10 Years of the IAT

Last week we welcomed a group of Americans and Canadians who were in Scotland to mark the 10th anniversary of the first International Appalachian Trail (IAT) visit to the UK and Ireland. It was almost 10 years to the day that an IAT delegation from Maine and Newfoundland, Labrador, travelled to Scotland to hold exploratory meetings with representatives of the British Geological Survey, local trail organisations, Lochaber Geopark officials, and government representatives, on the possibility of Scotland becoming a European chapter of the IAT. This became a reality a year later when Scotland and the West Highland Way were welcomed as the first European chapter of the IAT. Later that same year, the ACP was invited to be part of the trail and is now an important link in series of long-distance trails from the west of Ireland, up the coastline of the Firth of Clyde to the WHW and Great Glen Way, north to Cape Wrath and eastwards to John o’ Groats, Orkney and Shetland before crossing to Norway.

from R Ron Ireland, Paul Wylezol, Larry Luxenberg

The group were led by IAT Chairperson, Paul Wylezol,, who was instrumental in establishing the  IAT and who continues to be active in its expansion and its connection to Global Geoparks. Some members of the group are keen geologists (both amateur and professional) so, courtesy of Hugh Barron of the British Geological Survey (who was also keenly involved in the original visit) the group have been visiting Scottish sites of geological importance. On the day, two major geological exposures were visited – one man-made (the massive opencast coal site, Spireslack at Glenbuck) and the other an untarnished product of nature – our very own Heads of Ayr.

Ron Ireland and Bob Gibson accompanied the group throughout the day and all enjoyed a light lunch between sites at the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum.

One member of the group, Larry Luxenberg, was a Rotarian and had come to Ayrshire anticipating a possible Rotary connection. His club is District 7210, New City, New York and Larry presented their banner to Ron. An avid hiker, he through-hiked the Appalachian Trail. He also is author of “Walking the Appalachian Trail,” founder and president of the Appalachian Trail Museum and a board member of the American Hiking Society.

All in all it was a most instructive and enjoyable day with our trans-Atlantic friends before they headed north on the next leg of their trip.