Festival will celebrate the life of environmental pioneer John Muir

Theodore Roosevelt and John Muir on Glacier Point, Yosemite Valley, California, in 1903
Theodore Roosevelt and John Muir on Glacier Point, Yosemite Valley, California, in 1903

Revered in America, pioneering environmentalist John Muir is less well known in his homeland of Scotland.

But as a new national pathway, the John Muir Way, opens in his honour, the John Muir Festival is bringing John Muir home.

Part of the John Muir Way goes through communities in East Dunbartonshire.

The Festival kicks off on Thursday April and 18 with ‘Home – the international launch of The Kelpies’, a spectacular family event at Scotland’s newest cultural landmark, Andy Scott’s colossal 30 metre high horses heads’ sculptures.

The audience is invited to take a magical, night-time walk through Helix Park, Falkirk and journey past a variety of illuminated artworks on the theme of Scotland as ‘Home’ before making their way to monumental sculptures The Kelpies for a thrilling light, flame and pulsating sound performance.

The recurring show by Groupe F – the renowned pyrotechnic company who famously lit up the Eiffel Tower at the millennium – promises to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Tickets are £8 and £5 in advance from johnmuirfestival.com and £10 and £5 on the door.

Caroline Packman, Director of Homecoming Scotland said: “The Home event at The Kelpies promises to be a spectacular and memorable opening to an exciting John Muir Festival programme, which is a key part of this year’s Homecoming Scotland celebrations. The Groupe F show at The Kelpies will be an unmissable experience, and will be a fitting tribute to the brilliant and iconic John Muir.”

First Minister Alex Salmond officially opens the John Muir Way in Muir’s hometown of Dunbar on April 21 where ramblers, runners and cyclists will be invited to carry Muir-themed flags along the first section of the coast to coast pathway. The event, supported by East Lothian Council, includes celebratory art, music, performance and food stalls, is open and free to all.

Over the following four days, April 22 - 25, communities enroute can participate directly in the Festival by carrying bespoke flags along the new pathway.

At selected hotspots at North Berwick, Cockenzie, Edinburgh Quay, Blackness Castle, Linlithgow Palace, Callendar House, Kirkintilloch, Strathblane, Croftamie, Balloch Castle, Helensburgh and Loch Lomond Shores, a variety of artworks will be staged: a gang of bearded John Muir lookalikes will provide fun photo opportunities as well as thought-provoking quotes from Muir’s writings.

A camera obscura will provide a new perspective on the surrounding landscape. There will be seed bombing with Scottish wild flowers. And in a quieter, more reflective tribute, an American and a Scots poet will walk the length of the John Muir Way at their own unhurried pace, planting seeds and reciting poetry along the way.

Finally, on the afternoon of April 26, the Festival and flags will reach the end of the John Muir Way in Helensburgh on the same Clyde coast where 11 year old Muir and his family set sail for a new life in America.

Appropriately – for a founding father of the US National Parks – Scotland’s national park at Loch Lomond will be the venue the same evening for music, art, performance and a firework finale.

The new John Muir Way, the concept of the Central Scotland Green Network Partnership Board, is designed to give people in the central belt the opportunity to engage with nature and gain a better understanding of Muir the man and his legacy.