Why You Need to Walk the John Muir Way

By: Anna Millar

April 8, 2014

Red sandy rock coastline with green grass, Dunbar

When it comes to indulging our wanderlust, a lack of time and opportunity can leave some roads woefully untraveled. Not so with Scotland‘s rightly popular John Muir Way, named after the visionary Scots-born conservationist. Expanding from its original 45 mile coastal path to an altogether mightier 134 mile proposition in April 2014 – to coincide with the 100th anniversary of Muir’s death – the walking and/or cycling trail offers a natural snapshot of some of Scotland’s loveliest landscapes, and now creates the perfect bridge for visitors keen to explore both the east and west coasts of Scotland. As well as the trail’s original path from Edinburgh to the Scottish Borders, the new Way extends to take in highlights from central Scotland and Loch Lomond and the Trossachs.

Born in Dunbar (just 30 miles from Edinburgh), Muir grew up to become a founder of America’s National Parks after emigrating to the USA – and anyone whose walked even a slice of the Way will agree it’s a pretty great tribute to his vision and passion for the great outdoors. Originally running along the coastline of East Lothian, from Musselburgh (just outside Edinburgh) to the Scottish Borders, the John Muir Way has stretched its remit with great rewards, taking in everything from its original canal, castle, Forth Road Bridge and palace views, and adding in the endless marvel that is Loch Lomond, as well as offering up some Charles Rennie Mackintosh architecture in Helensburgh (the glorious Hill House) and allowing you to experience the world’s only rotating boat lift, The Falkirk Wheel. Indeed, whatever your want: woods, waterfalls or beaches – the Way has it covered.


Falkirk Wheel | The John Muir Way

Industrial Falkirk Wheel along the John Muir Way © Scottish Natural Heritage/Becky Duncan


For those visiting Glasgow or Edinburgh, the John Muir Way is easily accessible via public transport; whether you want to experience just a small area, fancy heading out of town on a day trip, or are interested in flexing your muscles on a weekend, week, or two-week walking or cycling adventure. Those keen to see it all should plan from eight to 12 days on foot or four to six days by bike.


Helensburgh Shore | The John Muir Way

Calm waters on Helensburgh Shore © Scottish Natural Heritage/Becky Duncan


Running coast to coast across the central belt from Helensburgh on the west to Dunbar on the east, the new extended Way has been broken down into 10 sections for walkers and five for cyclists, allowing you to enjoy each part at your convenience.


Crammond Edinburgh | The John Muir Way

The John Muir Way is perfect to explore at your leisure © Scottish Natural Heritage/Becky Duncan


For ease from Edinburgh, the trail from the Meadows in the city centre to South Queensferry comes highly recommended – with some stunning spots along the way to appreciate the Forth Rail Bridge in all its glory. From South Queensferry you can continue the adventure to the Royal Burgh of Linlithgow, which comes complete with palace and canal walks. Then from Linlithgow onto Falkirk, enjoy the aforementioned bonkers but brilliant rotating boat lift.


Blackness Castle | The John Muir Way

Twilight falls at Blackness Castle © Scottish Natural Heritage/Becky Duncan


Those keen to enjoy some west coast action around Glasgow can’t go wrong with any part of the Way really, venturing as it does through Helensburgh, Balloch, Strathblane and Kilsyth – with the chance to ogle some of Scotland’s lochs, streams and villages, and adventure around Scotland’s first National Park at Loch Lomond and the Trossachs.


Holyrood Park and Salisbury Crags | The John Muir Way

Holyrood Park and the Salisbury Crags © Scottish Natural Heritage/Becky Duncan


Last but not least, if time allows, don’t miss out on parts of the original coastal path. Venture south towards Muir’s birthplace of Dunbar, via Prestonpans and North Berwick, the latter of which provides a great place stop for some fish and chips on the beach and a walk around the award-winning Seabird Centre.


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Have you experienced Scotland’s John Muir Way? Will you explore the new extended route? Let us know in the comments section below.


Written by Anna Millar


Anna Millar

Anna is a Glasgow born and Edinburgh based freelance writer and editor specialising in arts and travel. When she’s not exploring the Highlands and Islands or reviewing Scotland’s festival scene, she’s likely to be found propping up the bar at one of New York’s finest watering holes or exploring Europe’s untapped corners.

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