Gillian Craig, Gillian’s Walks 2021

At Ayr Rotary’s evening, the guest speaker was Gillian Craig who talked about the ‘Extension of her Walks’, the sequel to her original presentation to the Club 4 years ago in September 2017. Gillian is passionate about the great Scottish outdoors, and thrives on finding new places to explore and inspire others to do the same.

Five years ago she created the ‘Gillian’s Walks Website’ and this has become the ‘go-to’ resource across Ayrshire and beyond for anyone looking for reliable walking route information. She has also been an active member of the Ayrshire Coastal Path Management Team since 2018, and last year oversaw an online fundraising initiative which raised £1800 towards its annual maintenance costs.

In 2019 she was chosen by ‘Paths for All’ as the ‘Community Path Volunteer of the Year’ for her work with both the Ayrshire Coastal Path and wider efforts to get more people walking.

Gillian’s “day job” is at her home town of Kilmarnock, with the ‘Active Travel Hub’project, a partnership project between East Ayrshire Council and Sustrans Scotland,providing advice, support and funding that makes it easier for people to walk and cycle for everyday journeys. All of this fits around her busy life as a mum of two school-aged boys with very demanding social lives and taxi needs

When she was a child, Gillian’s parents had been keen walkers and mountain climbers and were responsible for Gillian’s initial interest in the great outdoors. She celebrated her 12th birthday, at 12 noon, on the 12th October on the summit of Goat Fell. Recalling her later student years at Stirling University (gaining an international management studies degree) Gillian confessed to losing interest somewhat in the outdoor life after being refused membership of the university climbing club because she was a woman! Fast-forward eighteen years and Gillian found herself, unemployed (due to redundancy) and a stay-at-home mum with two young sons. She took to walking her sons in their buggy in order to have opportunity to do some clear thinking about her future and it was during one of these walks that she experienced her “light-bulb moment”: she would set herself a 100-walk challenge!

Gillian began blogging about her 100-walks (completed in December 2016) and was pleasantly surprised how popular the blog quickly became. This encouraged her to develop the blog into a more sophisticated, searchable website which, along with a linked Facebook page, became an almost-full-time commitment.

More recently, Gillian has added a “Viewranger” link which allows an App to be downloaded that can be used to follow in Gillian’s footsteps on selected walks.

The 100-walks were followed by a 7-summits challenge, including Ben More, Conic Hill and Earls Seat, and then by others like the 3-Lochs and Keep-Walking-Kilmarnock challenges. By 2017 her website had 92 subscribers and 5000 views/month. Gillian’s most recent activities have been the 1000-miles-in-a-year challenge (200 miles to go!), the Affric Way, the Kintyre Way, and the ACP (her favourite of course!). These walks have assisted charitable causes and during the curent pandemic, there were 70,000 hits in one month.

Ron Ireland gave a worthy vote of thanks