cent) would undertake the whole route.”
According to the report, the strengths of the route include the scenery and landscape, nearby tourist attractions, facilities in each village and good transport links, allowing easy access to the path.
The branding and marketing positioning are seen as crucial to the path’s success, and the report states: “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’.”
The costs of developing the route are still to be established, but Stephen Austin, SNH operations officer, said: “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.”
Take West Highland Way and turn left for new pathway to isles - Heritage - Scotsman.com