A plan outlining Aberdeenshire’s Core Paths could encourage more physical activity in the area after it was approved by councillors last week.
It sets out routes across the area, making it more accessible and easier for residents and visitors to get about towns, villages, waterways and spectacular areas of natural beauty.
Since 1997, Aberdeenshire Council has been working with landowners and communities to improve the rural paths network in many parts of the area.
The Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 placed various new duties on local authorities, one of which is to prepare a Core Paths Plan.
It states the plan should be “sufficient for the purpose of giving the public reasonable access throughout their area”.
The council collated information obtained from 2006 and 2008 consultations and used this to draw up a draft plan of Core Paths in the area for final consultation.
That took place in 2009, and since then objections to the plan have been addressed and it has also been considered by the Scottish Government.
It has asked for amendments, particularly in light of objections made to the plan, and once the document has been updated it will be available to the public in its final form.
Members of the council’s Infrastructure Services Committee formally approved and adopted the Aberdeenshire Core Paths Plan, subject to the necessary amendments.
ISC chairman Peter Argyle said: “Aberdeenshire represents a significant proportion of Scotland’s land mass, has some truly excellent tourist attractions and some spectacular scenery, and I hope this plan will make everything we have to offer even more accessible.
“A lot of time and effort has gone into its preparation and it will be an important document for the council in many ways, including tourism and development.”
Vice chair, Alan S. Buchan, said: “Not only will the Core Paths Plan make us more accessible, but I hope it will also encourage people to get out and enjoy where they live, explore our local history and other places of interest.
“I’m sure those who enjoy cycling, walking, horse riding or our waterways will be keen to take a look at it and see what’s available, particularly with better weather and more daylight on the way.”
The committee heard there are a large number of paths included in the plan and communities had been very interested and involved in its preparation.
Head of planning Robert Gray told councillors the plan would be useful for decades to come, affecting regeneration and tourism strategies.
He said Core Paths will be protected, the plan will be used to allocate resources according to priority and will be relevant to applications for development.
Core Paths are intended to provide opportunities for walking, cycling, horse riding and access to water.
Thee aim of the Aberdeenshire Core Paths Plan is to ensure that there is at least one path for settlements with a population over 100.