Affair of the heart – Travelling Scotland respectfully

I have not written anything for quite some time, despite several adventures since lockdown has ended for Scotland.

I have been on a big road trip to the highlands on the first day we were allowed to travel again despite the most horrendous rain for most of the day. I have been to Northumberland twice – to Lindisfarne and Bamburgh and to the Hadrian’s Wall. I did a massive road trip along the East Coast and back through the Cairngorms. I did several trips to East Neuk. I did the journey on the Jacobite train from Fort William to Mallaig plus a solo hike to the Lost Valley in Glencoe. I hiked several hills like Bishop Hill, Benarty Hill and Ben A’an. I explored the closer surroundings of Dunfermline a bit more as well. And most recently I spent 4 days in Ardnamurchan. I will do some posts about a few of those trips soon but first, I like to explain, why I have not done it so far.

The reason that I have not blogged about them, is that I have been really upset about what has been going on in Scotland since lockdown ended and everyone was asked “to do a staycation”. First of all, of course it was ESSENTIAL for the Scottish tourism that people within the UK helped it back in its feet since international tourists were not really able to come.

The tourism industry accounts for around one in every twelve jobs in Scotland, and around five per cent of the Scottish Economy’s Gross Value Added (GVA). It plays an important role in the economies of Scotland’s major cities, while also making a substantial contribution to sustaining employment and economic activity in Scotland’s rural communities.” [https://scottishtourismalliance.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/Tourism-Economic-Narrative.pdf]

What I found very “funny” though is how suddenly everyone (who is normally not into the great outdoors) in the UK realised they basically have a mini New Zealand at their doorstep while not paying much attention to Scotland all these years before. When I told British friends and colleagues that I am moving to Scotland, I mostly got asked “Why? It’s cold and rains all the time.”.

Suddenly the route of the Northcoast 500 was THE PLACE to go. I don’t know how many posts I saw in Facebook groups of people (even Scots) asking for tips and recommendations on what to see and where to go along the route. Suddenly everyone was heading to Glencoe and Glenfinnan. Suddenly everyone was into wild camping.

Most international tourists have been to all these places all these years before and by the comments on posts from VisitScotland you can read how much people love Scotland. It is not only me who is obsessed ;). People literally dream of living in Scotland. So many were absolutely devastated that their trip was cancelled due to Covid. And so many would love to return as soon as possible.

Sadly, many staycationer seemed to have no respect for the places they discovered now. The amount of posts and news articles I saw about wild campers leaving complete camps including their tents, with all the rubbish and burnt campfires, was just heartbreaking. Don’t get me wrong, there have been idiots among international tourists before as well – who left rubbish, took branches from ancient trees, parked like maniacs on single track roads or in passing places and were stupid enough to get up a munro without proper gear and had to be rescued by Mountain Rescue.

You would think that people treat their own country with much more respect though, and educated themselves more before heading to the their destinations. So the difference between the staycation tourists and international tourists was definitely that there have been much more campers this summer who did not familiarise themselves with the Scottish Outdoor Access Code apparently. Only because you are allowed to camp outside of a campsite, does not mean you can go wild, camp wherever you want and do whatever you want.

For your information – The Scottish Outdoor Access Code: https://www.outdooraccess-scotland.scot/

What makes me extremely furious apart from the rubbish disaster is what is going on at the Kingshouse Hotel in Glencoe. For those of you who don’t know – the hotel is sitting pretty nicely when you come into the great views on the mountains of Glencoe and the campsite and hostel which is part of it, is used by many who walk the West Highland Way. In recent years, many WILD deer have been coming to the car park of the hotel. And they keep coming because people are feeding them… Of course it is great to see them so close and get pictures of them with the Buachaille Etive Mór mountain in the background – I stopped there as well now for the first time this year to get a picture. Normally you have to be quite lucky to get anywhere near as close to a doe or stag when out and about. Or you have a very good focus lens on your camera to get a great shot. The reason is that they are ACTUALLY WILD ANIMALS. They are no pets and actually not there for our entertainment. When you feed the deer you are doing more harm than good.

Quoting Charles Smith-Jones, Technical Advisor, Deer Society: “Regrettably, feeding deer and other wild animals at roadsides only encourages them to hang around such places hoping for a handout, and greatly increases the risk of a collision with a vehicle.” Scottish SPCA Chief Superintendent Mike Flynn said: “We would discourage members of the public from hand-feeding any wild animals. An improper diet could lead to digestive upset and other health issues. It could also be dangerous for the person feeding the animal.”

So please! Admire them from a safe little distance, take your pictures but do not feed them! You are not doing them a favour. If in winter they might struggle to find food, there are gamekeepers to help them through with appropriate food. I hate to see that big influencer accounts on Instagram and even big hubs in Scotland are actually celebrating and promoting shots feeding them or taking super close pictures of the deer.

By all means, I am no Saint and I could certainly do more in terms of sustainability when travelling. Always going everywhere by car is not great for the environment and using plastic bottles or taking food in plastic when out and about is also not good. But I now have a filter straw bottle which I can fill up in streams, so I don’t need to take many water bottles. I have a thermal flask for food and if I take supplies wrapped up then of course I take my litter home or put it in bins along the way. But most importantly, I respect the places I visit. I don’t jump fences for pictures, I don’t walk on private land, I don’t harm wildlife by feeding them, I don’t leave litter, I don’t climb on landmarks and damage them or do other harmful actions just for likes on Instagram.

It has really put me off blogging about the places I visited because I am worried, I contribute to mass tourism and overcrowding and as a result to even more harm to those locations. Not that I have that many followers 😀 but still… However, thanks to quite a few lovely supportive message I received on my poll if I should proceed with the blogging, I was encouraged to keep doing it but showing the reality and promote sustainability.

To everyone who read my post until the end – Thank you 🙂 If it only helps a little to make people more aware of their actions I am happy. It would be a shame if Scotland would lose it’s charme and beauty over a handful of idiots.

Happy exploring :)!

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