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14 things to know about the John Muir Way, Scotland

Updated: Dec 14, 2021

The John Muir Way is one of Scotland’s waymarked long-distance trails. It attracts walkers, runners and cyclists to journey coast-to-coast from Helensburgh in Argyll and Bute to Dunbar in East Lothian, or vice versa. Here we reveal 14 things to know about the John Muir Way.

It’s a Way: There is the John Muir Trail in the Sierra Nevada mountain range of California, in America. In Scotland, the route is called the John Muir Way.

It’s old - and new: The original Scottish John Muir Way extended from Dunbar through East Lothian only to reach the Firth of Forth. It was then decided that the route would be extended to Helensburgh on the west coast. The new official John Muir Way opened in 2014.

Loch Lomond views on the John Muir Way.

Burncrooks Reservoir, Stirlingshire.

What's in a name?: The route is named after the conservationist John Muir, who was born in Dunbar and emigrated to America with his family while he was still a boy. He went on to become the so-called Father of the American National Parks. The opening of the John Muir Way commemorated the 100th anniversary of Muir's death.

Which way to go?: The official route of the John Muir Way reverses Muir's steps from Helensburgh on the west coast. Helensburgh’s position on the Firth of Clyde provides a fitting start point on the west coast and links the route through Scotland’s first National Park – Loch Lomond & the Trossachs Nations Park. This is also symbolic of Muir’s legacy.

The route then heads back to his birthplace in Dunbar. However, it’s perfectly possible to walk or cycle the John Muir Way in the opposite direction.

It’s a long-distance route: The sign-posted route travels 134 miles. Most people take their time to complete the route and it's usually recommended that walkers plan for nine to 11 days and cyclists allow four to five days.

Two routes: There is an official John Muir Way route for walkers and another for cyclists. Some sections are the same for both, while at various intervals the route is way marked to better suit people on foot or on two wheels.

Reservoir extension: Between Helensburgh and Glasgow, walkers can follow a newly built extension of the John Muir Way that circuits Burncrooks Reservoir.

It is possible to walk, run or cycle the John Muir Way.

Fastest times: Of course, there will always be people who want to push the limits and the fastest known time for the John Muir Way on foot was set by GB ultra runner James Stewart in 2020. He ran an amazing 21 hours, 53 minutes and 22 seconds.

Easy access: One of the highlights of the John Muir Way is the easy access by public transport to reach the start or finish of the route. Both Helensburgh and Dunbar are served by train lines. There are plenty of locations along the route that allow walkers and cyclists to stop and start their journey.

No day is the same: The landscape is ever changing as the route heads coast to coast. At the start, the way heads over the hills and into the beautiful scenery around Loch Lomond. The route joins old minor roads and a disused railway lines as it meanders through a rural landscapes, often with a view of the Campsie Fells.

A doocot in East Lothian on the John Muir Way.

A stunning beach on Scotland's east coast and part of the John Muir Way.

From the outskirts of Glasgow to Linlithgow, the John Muir Way follows the towpath of the Forth and Clyde Canal before joining the shore of the Firth of Forth, where you will see the three famous bridges that cross the Forth.

From Edinburgh, the John Muir Way heads for the East Lothian coastline and stays next to the sea for most of the way as it passes through Prestonpans, North Berwick and finishes at Dunbar.

You'll take steps through history: Scotland is steeped in history and the John Muir Way offers the chance to see and visit many great attractions. These include a Roman wall, castles, grand houses and country parks, museums, including the John Muir Museum, a palace, a refurbished paddlesteamer, canals and bridges.

A great trail: The John Muir Way is one of a collection of Scotland's Great Trails. These well-managed trails are waymarked, follow mostly off-road routes and offer a good choice of visitor services.

There's a certificate: You can record your completion of the John Muir Way with a special certificate. There is also a John Muir Way passport.

An easier way to go: Talk to us at Highland Transfers about transporting your luggage so you can walk, run or cycle the John Muir Way with much greater ease.

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