Hidden paths mapped out across Scotland

A year-long pilot project by Ramblers Scotland suggests there may be thousands of miles of unmapped paths on the ground in Scotland.

Sunday, 6th September 2020, 7:30 am
Uncovered...Ramblers Scotland members Catherine Watt and Gerard McCrear at a hidden path in Cairnhill Woods.

The organisation now plans to vastly expand its Mapping Scotland’s Paths project, to create a free dataset of paths across the country for the public to enjoy.

Since August 2019, Ramblers Scotland has been collecting information on paths in the west of the Central Belt, using data from 14 organisations which manage paths.

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 Ordnance Survey maps.

Work is ongoing to audit this data on the ground to ensure it is accurate.

The trial region included North Ayrshire, Renfrewshire, Inverclyde, West Dunbartonshire and Clyde Muirshiel Regional Park, as well as parts of Argyll and Bute and Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park.

Ramblers Scotland director Brendan Paddy said that improving public access to path information would boost the nation’s health and wellbeing – with two in five Scottish adults still not getting the recommended levels of exercise.

Brendan 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 days out and more space for people to boost their health.”

The hidden paths found during Ramblers Scotland’s trial include 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.

She said: “Experienced walkers already know some Scottish paths aren’t shown on printed maps but it’s fascinating to learn just how many exist on your doorstep.

“We look forward to Ramblers Scotland making this data freely available to the public. I’m sure it’ll prompt many people 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 partner organisations to agree a definition of what standards a path should meet for it to be mapped. And it is 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 more paths would help people get active.

The Mapping Scotland’s Paths project has received funding from players of People’s Postcode Lottery.

A membership organisation and charity, Ramblers Scotland is a grassroots network of 54 local groups, running 3500 group walks a year which are all led and organised by 1200 volunteers.

To find out more, visit www.ramblers.org.uk/scotland.aspx.