The first officially designated long-distance path in Scotland, the West Highland Way runs for 96 miles (154 km), from the town of Milngavie in East Dumbartonshire to Fort William in the Scottish Highlands.
Throughout the year, walkers from around the world converge on Milngavie to embark on the Way, but until now a tarmac ramp and blank gable, leading through a service yard, have made for an inauspicious start to such a scenic walk.
The proposal enhances the setting-off point for the walk, by offering photo opportunities and glimpses of the landmarks and vistas populating the route. The scheme is comprised of three elements: at the top of the ramp is a large ‘welcome panel’, with two walkers pointing the way. Then, as the ramp crosses the Allander Water, the key element of the installation is revealed: a 25m long artwork in a restrained palette of corten steel and timber, screening the existing gable from view. Ninety-six timber posts, representing the total mileage to Fort William, are grouped into sections of the walk. Between each cluster, 750x2000mm demountable corten panels have been routered and layered with illustrations and milestones. Private ownership of the adjacent property prohibited fixings into the gable, a technical challenge overcome with a discreet fixing strategy into the concrete upstand. At the bottom of the ramp, a new screen of timber and corten guides walkers away from the service yard, encouraging passage along water’s edge. The final element, a freestanding introductory panel, faced with a silhouette of the route northward, overlooks the ramp from an elevated position on Douglas Street.
The project to transform this neglected area of the town was led by the community group Milngavie BID, with widespread support from local authorities, businesses, and residents: the gracious hosts on whom the West Highland Way depends.
Supporting StatementThe remit of the Milngavie BID is to create an ambiance in the town centre that increases footfall and business for all companies trading there.
We are fortunate to have the start of the West Highland Way in the town centre. However the actual start of the walk led walkers down a ramp and through the service yard at the back of a commercial building. With walkers literally coming from all over the world, we felt that this was not the most inspiring start to their experience and not a great memory of our town.
A small group of interested local community groups which included the BID, Milngavie in Bloom, Milngavie Community Development Trust & Milngavie Community Council hatched a plan to make the start of the walk not only a more pleasant experience but also a more informative one. In doing this we felt that we would also be improving the environment of Milngavie for all.
We engaged PagePark architects to help flesh out our initial thoughts and bring the project to life. They had previously worked in Milngavie and completed a strategy study for us, so had a very good understanding of the town and its inhabitants.
The idea was to represent the journey ahead in the form of 12 pre-rusted corten steel panels running down the ramp, which would be cut out to depict some of the most iconic images along the Way. Each panel would be separated by wooden posts and each post represented the number miles between the views. There would also be one large panel which would simply be a depiction of two walkers setting off on the walk and hopefully this would be used by many as a back-drop for photos. Although easy to understand, we also decided to install an information panel between the two WHW benches already in place at the top of the ramp in order that the whole artwork could be explained clearly.
Funding for the project came from the Milngavie BID, EDC, Glasgow Flightpath Fund, SNH and the WHW management group. There was great local support for the project and a genuine hope that this could be the catalyst for further improvements to that area of the town centre.
The final work has easily surpassed our expectations. With literally tens of thousands of visitors coming to the town each year, we feel proud now that the start of their journey is filled with inspiring imagery. For locals too, the area is a link between two sides of the town centre and is now much more attractive for anyone using the precinct.