New Snorkel Trail to launch in north west Highlands

Scotland has seen the launch of a flurry of tourist trails of late; be it gin, chocolate or long distance driving routes.

The Big Sand beach is one of the spots on the new Snorkel Trail. Picture: Robert Perry

The latest is something of a departure from the average, bringing the wonders of Scotland’s marine life firmly under the microscope.

Part of its Living Seas programme, the Scottish Wildlife Trust’s new North West Highlands Snorkel Trail aims to bring visitors as close as possible to some of the country’s most active marine habitats at nine superb snorkeling sites along Scotland’s Highland coastline.

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From small sea squirts, sponges and sea urchins to dogfish and dolphins (even whales and harmless basking sharks), the dramatic and remote coast between Gairloch and Lochinver is teeming with some of Scotland’s most vibrant aquatic species and plantlife.

While there is strict guidance in place concerning tides, currents, weather forecasts and appropriate equipment, there are places where even the uninitiated can get to grips with the basics of the activity.

Achmelvich Bay, for instance - a stunning sandy beach with rocky outcrops on both sides - is a perfect spot for beginners with plenty of fish, shellfish and kelp beds.

It goes without saying that as an added safety precaution, you should never snorkel alone and to help to protect marine life, resist the urge to take, touch or tease animals, plants or shells you see while you’re exploring.

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, and also a snorkel club at the local leisure centre to introduce younger members of the community to snorkelling and their local marine environment.”

The official launch of the snorkel trail will take place on Saturday 9 July at Ullapool Harbour as part of the Rotary Club of Ullapool’s summer festival.

For more information, or to download the map of the nine snorkelling sites on the trail, visit the Scottish Wildlife Trust’s website.