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Scotland’s first snorkel trail

Written by Fiona

August 02 2016

The Scottish Wildlife Trust has created the North West Highlands Snorkel Trail. I reported on the new venture in my Sunday Mail column. You can see the pdf or read the story below.

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Scotland’s first snorkel trail

What is it?: The Scottish Wildlife Trust has created a unique North West Highlands Snorkel Trail.

Tell me more: From beginner to experienced, snorkellers can dive into the new trail.

The route features nine beaches and bays on the coast of Wester Ross and Sutherland.

Highlight locations include Tanera Mor in the Summer Isles, Camusnagaul and Achmelvich Bay.

Marine life to spot includes dogfish, barrel and moon jellyfish, sea urchins, Maerl, Ballan wrasse and common sunstar.

Anything else to know?: The SWT trail has been launched as part of its Living Seas programme, supported by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation.

Noel Hawkins, Living Seas Communities Officer, Scottish Wildlife Trust said: “The coast of Wester Ross and Sutherland features some fantastic sheltered headlands and beaches that are great places for snorkelling.

“The new trail is self-led, but we are hoping to establish a training programme for local people to become qualified snorkel instructors.

“We also hope there will be a snorkel club at the local leisure centre to introduce younger members of the community to snorkelling and their local marine environment.”

It’s hoped the snorkel trail will raise awareness about Scotland’s fragile marine habitats.

Noel added: “Scotland needs healthy living seas that can adapt to climate change.

“The trail will encourage more people to explore the habitats below the waves and the marine life they support.

“In turn this will give greater understanding of the need to protect them.”

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Where to go: There are four featured locations on the North West Highlands Snorkel Trail

  • Achmelvich Bay: The sandy beach and rocky outcrops offer the perfect location for beginners with plenty of fish, shellfish and kelp beds.
  • Gruinard Bay: A headland with superb low-tide exploration. Seagrass and kelp shelter numerous fish and shellfish.
  • Mellon Charles: The sea beneath the old pier at the former naval base dating is a haven for sea urchins, anemones and wrasse.
  • Tanera Mor: The steep drop-offs either side of the island’s landing platform make for great snorkelling. Kelp and crevasses shelter lobsters and crabs.

But what about the cold?: Many people will worry that Scottish waters are too cold for snorkelling.

However, thanks to modern wetsuits and neoprene technology it’s possible to swim in comfort.

Scottish waters also warm up over the summer and into the autumn.

Lizzie Bird, an instructor trainer with British Sub Aqua Club, believes Scottish snorkelling is accessible to many people.

She said: “Anyone can snorkel at any age as long as they are confident in the water.

“They don’t have to be fantastic swimmers and the best thing is it’s a way to look at a world that you rarely see.

“The colours and life under the surface in places like the north-west coast of Scotland are up there with the coral reefs you can find abroad.”

Tips to stay safe: The SWT is encouraging people to follow safety advice, including being aware of tides and the weather forecast.

Swimmers should never go snorkelling alone and it’s vital that they do not take, touch or tease animals, plants or shells.

More info: NW Highlands Snorkel Trail.

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