What lies above and below Argyll & the Isles?

From Easter 2022 locals and visitors to mainland Argyll will have several new trails of discovery to explore highlighting great places to snorkel, wild swim, beach hunt, catch a cracking sunset or marvel at the dark skies. 

NatureScot

During lockdown NatureScot commissioned work to scope out new and innovative nature-based green recovery initiatives which would aid recovery, respond to the clear trends associated with people wanting to be active and explore the great outdoors and which would deliver strong responsible visitor propositions. Above & Below was one of three initiatives to be piloted in different locations across Scotland over winter and is being formally launched at the Argyll and the Isle Tourism Cooperative's 10th anniversary tourism summit on 20 April 2022 in Oban.

Above & Below was piloted by Argyll & the Isles Tourism Cooperative in partnership with NatureScot and has been coordinated by Keira Anderson from Tayvallich. The pilot centres on the Sound of Jura, Firth of Lorn and Loch Linnhe.

Cathy Craig, CEO at AITC commented “These new trails have been developed through close working with local experts, community interests and local businesses.  The themed trails are aimed at encouraging visitors and locals to slow down and explore that little bit more around the coast and to better understand and appreciate just how special a place this is.  Scotland and Argyll are both very well known for their outstanding terrestrial scenery characterised by mountains, glens and lochs. However the marine and celestial environments of the west coast offer even more points of interest and experiences which many don’t yet take time to enjoy.”

The five themed trails pin-point different locations where locals and visitors can explore more by getting in the water or lifting their eyes above the horizon.

Snorkel Trail

A North Argyll snorkel trail is being developed in partnership with the Scottish Wildlife Trust’s Living Seas project, adding to their existing snorkel trail network which extends across Scotland. This trail provides a simple guide for beginner and more advanced snorkellers, highlighting great locations to explore Argyll’s fascinating marine environment with sensitivity and safety in mind. This trail will contain a spotters guide, illustrating the many stunning marine species you are likely to see while snorkelling at these sites.

Wild Swimming Trail and Beach Hunt Trail

The Wild Swimming trail focuses on good locations to get in the water and provides important tips from local wild swimming coach Dan the Merman on how to swim safely and get the most out a dip in the sea. Working with the Heart of Argyll Wildlife Organisation, the Beach Hunt trail highlights locations where low tide exposes beaches and rockpools with fascinating wildlife and geology.

Sunset Trail and Dark Skies Trail

And for those opting to stay on dryland and looking for evening activities, the Sunset Trail and Dark Skies Trail both  showcase great locations that are easy to access, and the perfect spot to catch the setting sun and enjoy some of the darkest skies in Europe.

Outdoor Access

Above & Below also aims to highlight the fantastic work of local charities and projects working to improve access to the outdoors and to restore Argyll's marine habitats. Adventure Oban is a community-led charity brought together by a shared love of the outdoors and the environment and supporting equal access for all to Oban's natural playground. They are piloting an Adventure Library this year, where you can borrow a range of outdoor equipment. Seawilding, based at Loch Craignish, is the UK's first community-led native oyster and seagrass restoration project. Their aim is to restore lost biodiversity, sequester carbon, and to create green jobs.

Safe and Responsible

A key feature of Above & Below is promoting sites which are safe to access, have adequate infrastructure for visitors and where habitats will not be damaged. Safe and responsible visits are foremost and local businesses will have access to top tips in a toolkit to help them make their premises more suitable for guests undertaking these experiences and to develop new collaborative experiences with other local businesses for their guests to enjoy the trails. An early example is Heathery Heights working with Dan the Merman to offer foraging and wild swimming experiences in Knapdale this summer.

The Above & Below Trails can be found here https://www.wildaboutargyll.co.uk/above-and-below/