Paths are a fundamental part of our enjoyment of the hills and mountains, with a majority of visits to upland areas, and an estimated 88% of those involved in hillwalking activities, involving the use of a path.
There are multiple benefits to repairing and maintaining hill paths – is a vital part of protecting Scotland’s sensitive hill and mountain landscapes, and the plants and animals that live there, while allowing us to access the mountains in a safe and sustainable way.
It’s Up To Us recognises that investment in hill path repair and habitat restoration is essential for its environmental, social, and economic benefits.
Hillwalking and mountain biking both make significant contributions to the Scottish economy with estimated annual expenditure in excess of £65 million for hillwalking and £75.5 million for mountain biking (SNH, 2018). Latest estimates (2023) suggest active tourism now brings in £1.6bn a year to the Scottish economy, but despite this, there is little recognition of hill and mountain paths as a vital part of the tourism infrastructure.
Scotland’s hills and mountains provide a fantastic resource and challenge for those who wish to enjoy outdoor recreation, and there has been a surge in the number of people taking part in hill walking, mountain biking or trail running, in particular, in recent years. These and other hill-based activities contribute to the physical health of those who participate.
More significantly perhaps, the hills and mountains have long provided an escape from the stresses and anxieties of modern life. The positive effects of outdoor recreation on mental health are well documented and spending time in the hills, whether alone, with a friend or in a group, provides engagement with the natural world in a way that few other activities can match.
Upland paths are particularly exposed to the extremes of Scottish weather, and with more severe weather due to climate change that they can become worn and eroded over time by flooding and washing away of soil. The increasing popularity of Scotland’s mountains means more people trampling and compacting thin, fragile surfaces and widening of existing paths, all of which impact on the habitats of upland plants, animals and birds that rely on them.
Well-maintained upland paths are essential for adapting to extreme weather events, protecting the fragile mountain environment and are relied upon by a wide range of people who take part in mountain sports. They are essential for helping Active Tourism visitors to enjoy the benefits of walking in Scotland’s hill and mountain landscapes.
It’s up to all of us, as the outdoor community and the people that make most use of the upland path network, to come together to give something back by supporting our appeal to help us save our mountain paths.