Official Opening of the Affric Kintail Way by Cameron McNeish
L to R: Willie Fraser (NTS), Jim McAuley (SMG), Sandra Reid (FCS), Jack Mackay (FCS), Ian Mure (SMG), Margaret Davidson (Highland Council), Rule Anderson (NTS) and Cameron McNeish.
The Affric Kintail Way, was officially opened on Friday 17th April 2015 by award winning writer, television presenter and all round outdoor enthusisast Cameron McNeish. The event began with a reception at Cannich Hall, now one of the Highlands best venues, hosted by Strathglass Marketing Group (SMG)and followed by an opening ceremony at Dog Falls in Glen Affric.
Jim McAuley on behalf of SMG welcomed invited guests from all the organisations that had contributed to the success of the project. Besides SMG members these included representitives from Forestry Commission Scotland and the National Trust for Scotland as the principal partners and also recognition for assistance given by Highland Council, Soirbheas, Uniqueness, Woodland Trust, Craigmonie Woodland and RSPB. Representitives of the local community councils were also present while BBC Radio Scotland and the local press covered the event and several newspapers and magazines penned articles on the Affric Kintail Way.
When SMG started planning the event one of the first questions that was raised was who might they ask to perform the official opening? The automatic choice was a man whose many interests include mountaineering, hill-walking and mountain biking and a particular interest in the development of long distance trails. The organisers were therefore very pleased when Cameron McNeish accepted the invitation to do the honours and address the audience.
Cameron spoke with great enthusiasm and passion about the benefits of long distance trails and how this new route will enhance outdoor access stating: "Congratulations in encapsulating two of the best known names associated with the Scottish outdoors, Affric and Kintal, into one long distance trail. This trail will be an excellent addition to the long distance path network. Everyone involved should be proud of their achievements."
The Affric Kintail Way was first first suggested by SMG Chairman Ian Mure a decade and more ago. Addressing the audience he emphasised the history and heritage associated with the glens and the communities through which the Affric Kintail Way passes through. A number of influences from the past were highlighted ranging from the Vikings, Bronze Age settlers, Jacobites, the Clearances and on to the Hydro developments of more recent decades - features that have all left their mark on the landscape.
He also hoped that not only will the AKW encourage more people to enjoy the natural environment but it will also boost tourism and the local economies. He went on "Signage and waymarking was completed last autumn therefore 2015 will be the first 'full season' and early indications are that the AKW is already proving to be a big attraction. Not only have we been working on the physical aspects of the Affric Kintail Way but we have been developing a marketing strategy complete with our own logo, website, social media presence and just prior to this event we now have an official guide map and digital app courtesy of Harvey Maps."
While enjoying a buffet prepared by local company Moveable Feast, guests had the opportunity to chat, look over the displays and view photographic and art displays themed on the Affric Kintail Way. Two local artists, Ishbel Strachan (oils) and Karen Price (needle felt painting) were invited to display some of their work which greatly impressed those in attendance. Guests were also treated to a short musical interlude from Karen's 10 year old son Cameron or Cami as he prefers. He tagged along with his mum as it was school holidays and was asked to sing to 'earn his lunch'. He gave a great rendition of 'Loch Lomond' which had the audience singing along to the chorus.
A small group then headed out to Dog Falls for the formal opening ceremony and photoshoot with Cameron McNeish cutting the ribbon and declaring the Affric Kintail Way open. Many thanks to all our guests and also to those who helped set up the displays and take photographs a number of which are reproduced below.