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Issue 26 - Don't take the easy option

Scotland Magazine Issue 26
April 2006

 

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Don't take the easy option

Dominic Roskrow argues that there's nothing like a good dose of nature to get the emotions stirring

Regular readers of Scotland Magazine will have noticed a pattern emerging in recent months. For some time now the two most important words when deciding what should go in to the magazine have been ‘travel’ and ‘history’. Virtually everything we publish is designed to encourage the reader to visit Scotland, and as heritage is a key reason for making the journey, many of the features include a historical aspect.

But in the last year or so we have been on something of a mission – to encourage visitors to leave the safety of their hotels in Edinburgh and perhaps Glasgow, and to venture further afield.

And not just in terms of geography either, but in terms of activities and events. We’ve been encouraging people to seek out some of the lesser known parts of Scotland and to enjoy them not on a tourist coach but in a hire car, by bike, by train and by foot.

One of the fundamental mistakes that visitors to Scotland make is to fly in to Edinburgh and look up to the Highlands rather than South and towards England. Here history is just as pertinent if not more so, and some of the scenery just as stunning as that in the North.

The North-West of Scotland, too, takes some reaching. But how can anyone who has negotiated the single lane tracks from Inverness to Torridon and hopped in and out of passing places not felt truly immersed in the enormous beauty around them? In these days of fast lives and fast cars, God and nature have conspired to force the visitor to slow down and drink in the true spirit of beautiful, unspoiled Scotland. And that’s why we come isn’t it?

I have just spent two glorious and sunny days walking, cycling and rowing with friends from the distillery on Jura to the Ardbeg distillery at the far end of Islay, stopping off at every distillery on Islay on the way.

Sometimes you have to force yourself to slow down but when you do it gives you time to savour your environment in a totally new and different way.

To get to Jura you have to either fly to Islay from Glasgow then cross the island and take a short ferry ride, or drive from Glasgow up round Loch Fyne and down through Campbeltown before taking the ferry from Tarbert.

It’s a trek, but the effort is surely worth it. The western isles provide the perfect setting for walkers and cyclists of even modest fitness and ability to get out and breathe fresh air. When the sun shines and the deer are feeding, it serves as a wonderful reminder that there are still pockets of this overcrowded part of the world where you can still pretty much escape from it all.

But there’s another reason for our zealotry when it comes to encouraging readers out of doors and in to the air.

When you visit such places and you gasp at the beauty of it all, it reminds you how wonderful but fragile our world is. It makes you angry to think of the damage that is being done to the planet by greed and selfishness. All this beauty is under threat and we’re sleep-walking towards a disaster that will deprive our grandchildren of the chance to enjoy what we can enjoy.

Climate change is already affecting these islands, and because they’re in the Gulf Stream, which provides a constant source of warm water and therefore a more moderate climate than the latitude should allow. Shortage of cold water is causing problems for whisky distillation on Orkney, for instance. Storm-watching is becoming a tourist attraction.

Get out in the open in Scotland the chances are you’ll join a growing band of people who believe we have to protect our environment now.

And if you’re not moved – well at least you are experiencing such beauty while the chance is still there.