IAT Scotland’s Tom Stevenson Awarded BEM

Left to right, John Ross, Jimmy Begg, Tom Stevenson, Robert Clark and Ronnie Irving at the information board adjacent to the Tourist Office at Stranraer waterfront. The IAT Scotland logo is located bottom right.

On June 20 after some delay, Tom Stevenson, project manager for Scotland’s Mull of Galloway Trail and member of the Rotary Club of Stranraer, became the first IAT representative to receive a British Empire Medal.    The presentation was made by Lord Lieutenant of Wigtown Dr John Ross at a Rotary meeting at North West Castle Hotel, Stranraer, and was attended by many of the members who helped create the Mull of Galloway Trail.

Tom and his wife Sheila on the grounds of Buckingham Palace

In May, Tom and his wife Sheila attended a Royal Garden Party at Buckingham Palace, which was also attended by the Queen, Duke of Edinburgh and many other members of the Royal Family.  All recipients of the BEM are invited to a Royal Garden Party and while residents of Scotland normally go to Edinburgh, Tom and his wife – who previously attended an event at Holyrood Palace – were able to arrange travel to London.  They remained for four days and visited the Houses of Parliament (where they saw processions going to and from the State Opening of Parliament) and Royal Mews directly opposite their hotel on Buckingham Palace Road.

Tom first found out about the nomination in November 2015, but kept it secret from family and friends – except his wife – until December 30.   “I was surprised and delighted when I found out,” he said.  “I hope it will be good for both the trail and the club.” 

Tom in the driver’s seat on the Mull of Galloway Trail

The Mull of Galloway Trail continues to be well used and the number of website visitors keeps increasing every year.  During 2015 the site had over 15,000 unique visitors and over 1,000,000 hits.  This spring and summer Tom and his crew were busy doing maintenance and improvements on the trail, with the local Council agreeing to cover many of the costs.

In May 2015, the Rotary Clubs of Stranraer, Ayr, Gourock, and Allander gathered at Milngavie to inaugurate the Firth o Clyde Rotary Trail, a partnership of the Mull of Galloway Trail, Ayrshire Coastal Path and Clyde Coastal Path. 

At Milngavie, the 161 mile (266km) IAT Scotland route through the Lowlands meets the West Highland Way, and continues north to Fort William and the Cape Wrath Trail. 

Tom Stevenson

Congratulations Tom Stevenson BEM!

… and the Mull of Galloway Trail and Stranraer Rotary!

 

Rotary Clubs Launch Scotland’s FoCRT

On a sunny Saturday, May 9, 2015, Sally Magnusson, broadcaster, top news presenter for BBC Scotland, writer and journalist, officially opened the 161-mile (266km) Firth o Clyde Rotary Trail in Milngavie – next to the start of the West Highland Way – in front of members of the public, the Rotary Clubs of Stranraer, Ayr, Gourock, Allander, and their guests – including IAT Europe vice-president Hugh Barron representing IAT Scotland.

Sally Magnusson addresses audience at FoCRT Launch

Rotary could not have chosen a better person for the job, as Sally’s late father was the celebrated Icelander Magnus Magnusson, presenter of the BBC “Mastermind” Quiz Show, one-time President of Scottish Natural Heritage, and also the “Paths For All” Charity who encourage local footpath development and healthy exercise.

Sally Magnusson unveils the new FoCRT Plaque at Milngavie

Plaque at Milngavie Introduced by her host, Iain White (Allander and the new Clyde Coastal Path), Sally unveiled two commemorative plaques – one of which had been carried in relay by teams of Rotarians to Milngavie all the way from the Mull of Galloway (to where it will return). A keen walker herself, she duly declared – ‘Scotland is rich in beautiful places to walk, but for me there is nothing better than a coastal path, and I look forward to walking this one’.

Members of the plaque relay team at Irvine Harbourside

Tom Stevenson (Stranraer and the Mull of Galloway Trail) then presented her with a cheque for £1000 for her charity in memory of her late mother Maimie, also a famous journalist – ‘Playlist for Life’ (providing favourite music for dementia sufferers’ on iPod).

(L-R) Tom Stevenson, Jimmy Begg, John Waddle (District Governor Rotary), Sally Magnussen and Iain White

In thanking Sally, Jimmy Begg (Ayr and the Ayrshire Coastal Path) said this occasion was the realisation of an eleven-year aspiration; and paid tribute to the huge amount of work undertaken – firstly by members of Ayr Rotary Club in creating the Ayrshire Coastal Path in 2008, and then to the members of Stranraer Rotary Club who rose to the challenge to connect up the Mull of Galloway in 2012 – and to Gourock and Allander Rotary Clubs, who did likewise with the final link, the Clyde Coastal Path in 2015.

Jimmy Begg addressing the crowd

He also thanked Scottish Natural Heritage and Visit Scotland for the accolade of Scotland’s Great Trail awarded to both the ACP and the MGT, and made special mention of the excitement and pleasure they’d felt away back in Oct 2010, when the International Appalachian Trail invited the ACP (and subsequently the MGT and CCP trails) to become part of IAT Scotland, forming a vital link with Ireland and the West Highland Way.

Milngavie Pipe Band

Now complete, the Firth o Clyde Rotary Trail (FoCRT) will prove a major asset to the Scottish walking tourism industry, linking as it does with a number of existing long-distance routes in Scotland. The tough/gentle nature of the trail should encourage everyone – from families on a day out to serious walkers – to take to the outdoors, and enjoy the stunning scenery and superb natural environment.

FoCRT comprises three autonomous long distance trails, the Ayrshire Coastal Path (2008), the Mull of Galloway Trail (2012) and the Clyde Coastal Path (2015), created by the Rotary Clubs of Ayr, Stranraer, and Allander and Gourock, respectively.

Ailsa Craig and Culzean Bay – Firth o Clyde at its bonniest!

The Mull of Galloway Trail (36 miles/60km) starts at the Mull Lighthouse, perched on steep cliffs at the southernmost point in Scotland, with fine prospects of the Isle of Man and Ireland’s Mountains of Mourne, before travelling up the sheltered eastern shore of the Rhinns, with big sky views over Luce Bay to the Machars and the distant Galloway Hills. Passing through rich farmland, it crosses the Southern Upland Way near Stranraer, then follows the Coastal Path along Loch Ryan, with its fascinating smuggling, WW2, and rich ancient history. From Cairnryan it climbs on to high moorland with magnificent views of loch, sea, and hills, before the descent to Glenapp.

Cotton Joe Norman, first long distance hiker to complete IAT Scotland, walking the Mull of Galloway Trail in 2013

From Glenapp to Skelmorlie, the Ayrshire Coastal Path runs for 100 miles (161km) along one of Britain’s finest panoramic coastlines, with iconic Ailsa Craig and Arran always in the frame. Walkers, will tramp the native heath of Scotland’s three greatest heroes – Robert Burns, King Robert the Bruce and Sir William Wallace – over a land steeped in history, and teeming with wildlife.  Firstly, along wild cliff-top tracks, old turnpike roads and rough and sandy beaches; past ruined castles and small fishing villages – by the Open Championship golf course at Turnberry and through the grounds of Culzean Castle.  From Ayr northwards, the going is much gentler along sandy beaches past Prestwick – the birthplace of Open championship golf – and its successor, Royal Troon, From Ardrossan to Largs, sailing yachts now glide calm seas once scoured by fearsome Viking longships.

IAT officials hike past Culzean Castle following the 2013 IAT Annual General Meeting

The Clyde Coastal Path (27 miles/45km) provides low and high-level routes to Greenock from the north end of the ACP at Wemyss Bay, then over the Erskine Bridge to the start of the West Highland Way at Milngavie. The Low Road has easy walking from Wemyss Bay along Ardgowan shore and the quayside promenades of Gourock, Greenock and Port Glasgow. Serious walkers on the High Road along the Kelly and Greenock Cuts, have superb views of the Clyde Estuary and distant Highland hills. Over the Erskine Bridge, the route follows part of the Roman Antonine Wall, then rises over Douglas Muir – with great panoramic views of Glasgow and the Clyde – before descending to Milngavie.

View from the Clyde Coastal Path

The International Appalachian Trail Scotland Route – and links south and west:

Having now completed the Firth o Clyde Rotary Trail (161 miles) from Mull of Galloway in the south-west, the intrepid walker will now take the iconic West Highland Way (96 miles) from Milngavie to Fort William, then tramp along part of the Great Glen Way, before joining the unmarked Cape Wrath Trail, which traverses 200 miles of magnificent wilderness to finally reach another spectacular lighthouse over towering cliffs at Scotland’s most north-westerly point.

Map of IAT Scotland

As part of the International Appalachian Trail Scotland, looking to the west and south, FOCRT forms a strategic link with IAT Ireland – and potentially England – and is set to play an increasingly important part in the development of South West Scotland’s walking tourism.

NB. FoCRT is the umbrella title for the first section of the International Appalachian Trail Scotland, and its website (www.focrt.org) should simply be used to fast-link to the websites of its three constituent paths, from which walkers can gather all the info needed to plan their route.

Jimmy Begg, Rotary Club of Ayr

Route Manager, Ayrshire Coastal Path     8 May 2015

Stranraer Rotary Mull of Galloway Trail Marathon

On May 30, 2015, Scotland’s Stranraer Rotary will hold its third annual  walk/run over the stunning marathon length of the Mull of Galloway Trail, from the Mull of Galloway to Stranraer.  The 26 mile route across mostly rough path will begin at 10am.

For the less adventurous, there will be a 10 mile walk/run from Sandhead to Stranraer over rough path and tarred roads with light traffic.  It will start at 11:30am at Tigh na Mara Hotel, Sandhead.

There will be an entrance fee of £25 per person for the longer course and £15 for the short course.  This includes transportation from the start at Stranraer marina to the Mull of Galloway or Sandhead, and a barbecue and complimentary drinks at the finish.

Unlike previous years, there will not be a yachting component to the race, but there will be places on Sunday when yachts will host runners for a (weather permitting) trip round Ailsa Craig.  These places will be limited and so there may be a ballot.

Various types of accommodation are available and organisers can advise how to maximize the enjoyment of your stay.

Please register your interest or send queries by email to gordon.baird@me.com