Leave no trace

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Picture by Kevin Borrill

In August 2018, a group of local residents on the Isle of Skye took to the popular tourist spot of the Fairy Glen and, with the help of the community, removed the numerous stacks of stones that had been put there by visitors over the years.

This radical, and somewhat unpopular action is a very telling event: on the one hand, visitors are keen to discover beautiful and “magical” landmarks, with an ever-popular need to show the world they “were here”. On the other hand, residents and nature lovers would like to see sites of natural beauty like the Fairy Glen left as they are, arguing that moving stones and stacking them is also a health and safety risk.

However, Scotland is a popular destination, year after year it ranks among the best world destinations to explore (earning a mention in Lonely Planet’s 2019 Best in Travel). It is a small country too, its natural beauty is at stake if we all decide to leave a trace of our visit.

Elsewhere, the City of Paris has now removed all “love locks” on the Pont des Arts. In Thailand, Maya Bay on Ko Phi Phi Leh island (featured in Danny Boyle’s “The Beach”) has been closed indefinitely to visitors in order to help its wildlife and fauna regenerate. This week in London, the Responsible Tourism Programme will be running a series of conference during WTM 2018, highlighting the increasing need for responsible development and management of visitor attractions and natural sites.

I recently heard about the Leave No Trace programme in the United States of America, which aims to promote ways of reducing recreation-related impact to natural sites. Interestingly, among their outdoor ethics principles, they also advocate leaving no digital trace of our travels: avoiding geo-tagging your photos on Instagram for instance. On this issue, I do recommend watching the short documentary from the excellent channel VOX, aptly named “What happens when nature goes viral?”.

So, if you’re planning to visit Scotland (and we will always encourage you to do so) it is more essential than ever to adhere to a few “Leave No Trace” principles, in order to reduce your footprint and leave as little a trace as possible:

  • Do not move rocks when you visit a natural site.

  • Do not walk outside of walkways and paths as not to disturb Scotland’s wildlife and its flora.

  • Take your litter with you and recycle any material that can be.

  • Look at Green Tourism certified attractions, hotels and tour companies like E-City Chauffeur, to make your journey in Scotland as eco-friendly as possible.

  • Avoid geo-tagging locations on Instagram. Scotland’s popularity is also built on its mysteries and folk tales: in a world of instant knowledge at our fingertips, it’s a nice feeling to keep some of Scotland’s beauty as our little secrets.

Feel free to get in touch with us, let us know what you think about this issue and how it relates to the need to provide a more responsible approach to tourism in Scotland. As part of our commitment to eco-friendly travel, and upholding our Green Tourism Gold certification, we strive to advocate a “Leave No Trace” policy on all of our tours.

Nicolas Loisel