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Five new nature-based trails featuring some of Argyll’s most beautiful coastal locations launch on Monday (July 25).
The self-led trails feature key sites for wild swimming, snorkelling, beach hunts, sunsets and dark skies along Scotland’s Adventure Coast.
Argyll and the Isles is a stunning region characterised by forested peninsulas, sinuous sea lochs, beautiful coastlines, and craggy islands. Its marine environment is of international significance, being home to the first Mission Blue Hope Spot in Scotland and mainland UK and it has some of the darkest skies in Europe.
These self-led trails have been developed by a partnership of Argyll & The Isles Tourism Cooperative (AITC), NatureScot and the Scottish Wildlife Trust. The trails emerged as a pilot green recovery initiative focused on encouraging people to slow down and look Above and Below the typical scenic delights, highlighting great places within Argyll to snorkel, wild swim, beach hunt, watch beautiful sunsets or marvel at dark skies.
Strong community input was key to the creation of the trails, with locals sharing information about the coastal sites they treasure and tales of the marine wildlife, sunsets and dark sky experiences on offer. In particular, community-led organisations such as Argyll Coast and Islands Hope Spot, Adventure Oban, Seawilding and Heart of Argyll Wildlife Organisation, plus local outdoor business operators Dan the Merman, Basking Shark Scotland and Heathery Heights were key to identifying the best sites along this diverse stretch of coastline. Safety considerations are at the fore with important tips and local insight provided for each site.
Adventure Oban is a community-led charity supporting outdoor access. Wild swimmers and snorkellers will benefit from connecting with this outdoor community, and from access to the Adventure Library of outdoor equipment that is currently being developed.
Seawilding is the UK’s first community-led native oyster and seagrass restoration project. Snorkellers can get involved in local ocean recovery efforts by connecting with Seawilding.
The Above and Below trails encompass the Sound of Jura, Firth of Lorne and Loch Linnhe. The trail sites reflect the diverse beauty and value of the marine region. The trails highlight local facilities and family-friendly attractions such as the Ocean Explorer Centre, all for a wonderful day out.
Cathy Craig, CEO at AITC said: ‘This has been a particularly innovative green recovery project to work on. People readily think of Scotland and Argyll in terms of our stunning scenery – the hills and glens, forest, lochs, islands, and coastlines. But there is so much more. Our marine environment is internationally significant, and our sunsets and dark skies are second to none.
Above and Below is seeking to encourage locals and visitors to slow down and immerse their senses in different ways, confident the sites we highlight both offer top notch experiences but also are supported by the local community. We spent time working with local experts and individual communities to ensure the infrastructure is in place for a great experience.’
Simon Brooks, strategic planning manager at NatureScot commented: ‘It has been great to see the community share their knowledge and enthusiasm for Argyll’s amazing nature, which has made the Above and Below project such a success. These trails will encourage everyone to experience these special places responsibly, ensuring they can be enjoyed long in to the future.’
The snorkelling trail has been developed with the Scottish Wildlife Trust. It is the seventh trail in the Scottish Wildlife Trust’s growing network, which aim to make oceans more accessible and to connect people with the incredible marine life found in Scottish seas.
The snorkel trail network is part of the Scottish Wildlife Trust’s Living Seas programme, supported by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation. Some of the snorkelling locations, such as the stunning Ganavan Sands, are hubs of activity whilst others, such as Queenie Reef, feel like a true wilderness adventure.
The trails and the new Above and Below map and guide were launched on Monday July 25 at Asknish Bay at the Loch Melfort Hotel, south of Oban. Printed versions are available locally to encourage local exploration and an interactive map and downloadable guide with more information can be found at www.wildaboutargyll.co.uk/see-do/nature-and-wildlife/above-and-below