Paths in the National Park

The National Park has many paths that are used by people to get around and enjoy the area. The type and quality of the paths varies a great deal. Some paths are purpose-built while others have evolved as “desire lines” over time; some paths are promoted on maps and in guide-books and have signs while others are not well known. Paths are so important to outdoor recreation that in 2006,  as part of our work associated with Scottish Outdoor Access Code , the Park  Authority embarked on a major project to identify and designate a network of “core paths”.

The core paths network will provide a basic framework of routes, ‘… sufficient for the purpose of giving the public reasonable access throughout their area.’ (Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003). The network will help meet the needs of local people and visitors by providing a range of opportunities to help people to enjoy the Park’s special qualities. The current plan features 932kms of core path around communities and through the mountains.

Most core paths will be easy to find and to follow, will be well sign-posted, appropriately maintained and, as far as possible, free from barriers or obstructions. The paths do not have to be of a specific type or quality – they can range from a simple trail through the grass to a formal path with a tarmac surface. Most core paths will be on the lower ground. You can find out more about the Core Paths Plan and the work that went into preparing it by looking at the Outdoor Access pages on the CNPA website.

One of the most important changes to the management of paths in recent years is the move towards use of paths by different types of user. Increasingly it is for the user to decide which paths can be used. This means that people are likely to see more shared use of paths by walkers, cyclists and horse riders. Managing this shared use is just one of the challenges of managing outdoor recreation in the National Park.

One new approach that is being taken to path management in the area is to work through the Cairngorms Outdoor Access Trust. Formed on 1 April 2008 the Trust is developing an ambitious programme of path repairs and improvements over the years ahead. Find out more on the COAT website.