Tourist chiefs told to stop promoting 'bucket list' trips in a Highlands and Islands 'wilderness'

Skye needs to be promoted as a "working landscape" and not just a wilderness to help visitors appreciate the island more. PIC: Contributed.
Skye needs to be promoted as a "working landscape" and not just a wilderness to help visitors appreciate the island more. PIC: Contributed.
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Scotland's tourist chiefs must stop portraying the Highlands and Islands as 'vast wilderness' and move away from promoting  a 'bucket list' style of visit, it has been claimed.

The comments have been made by Scott MacKenzie, the last gamekeeper on Skye, who said that many of the visitors to the island leave without a true understanding of place, people or its 'working landscape'.

Scott MacKenzie, the last gamekeeper on Skye, said visitors needed to be educated about the island, its land and its way of life. PIC: Fearann Eilean Iarmain Estate.

Scott MacKenzie, the last gamekeeper on Skye, said visitors needed to be educated about the island, its land and its way of life. PIC: Fearann Eilean Iarmain Estate.

He has previously spoken out about damage caused by the flow of tourists to the big visitor attractions, such as Fairy Glen and the Quiraing, and the negative impact visitor numbers were having on islanders.

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Mr MacKenzie, who is employed on the Fearann Eilean Iarmain estate, has set up a number of alternative tours that take in the people, wildlife and features of the landscape.

It is hoped they will encourage visitors to experience more than the ''big five' visitor attractions, which also include Fairy Pools, The Old Man of Storr and Neist Point.

Mr MacKenzie, who was earlier named 2019 Gamekeeper of the Year, said: "We felt the boom in tourism that started in the North of Skye was having a negative impact as well as beneficial one.

"We talk to visitors about how the landscape is managed, why it looks the way it does and how it was shaped.

"They go away with a better understanding of how the landscape works instead of the long-standing idea that the Highlands and Islands is a vast wilderness.”

READ MORE: Skye tourists told to slow down and see less of the island

"Visitors are unaware and even surprised that the landscape is worked."

He said tourism bodies have a responsibility to give a "true portrayal" of the landscape a to promote 'slow tourism' that encourage return visits to destinations like Skye.

Visitors should also be made aware of the sensitive areas to avoid at certain times of the year due to breeding, stalking and gathering sheep

"This is a working landscape, not a wilderness," he added.

Fearann Eilean Iarmain was established 1972 by Sir Iain Noble following the purchase of land from the MacDonald Estates.

Sir Iain's vision was to reverse the brain drain and create economic growth by putting the language and culture of Gaelic at the heart of the business activities.

Mr MacKenzie's remarks come as a business on Skye start a campaign that urges people to “stay longer, see less and experience more” of the island.

Skye attracts around 650,000 visitors a year, with around 28 per cent of tourists drawn from the international market and 72 per cent coming from other parts of the United Kingdom.

Between 2014 and 2017, visitor numbers increased by 15 per cent. A “behaviour switch” was also noted with estimated visitor numbers at the top five sites increasing by 55 per cent with a fall of numbers recorded at other attractions.

Chris Taylor, Regional Leadership Director at VisitScotland, said: “The breath-taking scenery and natural landscapes across Scotland are a huge draw for visitors coming to explore our beautiful country.

“We continue to focus our marketing efforts to help encourage holidaymakers, both domestic and international, to explore all regions of Scotland at all times of the year to get a truly authentic experience, connecting with the local culture and heritage. This very much emulates the efforts of the local tourism campaign, Skyetime, focusing on the uniqueness of Skye, encouraging visitors to slow down, stay longer and enjoy a more fulfilling and real experience.

“Tourism is the heartbeat of the Scottish economy and is one of its most sustainable and enduring industries – we need to continue to work in collaboration to ensure visitors see us at our best throughout the year.”