The Heritage Paths Project started in 2007, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and Scottish Natural Heritage. Both were keen that the project encourage more people to access the outdoors by providing a richer and fuller experience by knowing they are travelling in historical footsteps.
The project had three aims; to identify historic paths, to research their history and accessibility, and to promote these findings as widely as possible. There were four principal methods identified to promote these paths, which were through a web-based database, by creating a map leaflet (available in PDF and JPG format), by adding small interpretive signs to as many directional signposts as possible and by publishing a book. By the end of the funded project, the website contained over 400 separate historic routes, more than 180 interpretive signs had been installed, and there was strong demand for the Heritage Paths In Scotland leaflet which showed long-distance historic paths of at least 5 miles in length.
The website was launched on 6 May 2009 with a historic path database that is, as far as any involved in the project have been able to discern, unique. There don’t seem to be any similar comparators in the rest of the world.
During the project, heart-breaking stories were uncovered of old paths being abandoned or completely destroyed in favour of modern bulldozed tracks. Routes such as the Wheel Causeway (one of the very few roads known to have been used by Edward I) and the Craik Cross Roman Road (the principal road linking Dere Street with its parallel western neighbour road) are now very difficult to find and follow due to ignorant and unthinking development.
In 2010, the first three-year project ended, replaced with one focussing on the Campsie Fells (2010-2013). This was followed by a partnership project with the Fife Coast & Countryside Trust, Fife Council and the Pilgrimage Routes Forum - a feasibility study for the rediscovery of an ancient pilgrimage route between Dunfermline and St Andrews, which ultimately resulted in the development of The Fife Pilgrim Way. These days, the Heritage Paths project is solely funded by ScotWays and is run by dedicated volunteers who are always pleased to receive more information about the history and accessibility of these old routes which are a fascinating aspect of Scotland's cultural heritage.