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Visitors to mainland Argyll 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.
During lockdown, NatureScot commissioned work to find new nnovative 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 and Below was one of three initiatives to be piloted in different locations across Scotland over winter and was formally launched at the Argyll and the Islands Tourism Co-opertative (AITC) tenth anniversary tourism summit this week in Oban.
Above and Below was piloted by AITC in partnership with NatureScot and has been co-ordinated by Keira Anderson from Tayvallich. The pilot centres on the Sound of Jura, Firth of Lorn and Loch Linnhe.
Cathy Craig, AITC chief executive officer, said: ‘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 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 include a North Argyll snorkel trail, developed in partnership with the Scottish Wildlife Trust’s Living Seas project, adding to its 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 to be seen while snorkelling at these sites.
The wild swimming trail focuses on good locations to get in the water and provides important tips from wild swimming coach Dan the Merman on how to swim safely and get the most out of 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.
And for those opting to stay on dry land and looking for evening activities, the Sunset Trail and Dark Skies Trail 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.
Above and Below also aims to highlight the fantastic work of 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 everyone to Oban’s natural playground.
It is piloting an Adventure Library this year, where a range of outdoor equipment can be borrowed.
Seawilding, based at Loch Craignish, is the UK’s first community-led native oyster and seagrass restoration project. Its aim is to restore lost biodiversity, sequester carbon and to create green jobs.
A key feature of Above and 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 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 businesses.
An early example is Heathery Heights working with Dan the Merman to offer foraging and wild swimming experiences in Knapdale this summer.
The Above and Below Trails can be found at www.wildaboutargyll.co.uk/see-do/nature-and-wildlife/above-and-below