It’s a story without borders, featuring an Irish adventurer – whose late grandfather was provost of Aberdeen and welcomed former Soviet Union president Mikhail Gorbachev to the city in 1993 – who has shed light on the hidden world of rural China.
Almost a decade ago, Leon McCarron embarked on a trek of more than 3,000 miles across China, from Mongolia to Hong Kong.
Last year, he returned to walk in the same country but in a very different way; slowly, and with a clear purpose to design and implement a long-distance hiking trail which it’s hoped will help transform struggling areas in hidden China.
Working with a team of international experts and local innovators, Mr McCarron was based in Hunan province, exploring the philosophy and potential of trails in the area.
He will speak about his experiences at the Royal Scottish Geographical Society Inspiring People talks programme in Inverness next month, sharing stories from the Xuefeng Mountain Trail which he recently helped launch.
In the course of the event, he will describe how old pathways have been repurposed to breathe life into ailing communities, and how these routes will celebrate local pride and ownership of cultural heritage.
He will also touch on tourism and how memories can be created for visitors who challenge themselves on long journeys such as this 63-mile trail.
Mr McCarron said: “I’m excited to share stories from the heart of China and tell audiences about parts of a country that they may never have had chance to see before, as well as talking a little on ‘the how and why’ of developing hiking trails.
“There are huge swathes of empty countryside which have stood still and it’s one of the misconceptions in the West that everything revolves around Beijing and Shanghai.
“While I was over there, I visited cities of five million people which most people have probably never heard of. It is a fascinating country and there are so many elements of it that we are only starting to learn about.
“I am half Scottish – my dad and his family are from Aberdeen [his grandfather, James Wyness, was the former provost who invited Mr Gorbachev to the Granite city] and I still have a younger brother and sister in the Borders.
“Scotland is always home to me, and I come up to watch the Dons play three or four times a year, so I am really looking forward to this.”
He is speaking at The Highland Council Chamber in Inverness on Monday, February 10 at 7.30pm.
Tickets are available via rsgs.org and can also be bought at the door.