While you may feel disappointed about restrictions limiting travel abroad this summer, one positive outcome is the opportunity to organise a ‘staycation’ and experience the incredible natural beauty of the Scottish highlands and islands.
We asked some of the wonderful grantees of the Highlands and Islands Environment Foundation (HIEF) to share some of their activities and favourite places for you. Whether you are looking to hike through Scotland’s rainforests, go kayaking on one of the many lochs or join a beach clean, we have some great suggestions for you.
Scotland’s rainforests are less well known but equally as important as their tropical counterparts. Saving Scotland’s Rainforests has put together a useful map showing some of the best places to visit the remnants of these magnificent rainforests and experience them for yourself.
Scotland: the big picture run a variety of projects scattered across much of Scotland, including their Cairngorms crane reintroduction project supported by the HIEF. They strive for restoration and recovery and aim to bring the abundance and diversity of life back to Scotland. We highly recommend learning more about their rewilding mission before seeing it in action during your visit.
An absolute must while visiting the west coast is the Argyll Coast & Islands Hope Spot, the first hope spot in the whole of the UK. Hope Spots are marine protected areas which aim to protect and restore the marine environment. Here you can explore fascinating marine habitats which are home to an abundance of creatures including seals, whales, dolphins, otters, flapper skate and basking sharks, among others. The Scottish Wildlife Trust have various snorkel trails for those who want to explore further and see for themselves!
Gateway to Jura, Loch Craignish lies between Oban and the Crinan Canal, and is where Seawilding started working with coastal communities to reintroduce native oysters and restore seagrass meadows. All of their projects are community led so they have plenty of opportunities for people to get involved, including oyster releases and an oyster festival!
The Heart of Argyll Wildlife Organisation can recommend multiple nature hotspots where you can see everything from dragonflies and butterflies to ospreys and red squirrels. They can offer guidance on treks through neighbouring nature reserves which you can visit on foot, bike or horseback! Alternatively, you might choose to explore by boat, enjoy a range of water sports on a nearby loch or visit a local restaurant, to enjoy fish freshly caught from the surrounding marine environment.
If you are looking for something a bit different, why not take part in ‘Water Vole Week’ from Sunday 8th August at Heart of Argyll’s centre or visit the Artmap Argyll Open studios event where they promote some of their artists whose work addresses a marine theme.
Whilst tourism has many benefits it is important to be aware of the impact we can have on the places we visit. Plastics@Bay tackle marine plastic pollution in Northwest Scotland, if you are visiting somewhere near Durness, Sutherland, then why not join one of their weekly clean-up walks? A calendar can be found on their website. Otherwise, remember ‘Take nothing but photographs, leave nothing but footprints, keep nothing but memories’ and enjoy the breath-taking beauty of Scotland’s nature and wildlife.
Inspired by the work and dedication of these grantees? If you would like to help the HIEF continue to support these and other community-led projects you can donate here.
Lorne Giill Nature Scot
Argyll Coast and Islands Hopespot