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Scotland’s fourth and Highland’s third national long distance route will be officially opened on Tuesday 30th April by HRH The Prince Andrew, Earl of Inverness when a group of visually impaired walkers complete a walk of the Great Glen Way ending at Inverness Castle.

Walking on behalf of the Highland Society For Blind People, Alexander Morton, of Inverness will complete the entire 73 miles of the route from Fort William to Inverness with a sighted guide. To mark his achievement, he is carrying a "greetings" scroll from Highland Council Convener of Lochaber Area, Olywn Macdonald and will be presenting this to the Provost of Inverness City, William Smith. Accompanying Alexander on the last leg of his journey will be visually impaired brothers, Stephen and Andrew MacKinnon and their mother Sharon.

Funded by the European Union ERDF Objective 1 Highlands and Islands Partnership Programme; The Highland Council; Scottish Natural Heritage; Lochaber Enterprise and Inverness & Nairn Enterprise, the £500,000 plus project also received support ‘in-kind’ from Forest Enterprise and British Waterways Board.

An estimated 7,500 walkers will complete the whole route each year while an additional 20,000 people are expected to use the Way for short distance, local or day trip walks. The economic impact of these walkers is estimated to generate an additional £2.1 million spend in the local economy. This will not only impact upon the economic but also the social well being of the communities on the Way including Fort William, Gairlochy, Laggan, Fort Augustus, Invermoriston, Drumnadrochit, and Inverness City.

Development of the Great Glen Way has also created five full time jobs within The Highland Council’s Planning and Development Service, including a Great Glen Manager and four Ranger/Maintenance Wardens.

To highlight the safety aspects involved in walking in mountain areas the Scottish Mountain Safety Forum will launch a video at the Great Glen Way official opening. Featuring in the video are four girls from Grantown Grammar School who will be present on the day – Joanne Clark, Hollie Wilkinson, Fiona Smyth and Tana Walker.

Chairman of the Great Glen Steering Group, Highland Councillor Basil Dunlop says: "This will be a truly momentous day to see the Great Glen Way finally being opened. I would like to thank the many organisations involved and the private landowners for their participation without whom this would not be possible."

John Markland, Chairman of Scottish Natural Heritage says: "The Great Glen is one of Scotland's most awe inspiring natural features, and one of its most visited tourist attractions. I am very pleased that SNH has played a key role in developing this long distance route which will allow many, from near and far, to explore and enjoy this part of our heritage. It has been understandably long in gestation and we would pay tribute to the considerable effort expended by many people over the years to bring the project to fruition."

Bill Sylvester, Chief Executive, Inverness and Nairn Enterprise says: "Scotland and the Highlands deserve to be recognised as one of the great activity destinations in the world, and

walking is probably the most important and popular element of this. The Great Glen Way provides a testing but accessible route through wonderful scenery and is sure to enhance the reputation of the area for providing a quality tourism experience."

Lochaber Enterprise chief executive Jackie Wright said: "Long distance walking is a 'growth area' at the moment, and providing a substantial new route - which links easily with the long-established West Highland Way - will be a real boost for the area. When the Great Glen Way 'finds its feet' there could be thousands of extra visitors passing through our communities every year."

Following the formal opening by HRH The Prince Andrew, Earl of Inverness in the grounds of Inverness Castle, a reception will be held in the Inverness Town House where the Deputy Minister for Environment and Rural Development, Allan Wilson will speak to guests.

Information on the Great Glen Way can be found on the internet at www.greatglenway.com