Wales already has one. England is working on one. Which leaves Scotland as the one country part of mainland Britain without it’s own coast path. But that is beginning to change.
It might be tempting to question the need for such a path, because of the different access arrangements in Scotland. The Land Reform Act means that in Scotland there is a right to roam over most land. The main exceptions being private gardens, military bases, power stations and some dock areas. There is also a network of Rights of Ways, however unlike in England and Wales, local authorities are not required to draw up and maintain a definitive map, which is what the Ordnance Survey use to draw rights of ways onto maps of England and Wales. For this reason, the routes are usually not shown on Ordnance Survey maps, and this makes them difficult to find, which is a shame.
The access laws in Scotland are excellent, giving access more or less where you want. Whilst these rights are very good and very welcome they are not quite the utopia you might imagine. The reason is that whilst you may not be breaking the law in walking it does not mean there is a path or that it will be easy to follow. For example if walking on agricultural land you will often come across walls, hedges or fences seperating fields. Will you be able to find a gate to climb over or will the wall be low enough? Some farmers also try to make things difficult, locking gates or putting barbed wire along them. Similarly you might reach woodland and find no obvious path. Or when you reach a stream or river there might not be a bridge nearby, so you might have to head inland to the nearest road.
For this reason, walking along parts the coast (and indeed planning walks), can be something of a challenge at times in Scotland. Some parts do already have excellent coast paths (such as Fife) and in other places existing long distance walks follow the coast fo much of their length (such as the John Muir Way). However in other areas there may be no paths for many miles. However there is some more good news on the horizon.
A contact has sent me a link to the Scottish National Heritage website that outlines their plans for new paths, cycle paths and canal walks in Scotland. This shows that a priority over the next 5 years is:-
- Arran Coastal Way improvements
- Clyde Coastal Path
- North Solway Coastal Path
In addition over the next 20 years there are other paths listed as priorties, which are relevant to the coast:-
- Aberdeenshire Coastal Path
- Angus Coastal Path
- Inverness – Narin Coastal Path
- North Solway Coastal Path
It seems we are moving ever closer to a proper coastal path around Scotland too, which is great news. Whether any of it will be complete in time for me to walk it, only time will tell!