Part of Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park
We intend to do this by first encouraging people outdoors to visit the heritage sites all around them. We are not just targeting visitors but also looking to increase the sense of involvement and ownership by the local communities.
Our first step was to identify heritage sites and devise suitable walking trails, which is the purpose of this website.
Our next steps involve exploring ways of bringing local people; contemporary & traditional skills; and cultural, natural & built heritage together. We aim to connect our local communities and their visitors with the rich and ongoing history of the places and landscapes to which we belong.
The East Cowal Heritage Outdoors (ECHO) Trail project has been brewing for over three years, beginning with its identification as a project that could take on many of the shared challenges and opportunities for East Cowal’s communities. In 2018, Benmore and Kilmun Community Development Trust commissioned a feasibility study which identified community support, revealed potential through the revitalisation of existing routes, and identified a range of potential outcomes for communities throughout the area.
The East Cowal Heritage Outdoors (ECHO) Trail project is as much about a vehicle for ongoing change to Cowal and Dunoon, as it is about the implementation of a way-marked route.
At its very core, the project aims to unlock the potential for the area’s heritage through the backbone of a new trail connecting people, places and sites of significance. It is outcomes focused, with activities reflective of the area’s profile, opportunities to improve people’s lives, communities and the local economy. As well as its past, it looks to the area’s future through engaging with young people to develop skills, share insights, encourage new ideas, and enhance the area as a place to stay, visit and work.
It also aims to connect existing outdoors heritage-inspired initiatives, which are being planned or delivered throughout the area. This means bringing together these initiatives to distil skills, talent and collective insight. This is more than a mapping exercise which aims to promote and enhance participation in local initiatives; it aims to connect people, raise awareness and generate effective ways to collaborate.
Equally so, it also aims to be a neatly defined project and pragmatic project. It will enhance access to the heritage landscape, encourage people to be physically active, promote existing visitor attractions, increase visitor numbers and develop the local economy.
The ECHO project will achieve it’s aims through a phased approach; establishing community ownership throughout its development, delivery and evaluation. However, it doesn’t aim to extend visitor numbers beyond a “critical mass” which risks straining infrastructure and damaging the landscape. Instead, it aims to establish ongoing outcomes-inspired activities for participants and provide healthy, peaceful experiences for visitors to the area.
It also presents the opportunity of becoming “more than a trail”, through the realisation of the difference the heritage landscape can make to people’s lives. This can range from ongoing outdoors learning initiatives in collaboration with schools, training, employment and physical healthy activity through engagement with fitness / leisure providers.