South Loch Ness Trail aims to promote sustainable tourism as route between Inverness and Fort Augustus marks 10th anniversary
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A long-distance trail near Inverness can play a key role in the drive for low-carbon tourism, according to the organisation behind the route.
The South Loch Ness Trail is marking 10 years since it first opened in August 2011, when the waymarked route stretched from the outskirts of the city to Loch Tarff above Fort Augustus.
In 2018, Visit Inverness Loch Ness and SSE completed a project to add an additional path from Fort Augustus to Loch Tarff, linking the route with the Great Glen Way on the north side of Loch Ness.
The two trails together became known as the Loch Ness 360 – an 80-mile off-road circuit of the world-famous water.
In the last 12 months a counter recorded more than 2000 people close to Loch Tarff and VILN says the positive impact has been felt by a range of accommodation and activity providers as well as local shops, cafés and restaurants.
Michael Golding, CEO of Visit Inverness Loch Ness, said: “With a need to move to a low-carbon tourism economy and a visitor desire for authentic slow tourism experiences, the South Loch Ness Trail is well positioned to play a key role in the future of our destination.
“With the support of key stakeholders, the trail has continued to develop, as has its importance to local businesses. Likewise, local people have benefitted from having such a great opportunity for fresh air and spectacular views on their doorstep.
“We will continue to work closely with partners and stakeholders to ensure the South Loch Ness Trail and the Loch Ness 360 fulfils its potential and continues to grow from strength to strength.”
To promote the launch of the full trail, the Loch Ness 360 Challenge was originally planned to take place in 2020. Held over three days, the event includes an ultra-marathon, three marathons and a mountain bike race.
However, the weekend event has twice been postponed and is now due to take place in May 2022. It is expected to bring competitors and their friends and families to the area to stay in local accommodation and they will be encouraged to discover the destination.
Chris Taylor, VisitScotland regional leadership director, said: “I’m delighted to see the 10th anniversary of the South Loch Ness Trails being marked.
“These trails really are a brilliant resource for visitors and local people alike. Their popularity helped lead to further investment to create the Loch Ness 360, and looking ahead to 2022, stimulated major new running, cycling and walking events in the area.
“Visitors are drawn to the Highlands for their stunning landscapes and scenery and the trails play an important part in helping visitors to not only enjoy the area but to slow down and stay a bit longer, as well as promoting more responsible forms of tourism, creating economic and social benefits for the region.”
Visit Inverness Loch Ness also appointed a Loch Ness ranger through a partnership with Highland Council that has been in place through the summer of 2021 to encourage and promote responsible behaviour from visitors and local people.
There are plans under way to refresh some of the original signage and use the opportunity to promote shopping and staying local.
Craig Cunningham, SSE Renewables project manager for Bhlaraidh Wind Farm Extension, said: “The South Loch Ness Trail has proved a tremendous success since opening 10 years ago and SSE Renewables is proud to have been able to support its development.
"The trail borders several SSE Renewables sites in the Great Glen and it has been rewarding to see it develop into such a popular route for members of the community and visitors to the area.”
Kevin Stacey, owner and founder of 42Cycling, said: “We strongly recommend cycling the full Loch Ness 360 route, taking in and linking both the Great Glen Way and the South Loch Ness Trails as part of an 80 mile route, with over 3000ft of climbing.”