Scots tourist boost for ‘as seen on TV’ wilderness

TELEVISION programmes featuring some of Scotland’s most remote locations are fuelling a rise in the number of tourists wanting to visit them.

Tourists in Fingals Cave. Boat operator Iain Morrison says many dont know what to expect from Scotlands wild places. Picture: TSPL
Tourists in Fingals Cave. Boat operator Iain Morrison says many dont know what to expect from Scotlands wild places. Picture: TSPL

Viewers of series such as BBC’s Coast, which showcases some of the country’s most spectacular shorelines, are increasingly asking tour guides to take them to remote destinations.

However, the trend, dubbed “television tourism”, means that many visitors are turning up for the excursions totally unprepared – with some even wearing high heels on trips.

Boat operator Iain Morrison, 67, who is now taking bookings for his 43rd season running trips from his home island of Mull to Staffa and the Treshnish Isles, said: “I call it the television tourism effect. More and more folk are aware that there are a whole lot of places they haven’t seen.”

However, the reality of visiting Scotland’s rocky wildernesses is a different story to viewing highlights on TV.

Mr Morrison, who runs Turus Mara boat trips, said: “People see these places on television but don’t have any knowledge, or experience, of what it really means to go there.

“Day-trip people coming from the mainland arrive in Oban on a bus trip and think of our trip as an extension of the same thing; that there are going to be pavements and gift shops.

“Occasionally we get women coming on the boat in high heels, even though we give advice on our website about suitable clothing.

“They are not fully aware until they get there what wilderness is really about. Nevertheless, the vast majority of them really enjoy it. ”

The glowing reports on Trip-Advisor bear this out – especially comments from those who visit the puffin colony on Lunga, in the Treshnish Isles.

Mr Morrison said: “I was the first person to start taking people to Lunga. I had a wee boat that I used to go out fishing and people started asking me where they could get a boat out to the islands.

“I started on a small scale, on a 22ft boat, carrying eight to ten people at a time. We increased it gradually and we now have three boats going out there with a total capacity of 126 people.”

These days, he is joined on his journey by a steady succession of vessels, including cruise ships, private yachts and other tourist boats.

He said: “I do have a wee bit of a worry about the number of cruise liners coming in with their Zodiac boats, bringing 100 people at a time. You can tell there are larger numbers landing because the paths get very muddy.”

From April to September. Angus Campbell runs the “ultimate day trip” from his home island of Harris to Britain’s most remote outpost, St Kilda, 41 miles to the west.

A fisherman, he in 2005 to meet demand for fast day trips to St Kilda.

Mr Campbell said the appeal of St Kilda was enormous, and added: “Inquiries come in from all over the world. I have had enquiries this week from somebody in India. You just wonder why they want to go to St Kilda.”