As part of the Year of Natural Scotland, Scottish Natural Heritage have teamed up with Wild Scotland to celebrate the wildlife and nature of Scotland with local tourism operators. Familiarisation trips are being run in Lochaber, Argyll, Skye and Royal Deeside this September with the intention of promoting sustainable and wildlife focused tourism.
The Wild About Lochaber Team were fortunate enough to join in with the familiarisation day in Lochaber this week. A group of tourism operators met up with representatives from SNH and Wild Scotland at The Glenfinnan House Hotel to set sail on the MV Sileas for a wildlife and historical cruise down Loch Shiel with Loch Shiel Cruises.
Loch Shiel is the third longest freshwater loch in Scotland and a cruise down the loch is a great opportunity to explore the history and wildlife of Wild Lochaber. Jim, the skipper of the MV Sileas provided a fascinating commentary about the loch, the local history and wildlife. Although the morning was a little on the misty side for spotting golden eagle and red deer on the high hills of Ardgour and Moidart, we were fortunate enough to see a pair of white-tailed eagles near Dalilea. The first magnificent eagle was hidden in a forest plantation and we were all really impressed that Jim spotted it in the trees. Further down the loch we had another sighting of the mate of the first bird; this time perched prominently on a dead tree by the side of Claish Moss.
The cruise finished at Acharacle for us, where we were picked up by a minibus for a lunch stop at The Glenuig Inn in Glenuig on The Sound of Arisaig. The Sound of Arisaig is a marine Special Area of Conservation and of international importance. The group were treated to a really tasty light lunch and had a good opportunity to network and chat about their businesses over drinks and coffee.
After lunch, Martin from SNH led a shore walk from Glenuig to Samalaman Beach. On route he shared his field knowledge of otters and their signs, and educated us with uses and the folklore surrounding several plants, lichen and fungi. We finished off with a search for maerl washed up on the beach at Samalaman. The Sound of Arisiag support extensive beds of maerl, a coralline red seaweed which provides a complex and special maritime habitat. Maerl also gives the local beaches their characteristic silvery sands as the dead maerl is washed up and fragmented. It was fun exploring the beach looking for the stiff coral/tree like structures of washed up maerl, though we were unlucky on this occasion.
Over the day we were treated to the delights of three of the five National Scenic Areas in the Lochaber area. We cruised down Loch Shiel in the The Loch Shiel National Scenic Area, had lunch at Glenuig in the Morar, Moidart and Ardnamurchan National Scenic Area and had some rather misty views out to the Small Isles National Scenic Area. Martin, from SNH, talked about the importance of these areas in economic terms and their potential value to sustainable tourism business.
Thanks to Caroline from Wild Scotland, Maren and Martin from SNH and Ian from Wild West Safari for making the day so enjoyable and informative. If you would like more information on wildlife sites and wildlife spotting opportunities see moidart.com and Wild About Lochaber.