A large number of walkers, cyclists and wheelchair users attended the opening of Phase 1 of the Loch Leven Heritage Project at Kirkgate Park on Thursday, 17 May. Many then set off to explore the 7km of trail, which gave them a view of the loch that most had never seen before.
Councillor Willie Robertson, the chairman of TRACKS, welcomed the crowd and likened the long gestation period of the lochside trail to the distillation of the best whisky. He said that TRACKS had been working on the project for at least ten years, although the idea was first mooted in 1975. As with such whisky, he thought that the trail would be "savoured by the people of Kinross-shire and the people that follow for generations to come".
Councillor Robertson handed over to the project director Neil Kilpatrick, who previously had been largely responsible for Cleish village enhancement scheme.
Neil Kilpatrick thanked the various people that had made the project possible, in particular the landowners who provided the land, the sponsors who provided the funding, Scottish Natural Heritage, who manage the National Nature Reserve, and the contractors and project manager, who worked through extremely wet weather in the winter months.
He then said,
"You are not looking at the finished article tonight. Because we've built the trail, we thought it only right to let the community get on and use it, but we have a number of important things still to do.
"For example, the interpretation is only really just beginning. In this area, we will have a viewpoint, which is currently being designed, and we will build gateways here, at Findatie and at Burleigh Sands. There will be seating at various places and signage for giving directions and to highlight heritage sites. We've already put in a splendid bird hide in a reed bed along from here, and I'm sure you'll find it a beautiful spot.
"Out there, we have 7km of finished trail that includes a spur from Mary's Gate up to Kinross. We've effectively created a circular town loop of about 4km, which I think might prove very popular. You can come down here to Kirkgate Park, walk along the front of Kinross House to Mary's Gate then go up the side of the golf course to Sunnypark.
"The main trail continues all the way past Burleigh Sands to the Pow Burn, where it stops for now. You can get up from the Pow Burn to Loch Leven's Larder, where there are refreshments and the facilities of the farm shop.
"The future programme is that we're going to do Phase 2 this summer at the other end of the trail, working from Levenmouth Wood to Vane Farm. That will add about 3.5km at the far end. It leaves a section in the middle, which we'll do next year to complete the whole project."
Neil Kilpatrick then introduced Sir David Montgomery, who had kindly agreed to cut the tape and open the trail formally.
"Sir David is known very well by most of you. He is an extremely generous landowner and he has made available, through his son Jamie and through the Kinross Estate Company, the land for this trail. He has been an enthusiastic supporter and the provider of a lot of good ideas, many of which we have picked up."
Sir David said a few words before wielding the scissors. He reiterated comments Neil Kilpatrick had made about Loch Leven being a National Nature Reserve, with sensitive areas where the birdlife needed respect, and added,
"I hope people using this trail will follow the Outdoor Access Code. The trail goes through areas that have livestock in them, so obviously dogs should be kept under control. And it's important that everybody takes their litter home with them.
"I only hope that in due course we will be able to complete the full circle of Loch Leven if an acceptable route can be found through the RSPB reserve. It would be marvellous for the people of Kinross and the local neighbourhood to be able to walk or cycle all the way round. The trail will be an enormous tourist attraction for people coming to the area and will be very important in helping us to build up tourism."
After Sir David cut the tape, wheelchair users were the first to try out the new path, followed by numerous cyclists and walkers, who included students from Kinross High School.
Everyone was given a copy of the leaflet that describes Phase 1 of the Loch Leven Heritage Trail. You can find your copy inserted into this edition of the Kinross Newsletter.