Speyside Way to Newtonmore is a step closer, with work due to start in the autumn on a bridge over the Allt na Criche burn.
It is the first stage in a programme of work which will see the route extended from Aviemore to Newtonmore and will provide a largely off-road link between the two communities for the first time. The construction of the bridge, which will be used by walkers and cyclists, on Kinrara Estate is expected to take a few weeks.
The news has been welcomed by the communities and outdoor enthusiasts, who say the extension of the popular long-distance route will boost recreation opportunities in the area, as well as bring economic, community and health benefits.
Bill Lobban, a Cairngorms National Park Authority board member and Highland Councillor, said it was vital to make the most of the opportunities that the extension will bring. Mr Lobban said: “I am delighted that work is getting underway. As a resident of Aviemore I know there is a strong desire in the community to have the route extended as it will have wide ranging community and economic benefits.
“It will open up a range of new possibilities for how local people and visitors get around the Park and businesses such as shops, hotels and pubs are likely to experience the economic benefits of being located close to it. We need to work with and support businesses and communities to ensure they can take full advantage of this.”
The new route will provide a safer and healthier way for people to get around the Park. Paul Corrigan, a member of the Speyside Way Extension Project Board and outgoing Chair of the Cairngorms Local Outdoor Access Forum, said the extension will be a great opportunity to get more people to enjoy the outdoors.
“It is great to see progress being made on a facility that will allow several communities to link in a more sustainable, healthier and environmentally friendly way,” Mr Corrigan added.
“Long-distance routes cater for a range of users including walkers, cyclists and runners and by extending this route people will be encouraged to explore the Park on foot or bike, rather than taking their car.”
Mountaineer Cameron McNeish believes the extension will allow people to enjoy more of Scotland’s spectacular landscapes.
“The extension of the Speyside Way is a positive story not just locally but for Scotland. Long-distance routes take you through some of Scotland’s finest landscapes. What is great about the Cairngorms National Park is the variety of recreation on offer – it is not just a place for intrepid mountaineers. There is a wealth of low level walking that takes you out into some of our most iconic wildlife and scenery.
“The extension to Newtonmore means that there are now more paths in the Park to get out into and enjoy responsibly. I cannot wait until the extension is open and I can test it out!”
Following two round of public consultation, the extension was approved in principle by Scottish Ministers in May 2009. Since then the CNPA and the Cairngorms Outdoor Access Trust have worked with landowners along the route to prepare for extension. The full extension is expected to take around 3 to 5 years to complete and cost around £2million. The first priority is to create a link at the northern end of the route between Aviemore and the Badenoch Way at Dalraddy in 2014.