One of Scotland's Great Trails, The Great Glen Way, which has been upgraded with a 17km section of newly completed high level alternative, has had the new section officially opened today (Tuesday 5 August) by author and broadcaster Cameron McNeish.
The £1m project, managed by Forestry Commission Scotland, moved the path higher up the hill above the tree line, taking walkers away from tree felling areas and opening up spectacular views to the north and south of Loch Ness as far as the north face of Ben Nevis on a clear day.
Commission staff were joined by Highland Council staff and elected members as well as members of the project team and local people on a walk over some of the new path.
Speaking at the official opening, Cameron McNeish, said;
"This long distance route is something of a 'must do' for walkers, visitors and tourists and it is one of the mainstays that help support businesses and tourism in the Loch Ness and Highland area.
"Moving the path above the tree line has opened up some truly spectacular views north and south of Loch Ness that just weren't available before. It has added even more 'wow' factor to what was already one of Scotland's most scenic routes, which can only help increase its reputation and standing.
"Anyone visiting and walking this route now will be in for an incredible experience that will leave indelible memories and everyone involved deserves to be congratulated."
The route, which is co-managed by Forestry Commission Scotland and Highland Council through the Great Glen Way Ranger Service (GGWRS) - was funded with shovel ready money from the Scottish Government.
Jack Mackay, for the Commission's team in Inverness, Ross & Skye District, said;
"As well as putting in the new path, we've included some new and interesting features along the way, including a shelter bench which allows walkers to sit out of the wind and soak up the ambience regardless of which way the wind is blowing, as well as a new bridge inspired by drawings created by local schoolchildren and a stunning 'view-catcher wheel' that frames the group of Munro's north of Loch Cluanie some 25 miles away!
"This will enhance an already spectacular route and give walkers and visitors an experience that will stay with them for a very long time."
Further ranger-led walking events are also scheduled to help raise the profile of the Great Glen Way (details in local press).
Graeme Ambrose, from Uniqueness Tourism BID Ltd., which has played an important part in bringing the project together, said;
"We are delighted to see this project completed as it will undoubtedly improve the visitor experience of the Great Glen Way but also of Loch Ness and the wider area, too.
"The Tourism BID group is already lending it's support to the South Loch Ness Trail which once completed will create a circuit around Loch Ness, giving walkers and cyclists a new challenge.
"Boosting tourism business for the area is obviously a team effort but we would like to thank the Commission for its input - both on this particular project and in our overall drive to deliver our strategic objectives for the area."
For further information please contact The Great Glen Ranger Service (01320 366633) or Forest Commission Scotland (01463 791575). Alternatively visit www.greatglenway.com or http://scotland.forestry.gov.uk/visit/the-great-glen