The River Tay Way has been an ambition of Perth and Kinross Countryside Trust for many years.

A feasibility study was formally undertaken by PKCT with support from Scottish Natural Heritage and Tactran in 2017 to assess the viability of a long-distance walking and cycling trail from Kenmore to Perth following the course of the River Tay. The project idea was to provide a route of approximately 80 km/50 miles and would pass through the communities of Aberfeldy, Grandtully, Dunkeld, Murthly, Stanley and Luncarty. 

The River Tay Way shown in relation to adjacent Great Trails

The above map shows the original proposed route for the River Tay Way

The intention was to create this route through a ‘daisy chain’ of community links that enable local residents to undertake low-carbon, active travel but together create a long-distance leisure route through some of Scotland’s finest highland and lowland scenery.

Following the feasibility study, we concluded that the route had a high degree of feasibility as it currently existed ‘on the ground’, and it was already possible to walk or cycle the entire route.

Why the routes don't follow the same course

Not all sections of the route were deemed suitable for both walkers and cyclists, so in reality the project would have to be a ‘braided route’ with some sections where walkers follow paths whilst cyclists use minor roads already designated as National Cycle Network Routes (NCN 7 and 77).

The original route identified in the report followed the opposite bank of the River Tay from A9 road until the route reaches Birnam. Where crossing of the A9 is necessary, this was achieved using existing underpasses that are still expected to be retained as the A9 is upgraded to a dual-carriageway in the future. 

There are two stretches between Aberfeldy to Haugh of Grandtully and Haugh of Grandtully to Logierait (page 15) that were found to involve significant amounts of road walking or involve cycling along busy, winding country roads. This made these sections undesirable but not impossible as community links or as sections of a long-distance route. To improve the safety, quality and enjoyability of the proposed route, it was deemed desirable to create alternative, off-road walking and cycling paths to replace these sections. Any such improvements would have been entirely dependent on the proposal being supported by local community groups and landowners.

Path upgrades identified

Along the majority of the route, a ‘light touch’ with regards to path upgrades was recommended. This light touch would include

  • additional waymarkers and fingerposts,
  • replacement of old gates with modern, self-closing gates,
  • the cutting back of path side vegetation, and
  • the clearing of drainage ditches.
  • It would not include changes to the path surface. 

On the Dalguise to Birnam and Birnam to Murthly stretches of the route, two sections were identified where upgrading the path to a Type 1 and Dust surface may have been desirable.

On the Kenmore to Aberfeldy, Aberfeldy to Haugh of Grandtully, Haugh of Grandtully to Logierait and Murthly to Stanley stretches of the route various sections were identified where upgrading to a Type 1 and Dust surface or a more durable, multi-user surface may have been desirable.

The sections where path upgrades were desirable are those that have the heaviest use by walkers, cyclists and horse riders. The suggested upgrades would improve safety for path users, improve the path surface, eliminate issues with mud and waterlogging in wet weather and reduced maintenance by creating a durable, low-maintenance surface.

Local consultation

In the course of the study, PKCT consulted with local community groups and potential partners in addition to seeking initial discussions with landowners wherever possible. Overall the concept of the path was positively received by local community groups, potential partners and landowners. There was particular support from community groups for the concept of community links providing safe, off-road walking and cycling routes between communities. Local businesses were supportive of the concept of a long-distance route and the economic opportunities this would create.

Some concerns were raised regarding the visual impact path improvements may have; possible privacy issues with the path bringing users close to private dwellings; and potential conflicts between path users and other landscape uses (e.g. gates being left open or conflicts between dogs and livestock). It is the belief of PKCT that these concerns can be addressed with a sensitive approach to route improvement; careful route planning to keep path users away from private dwellings; and use of modern path infrastructure such as self-closing gates and fencing to ensure livestock cannot wander and dogs cannot access livestock from the path.

Amenities and route sections

The route identified is well-served by visitor accommodation, shops and places to eat and drink, which providing the necessary infrastructure to support leisure users of the route. These services are mainly concentrated in the larger villages and towns along the route but can also be found between them. The route has been divided into nine sections, each beginning and ending in a village or town. The maximum length of these sections is 15.2 km/9.4 miles, making each easily walkable in a day.

Interpretation opportunities

This study found that there was a rich abundance of natural, built, historical and sporting heritage along the route offering a wealth of interpretation opportunities. An innovative, landscape-based approach to interpretation, where interpretation features respond to and compliment the landscape in which they sit, would highlight key features along the route and greatly increase its enjoyability. Such an approach has been used on the Loch Leven Heritage Trail and in the Perthshire Big Tree Country initiative, which provide useful examples of how interpretation on the proposed River Tay Way might be addressed.

Potential economic benefit

The creation of a high quality, well-interpreted, long-distance route is likely to offer significant economic opportunities to businesses along and adjacent to the route. The newly established John Muir Way Coast to Coast Trail (215 km/130 miles) is estimated to generate £2.9 million in its first year from 9,309 coast to coast walkers and £16.3 million over its first five years of existence. An additional £8.83 million and £14.7 million respectively are expected to be generated from day visitors. It would be realistic to expect that the proposed River Tay Way could achieve similar figures.