The Cowal Way is the most recent Long Distance Route (LDR) to receive this accolade, joining others including the iconic West Highland Way and the Great Glen Way. To receive this award LDR’s must fulfil a list of quality criteria, including for example, having a clearly defined path, adequate waymarking & signage in place, and an online presence with detailed information to allow various types of visitors to plan a visit.
Jim McLuckie, the creator of the Cowal Way and a director of Colintraive & Glendaruel Development Trust (who manage the path) said:
“The Cowal Way was established in 2000 to help create employment and to boost the local economy. In the last two years, thanks to financial support from the Coastal Communities Fund, we have been able to invest almost half a million pounds in the project. The majority of funds have been allocated to improving the path infrastructure – including clearing vegetation, creating drainage, building timber walkways and bridges, installing multi-user gates, and also laying stone chips along parts of the path. We have also invested in a new brand identity, a much improved website, social media campaigns, exhibiting at key shows, launching a new, innovative and free mobile app, and updating our Guide Book. We also have people and cycle counters in place, to help us to measure path usage. This season we have seen significant increases of all types of users, including locals, UK and overseas visitors, walkers, runners, cyclists and horse riders.”
“With our improvement programme almost complete, we now believe we have one of the best LDR’s in Scotland, if not Europe! We call Cowal Way “Scotland in 57 miles miles” because visitors can experience the best Scotland has to offer. This includes stunning West Coast scenery, abundant wildlife, engaging heritage, and very friendly locals. From Portavadie on Loch Fyne to Inveruglas at Loch Lomond, the path goes through the key communities of Tighnabruaich, Glendaruel, Strachur, Lochgoilhead and Arrochar – bringing a much needed economic boost to this fragile but beautiful area. The walking terrain constantly changes and includes beaches, shorelines, forest paths, forest roads, hillsides and minor roads.”
Scottish Natural Heritage is the custodians for Scotland’s Great Trails. Ron McCraw, Project Manager for LDR’s said “we are delighted to be able to give this award to the Cowal Way. We have been very impressed with the recent improvements. This is another excellent outdoor tourism asset for Scotland, and we hope this award helps to attract more visitors to Cowal over the coming years.”
The majority of funding for this community project has been kindly provided by the Coastal Communities Fund (CCF), which is administered by the Big Lottery in Scotland with awards decided by an Independent Panel. The aim of this programme is to encourage the economic development of UK coastal communities by giving funding to create sustainable economic growth and jobs. Stephen Leitch, the Glasgow-based funding officer for CCF said “the Cowal Way demonstrates a positive fit with the priorities for CCF in Scotland. We are more than happy with how the project has progressed so far and look forward to seeing how the project delivers planned benefits over time.”