|Distance (km)||Ascent (metres)||Number of days|
|215||2015||9 - 11|
|Start: Helensburgh||Finish: Dunbar|
Linked to other Scotland’s Great Trail(s):
Forth & Clyde/Union Canal Towpath Three Lochs Way West Highland Way
Linear: coast-to-coast route across central Scotland from Helensburgh to Dunbar, with many branches (braids) that provide different routes suited to cyclists and walkers.
The recommended direction for an end-to-end expedition is from Helensburgh to Dunbar, because prevailing winds are from the south-west, and because John Muir’s birthplace makes a fitting final destination.
The John Muir Way traverses the heartland of Scotland – a unique journey through the country’s natural, cultural and industrial heritage. The route opened in April 2014, and is named after John Muir (1838-1914), the famous conservationist and founder of America’s National Parks. It runs from Helensburgh on the Firth of Clyde to Dunbar on the North Sea, taking in Scotland’s first national park, its historic canals and its capital city Edinburgh. It features a wide range of scenery – from upland paths in the west, through rolling farmland, canal towpaths, woodlands and country parks, to beaches and cliff-tops on the east coast. The route is popular tackled in short sections or as day walks, combined with public transport and other routes.
- superb views over Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park
- the Antonine Wall and its forts, the north-west frontier of the Roman Empire
- tranquil towpaths and great wildlife along the canals
- the Falkirk Wheel, the world’s only rotating boat lift
- Blackness Castle – location for the TV series Outlander
- the three Forth bridges and the capital city of Edinburgh
- the striking coastal scenery of East Lothian
- John Muir’s Birthplace museum in Dunbar
- Balloch to Strathblane is 18.2 miles/29.3 km – a long day which some walkers may prefer to split
- for cyclists, a very sturdy bike (e.g. mountain or hybrid) is recommended, ideally with puncture-proof tyres
- consider planning extra time to explore Edinburgh, the capital, and the historic town of Linlithgow
Despite its length, the John Muir Way makes a good introduction to long-distance walking or cycling. Gradients are mostly fairly gentle and settlements along the Way are well-spaced, although sparser in the west. Good transport links make the route easy to tackle in sections. The cyclist options provide smoother, flatter options in places and can equally be used by walkers.
The route follows tracks, hill paths, canal towpaths, cycleways, pavements and minor roads, and reaches its highest and wildest point in the Kilpatrick Hills (900ft /275m). Waymarking is consistent, and differentiates walking and cycling routes where they diverge. For cyclists, much of the route is off-road on a mix of tarmac paths and rougher ground. There are some short steep and rough sections where pushing may be required, and some parts are on busier roads.
There is a wide range of options – from camping under canvas to luxury stays in castles, towers and historic estates. Accommodation in B&Bs, hotels and inns is well distributed along the route, but there are no hostels or bunkhouses outside of Edinburgh.
Visit the official website for accommodation listings (PDF downloads).
Public transport is very good across Scotland’s central belt, although sparser in the western sections. Trains from Glasgow Queen Street serve Helensburgh and from Edinburgh Waverley serve Dunbar. Scotrail’s Glasgow/Edinburgh service is fast and frequent, and intermediate stations, particularly between Falkirk and Dunbar, help those who want to complete the route in sections. Further west, stations are fewer, but bus services help to fill the gaps. Killearn can be reached by bus from Glasgow, Helensburgh and Balloch; Strathblane from Glasgow; Bonnybridge and Kilsyth from Falkirk and Glasgow; Bo’ness and Blackness from Falkirk, Linlithgow and Edinburgh.