Paths for the Park

The Challenge: How to identify the most important paths on the low ground in the National Park so that they can be improved and maintained as a sign-posted network for walkers, cyclists and horse riders.

The Response: Undertake public consultation exercises asking people to identify what paths are important to them and take advice from the Local Outdoor Access Forum and others before drawing up the maps to identify a network of over 950km of protected paths that are known as "core paths".

There are lots of paths and tracks in the Cairngorms National Park. The Cairngorms National Park Authority (CNPA) has been working with communities, land managers, groups and the Local Outdoor Access Forum to find out which of these paths are the most important. Lots of paths were identified, including some that don't even exist yet.

These important paths have now been included in the Core Paths Plan for the Park. The Plan will help the CNPA and partners to manage the paths network. It will help us to prioritise funding for building new paths or fixing old ones. It will also help us to decide which paths should be signposted and promoted on maps and in leaflets. Developing a Core Paths Plan is one of the key statutory duties for the CNPA arising from the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003.

The Core Paths Plan was completed in March 2010 after 3 years of consultations and negotiations. 

Core Paths - helping conserve and enhance the Park's natural and cultural heritage
Core paths will provide people with a good quality network of paths which are well signposted and way-marked, easy to use and which are important to them. By selecting the right core paths you can therefore manage people into and away from certain areas. For example you can provide a good path which allows people to visit a castle or ruined settlement. You can manage people away from sensitive sites such as places where rare plants grow or rare birds nest. This will enable people to appreciate the natural and cultural heritage of the Park without damaging it.

Core Paths - helping people to help the environment.

The core paths network provides path links within and between communities and important places. The aim is to make these linking paths as easy as possible to use for a wide range of people. By providing a path where previously there was only a road, people may start to walk and cycle instead of taking the car. This may help to reduce emissions and help tackle climate change. For example, a new core path has been built to link the school in Strathdon to the village. Before the path was built you could only get to school along a really dangerous road. Most parents would drive their children to school. Now parents can walk or cycle their children to school in safety and leave their cars at home.

Core Paths - helping people to understand and enjoy the Park

The core paths network includes lots of different types of paths. Some paths help people get to work or school. Other paths help people to get out into the woods and hills, to experience the views, inhale the crystal clear air and feel exhilarated by the exercise. Core paths will help people of all ages and abilities to do this.
Core paths also provide opportunities for lots of different types of recreation so that people can enjoy the Park in their own way. That may be by mountain biking or kayaking or horse-riding or simply by walking. Getting people out into the Park and enjoying it will help them to understand it better and hopefully appreciate it too.

Core paths - helping to promote sustainable economic and social development

Tourism is vital to the economy of the Cairngorms. Lots of people come to the area because it offers so many fantastic opportunities to enjoy the outdoors. A good network of paths really enhances the experience of the visitor whilst making it easy for them to get around the area. This will not only bring visitors to the National Park but it will also encourage them to come back time and time again.
Core paths are free to use and cater for lots of different people. Anybody can get out there and enjoy them. It doesn't matter how much money they have and it doesn't matter if they are super fit or heavily overweight. By making sure that core paths are close to communities, are well signposted and are easy to use it should give more people the confidence to get out there and enjoy the Park. Getting people more active can help to improve both their physical and mental health.