On June 5, 2010 at the grand opening of the Appalachian Trail Museum in Pine Grove State Park, Pennsylvania, the International Appalachian Trail officially welcomed Scotland and the West Highland Way as the first European Chapter of the IAT. Joining IAT President Paul Wylezol in welcoming the WHW were Appalachian Trail Conservancy executive members, Appalachian Trail Museum directors, and State and County Representatives.
(l-r.) AT Museum Director Bill O'Brien, Cumberland County Tourism Director Shireen Farr, ATC COO Steve Paradis, Cumberland County Commissioner Rick Rovegno, Pennsylvania Secretary of Conservation and Natural Resources John Quigley, Pennsylvania State House Representative Mauree Gingrich, ATC Executive Director Dave Startzell, IAT President Paul Wylezol, AT Museum President Larry Luxenberg, and AT Museum Director Kent Wilson
The official welcome came nearly a year to the day that an IAT delegation from Maine and Newfoundland Labrador (including Wylezol and IAT Founding President Richard Anderson) travelled to Scotland to hold exploratory meetings with representatives from the British Geological Survey, local trail organizations, Lochaber Geopark officials, and government representatives on the possibility of Scotland becoming a European chapter of the IAT.
Scotland is a part of the United Kingdom, which also includes England, Wales and Northern Ireland.Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the southwest. In addition to the mainland, Scotland includes over 790 islands including the Northern Isles and the Hebrides.
The whole of Scotland was covered by ice sheets during the Pleistocene ice ages and the landscape is much affected by glaciation. From a geological perspective the country has three main sub-divisions.
Highlands and Islands
The Highlands and Islands lie to the north and west of the Highland Boundary Fault, which runs from Arran to Stonehaven. This part of Scotland largely comprises ancient rocks from the Cambrian and Precambrian which were uplifted during the later Caledonian Orogeny. It is interspersed with igneous intrusions of a more recent age, the remnants of which have formed mountain massifs such as the Cairngorms and Skye Cuillins.
A significant exception to the above are the fossil-bearing beds of Old Red Sandstones found principally along the Moray Firth coast.
The Highlands are generally mountainous and the highest elevations in the British Isles are found here. Scotland has over 790 islands which are divided into four main groups: Shetland, Orkney, and the Inner Hebrides and Outer Hebrides. There are numerous bodies of freshwater including Loch Lomond and Loch Ness. Some parts of the coastline consist of machair, a low lying dune pasture land.
The Central Lowlands is a rift valley mainly comprising Paleozoic formations. Many of these sediments have economic significance for it is here that the coal and iron bearing rocks that fuelled Scotland's industrial revolution are to be found. This area has also experienced intense volcanism, Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh being the remnant of a once much larger volcano. This area is relatively low-lying, although even here hills such as the Ochils and Campsie Fells are rarely far from view.
The Southern Uplands are a range of hills almost 200 kilometres (124 mi) long, interspersed with broad valleys. They lie south of a second fault line (the Southern Uplands fault) that runs from Girvan to Dunbar.The geological foundations largely comprise Silurian deposits laid down some 4–500 million years ago. The high point of the Southern Uplands is Merrick with an elevation of 843 m (2,766 ft).
IAT Scotland Map
IAT Scotland Sections
Ayrshire Coastal Path
Created over four years by the Rotary Club of Ayr to mark the Centenary of Rotary International in 2005, the Ayrshire Coastal Path was officially launched on 28 June 2008.
The Path extends 100 miles (160 kms) from Glenapp to Skelmorlie along one of the finest panoramic coastlines in the British Isles. Crowned with a superb backdrop of the ever-changing profile of the mountains of Arran across the Firth of Clyde, this coastline is steeped in history and teeming with wildlife. The southern end of
the Ayrshire Coastal Path now also connects to the Lochryan Coastal Path at Glenapp. From there it extents 18 kms (11 miles) south to Stranraer. Along the way it traverses the estates of Glenapp and Lochryan, with their rolling hills and occasional glens providing the ever-present panorama of bonnie Loch Ryan with Arran, Mull of Kintyre, Northern Ireland, Rhinns of Galloway and Luce Bay featuring in the skyline. Download the Loch Ryan Coastal Path Brochure (Page 1 and Page 2) and Route Description.
