National Walking and Cycling Network

This ambitious project will grow Scotland’s network of paths, trails and canal towpaths from 6,000 to 8,000 kilometres by 2035.

Look out for new routes to walk, cycle, and ride near you as we extend and improve the National Walking and Cycling Network (NWCN).

The NWCN builds on existing path and trail networks such as Scotland’s Great Trails, the National Cycle Network and canal towpaths. Find out more at the VisitScotland website. 

The project will close key gaps, upgrade connecting routes, link to public transport and promote shared use of paths. Active travel and recreation will be easier and more accessible as a result – which means that we all win. It’s good for our health and well-being and for Scotland’s nature and landscapes. And as better routes attract more visitors and tourism, it’s good for local businesses and the wider economy too.

View the National Walking and Cycling Network – Scotland map of existing paths, trails and canals and proposed routes.

Watch the National Walking and Cycling Network animation – to see how the new and improved NWCN will benefit you:

The National Walking & Cycling network
Click for a full description

This short animation showcases The National Walking & Cycling network. Look out for new routes to walk, cycle, and ride near you. and
Credit: NatureScot

About the project

NatureScot, Sustrans and Scottish Canals lead the NWCN project. VisitScotland, local authorities and regional transport partnerships are key partners. Our project plan sets out the project aims and vision, and outlines a programme of route implementation.

Read the National Walking and Cycling Network – Project Plan

A steering group of representatives from the project partners, the Scottish Government, VisitScotland and others coordinates and monitors progress.

Find out more

Read more about the NWCN project in the:

Key facts and figures - August 2018 update

1. Background

  • The National Walking and Cycling Network is a 6,400km network of strategic long distance paths and trails extending throughout Scotland, comprising Scotland's Great Trails (SGT's), the National Cycle Network and Scottish Canal's towpaths.
  • Development of the NWCN is led by Scottish Natural Heritage working closely with lead partners Sustrans, Scottish Canals and other key stakeholders
  • In 2014 the NWCN extended to some 6400 km, by 2035 it will have grown to over 8000 km
  • The NWCN is just part of the estimated 84,000 km of paths and trails in Scotland.
  • The NWCN aims to build on and improve the existing network creating the following benefits:
    • Connecting settlements into the network
    • Joining up routes, offering greater choice to users
    • Linking into places of interest, visitor destinations and public transport hubs
    • Catering for local people and visitors to Scotland
    • Improving people’s health and the environment, local economy and tourism

2. Priorities

  • 30 routes have been identified as 5 year priorities, with another 19 to be developed over a 20 year period
  • As well as building new routes there will be significant effort put into improving and enhancing the quality of existing routes
  • Find out more about the priorities in the NWCN Project Plan

3. Progress

  • Development of the network is progressing well
  • Since 2015 lead partners have spent £16.6M in creating and improving around 441 km of strategic routes
  • Effective partnership working has been key to the delivery of projects. Partners have included Local Authorities, NGO’s, National Parks, Community Groups, Countryside Trusts and Charities, all of whom have been involved in the delivery of a wide variety of projects including:
    • new build paths
    • path improvements – surfacing, drainage, lighting, infrastructure
    • feasibility studies – route finding, landowner liaison, flood modelling
    • promotions – videos, leaflets, banners, community engagement
  • Ambition remains high amongst community groups and charities and this will be fostered in subsequent years

4. Benefits and monitoring

The Baseline monitoring report shows that the NWCN is delivering multiple benefits:

  • NWCN encourages more people to enjoy Scotland
    • In 2016 an estimated 8.7 Million walking and cycling trips were taken on Scotland’s National Walking and Cycling Network
  • NWCN strengthens local economies
    • these trips generated an estimated £85 Million of expenditure in the local economy, helping to sustain rural communities
  • NWCN supports physical activity and mental wellbeing
    • 78% of those interviewed said that the NWCN had helped to increase their level of physical activity
  • NWCN supports Active Travel
    • 52% of those interviewed stated that the existence of the NWCN allowed them to use active travel (walk/cycle) for their journey instead of using a motorised vehicle
  • Awareness of the NWCN amongst the general public is good
    • just over half of those interviewed said that they were aware that Scotland has a Network of paths for Walking and Cycling

5. Promotions

A range of media is being used to promote the NWCN:

6. Next steps

  • Speed up delivery of on the ground
  • Keep making the case for investment in NWCN and promoting the benefits to multiple Scottish Government priorities and as part of new areas of policy development
  • Increase our efforts to promote use of the NWCN, Scotland’s Great Trails, The National Cycle Network and the Scottish Canals towpaths
  • Continue to improve and monitor the network to further demonstrate the importance of investing in the maintenance of the NWCN as well as its improvement and development

7. For more information contact:

Bridget Jones
Strategic Paths and Projects Manager
[email protected]

Published: 2019

Last updated: