New Cross-Mull Trail Could Net c.£1M

A proposed long distance footpath right across Mull could bring nearly £1m a year to the island, according to a report published yesterday by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), in support of an idea being developed by the local community. The route might one day form part of a cross-Scotland 'pilgrimage' trail between Iona and St Andrews. 

Mull: Looking back at Ben More from Fidden, 232 kb
Mull: Looking back at Ben More from Fidden
© Bulls Crack, Aug 2011

The route would be something unique to the island, they say [by definition, yes, Ed.] and encourage visitors to stay longer and spend more. It would also create opportunities to develop accommodation and other services such as cafes, cycling supply shops and baggage transfer services.

The report estimates that a well designed route with the right services in place could attract around 10,000 part-way walkers, 2500 full length walkers and 1000 cyclists each year - significant figures for a small island community. With these sorts of numbers it could bring in more than £900,000 a year. With proactive marketing and separate walking and cycling routes, the report says these figures could be significantly higher.

Ian Ross, a former forester on Mull who took over as chairman of SNH this week, said:

'We have been working with the Mull and Iona Community Trust to help develop their plans for the route and one of the great things about this proposal is that it has come from the local community. The people living here know that it is a special place and they want visitors to come and enjoy Mull and Iona’s spectacular environment for themselves.'

'We commissioned this study to explore the potential social and economic benefits that a trail on the island could deliver. We are very keen to see more trails developed across the country to help people get out and enjoy the outdoors and generate income for rural economies.'

'Scotland’s growing network of trails is creating improved opportunities for people to enjoy the mental and physical health benefits associated with being outdoors. This in turn helps deliver Scottish Government targets to increase outdoor physical activity.'

As for local opinion, Moray Finch of the Mull and Iona Community Trust (MICT) added:

'Developing a pathway on the island which links the main ferryport at Craignure with the ferryport to Iona at Fionnphort, has been discussed in the community for several years. As well as the economic benefits it could bring, the path appeals to local people for ...walking, jogging and cycling.'

A visitor survey on Mull and Iona in 2012 picked up on an appetite for identifiable walking opportunities, better signed paths and safe cycling routes on the island.

The proposed route would connect directly with the Oban to Fort William section of the National Cycle Network. This section will link, via ferry, with the proposed Tyndrum to Oban path, which will in turn link to the West Highland Way. Work is currently ongoing to identify the best route for the Tyndrum path.

As well as a stand-alone path the report also suggests promoting the Mull trail as part of a longer pilgrimage route across the whole of Scotland between Iona and St Andrews, a walk that might in time gain the same sort of stature as the West Highland Way. 

In addition, say SNH, developing and promoting the route for a 'variety of activities and experiences' including cycling and sea-kayaking, could attract plenty of interest from events such as marathons and triathlons.

'The MICT will continue to work with SNH to identify the most appropriate route which meets the aspirations of the community, is acceptable to land managers and provides an appealing user experience' said Moray.

'Ideally the route will be mostly off tarmac road [that'd be a basic minimum, surely? Ed.], use existing infrastructure where possible and directly link villages on the island. We will shortly be arranging a series of workshops to further engage local people and businesses. We will also begin to consider the most appropriate name for the route.'

So there's plenty still to mull over, then.

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