Due to the simple strategy of linking existing natural beaches and walkable shore terrain by means of field-edge paths, wrack roads, existing farm tracks, promenades and old railway track - only short stretches of path have needed to be restored or built.
From the wild cliffs of Glenapp to the sands of Ayr and Ardrossan, the ever-changing perspectives of 'The Craig' and 'The Sleeping Warrior' provide a feast for both the eye and camera.
Northbound walkers, most comfortable with a prevailing wind and sun on their backs, will travel from Glenapp to Ayr through the Cradle of Scottish Independence - the home of Wallace, Bruce and Burns - along wild cliff-top tracks, old turnpike roads and rough and sandy beaches; past ruined castles and small fishing villages - by the Open Championship golf course at Turnberry and through the grounds of Culzean Castle.
From Ayr northwards, the going is much gentler along sandy beaches past Prestwick - the birthplace of Open championship golf - and its successor, Royal Troon, From Ardrossan to Largs, sailing yachts now glide calm seas once scoured by fearsome Viking longships.
Ayrshire Coastal Path Map
West Highland Way
Scotland’s first official long distance route extends 96 miles (154 kms) from Milngavie on the outskirts of Glasgow to the foot of Ben Nevis at Fort William. It passes from the lowlands, across the Highland Boundary Fault Zone and on into the Scottish Highlands. Much of the Way follows ancient and historic routes of communication and makes use of Drove Roads, Military Roads and Disused Railway Tracks.
The terrain ranges from lowland moors, dense woodland and rolling hills, to high mountainous regions in the Scottish Highlands. These environments provide habitats for a diverse range of wildlife species, both flora and fauna.
The WHW passes through Mugdock Country Park, follows the shores of Loch Lomond, passing Ben Lomond, through Glen Falloch and Strathfillan, crossing Rannoch Moor, past Buachaille Etive Mor to the head of Glencoe, climbing the Devil’s Staircase, descending to sea level to cross the River Leven at the head of Loch Leven before entering Lairigmor and Glen Nevis. For ease of reference the route is described in short sections.
The usual convention is to describe the route from south to north, the thinking behind this being the southern stages are easier and will reparse Users for the more demanding northern stages. There is however no reason why the West Highland Way cannot be traversed from north to south, starting in Fort William and ending in Milngavie.
West Highland Way Map
Cape Wrath Trail
The Cape Wrath long-distance "Trail" is just short of 200-miles long (320 kms) and runs from Fort William to the most north-west tip of the Scottish mainland. It's a challenging and often remote trek which could be described as the hardest long-distance backpacking route in the UK. There is no single trail, but rather various routes between Fort William and Cape Wrath.
According to writer and hiker Cameron McNeish, the route should follow a south to north line as much as possible; allow passage through the most scenic areas; avoid paved roads and paths, avoid crossing mountain ranges and major rivers (except where necessary), and follow existing footpaths and stalkers’ tracks whenever helpful.
The route from Loch Lochy to Cape Wrath is a stunner. It cuts across Glen Garry and Glen Shiel, traverses the huge, empty quarter between Glen Shiel and Strathcarron, wanders past the mountains south and north of Torridon, and crosses the great wilderness between Loch Maree and Little Loch Broom. North of the Ullapool road the route traverses inland to Oykel Bridge, then begins the wildest and remotest stretch of all – through the mountains of Inchnadamph and Kylesku (below the shadows of Arkle and Foinaven) to Rhiconich, then on to Kinlochbervie on the west coast. With a final flourish it crosses the moors to magical Sandwood Bay, then follows the clifftop walk to Cape Wrath Lighthouse - the end of the Scotland.