Scotland's path network extension plan unveiled

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Image caption Scotland's network of cycling and walking paths already covers more than 4,000 miles

Scotland's walking and cycling paths are to be extended by 500 miles over the next five years in a bid to get people more active.

Thirty new long-distance routes are to be added to the network of trails and cycleways across Scotland.

Some existing paths will also be extended and repaired.

The current network covers more than 4,000 miles, including the West Highland Way and the Clyde and Forth Canal.

New routes earmarked for development include a Great Trossachs Path between Callander and Inversnaid; a Hebridean Way on Harris and Lewis; North Solway Coast Path from Drummore to Portpatrick and a "Pilgrim's Way" across Scotland between St Andrews and Iona.

Upgrades to the John Muir Way, Clyde coastal path, towpaths and cycle routes in Dundee, Ayrshire and Stirling are also planned.

'Much loved'

Designed by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), Sustrans and Scottish Canals, the plan is to develop a network on a par with the best in Europe that can be used by everyone.

The project will cost about £25m, with funding coming from a range of public and private sources, SNH said.

Planning Secretary Alex Neil launched the scheme on the banks of the Forth and Clyde canal.

He said: "Scotland's extensive network of long-distance routes, national cycleways and canal towpaths is already much loved and well used.

"Encouraging more people to enjoy the natural environment is important for the environment, tourism and boosting the economy - that's why the National Long Distance Cycling and Walking Network is designated as a national development in Scotland's National Planning Framework.

"The plan will extend the network of connected, accessible paths and tracks for visitors of all ages and abilities to walk and cycle, encouraging even more people and visitors to enjoy the outdoors and to become more active."

Ian Ross, chairman of SNH, said: "We want to make sure that the network offers something for everyone, with rural routes offering peace and quiet, great views and the chance to get close to nature; paths between settlements to help local people commute away from traffic; high-spec surfaces in places for people in wheelchairs and cyclists; and more varied paths for walkers, mountain bikers and horse riders.

"The most important thing is to give people the chance to access and enjoy the outdoors close to where they live - irrespective of their age or mobility.

"On the back of that, we hope that people will embrace healthier, more active and sustainable lifestyles."

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