Over 170 jobs and £3.9 million of investment will be ploughed into West Lothian with the creation of the John Muir Way.
The new 134-mile route will open on April 21, 2014, which marks both the Scots-born naturalist’s birthday and the centenary of his death. It is thought that more than 9000 walkers, cyclists and horse riders will complete the route from Helensburgh, through Linlithgow, to Muir’s birthplace in Dunbar in the first year.
James Bailey, chairman of Visit West Lothian, said: “The John Muir Way should lead to an increase in visitors staying in the local area which will be a welcome addition for businesses.
“Along the route walkers will be able to spot some of West Lothian’s magnificent historic properties including Hopetoun House and House of the Binns.
‘‘The Way will take them into historic Linlithgow which offers a fantastic range of good quality accommodation, restaurants and bars making it an ideal stop off point or overnight stay. We are really looking forward to seeing the economic benefits this route will bring.”
A John Muir Way economic impact study has estimated that 130 jobs will be created or safeguarded in the first 12 months, rising to over 1000 jobs over five years, with £42 million of economic benefit for local businesses. Cafes, pubs, bed and breakfasts, and hotels are set to benefit, as well as a boost given to new businesses such as baggage transfer, trail taxis and horse transfers.
Keith Geddes, chair of the Central Scotland Green Network Partnership Board, said: “Supporting the local economy was a key part of the plans to create the John Muir Way and we are focused on supporting both existing enterprises as well as attracting inward investment and new businesses to the area.”
The John Muir Way is a flagship project of the Central Scotland Green Network, which is being developed by Scottish Natural Heritage.