Bid to create UK's first offline sanctuary in Scottish mobile blackspot

Sarah Redman is launching a bid to stop new mobile phone masts being erected near her farm on the edge of Galloway Forest Park to protect the area as an offline haven where people can escape the stress of constant connectivity and get closer to nature
Sarah Redman is launching a bid to stop new mobile phone masts being erected near her farm on the edge of Galloway Forest Park to protect the area as an offline haven where people can escape the stress of constant connectivity and get closer to nature
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Visitors to one of Scotland’s most wild and scenic areas could be able to truly turn off and tune out from the fast-paced modern world and connect with nature if a bid to create the UK’s first offline sanctuary is successful.

A farm in South Ayrshire has launched a bid to protect one of the country’s most popular mobile phone blackspots from the introduction of network coverage.

A lack of mobile network coverage is a bonus for visitors to many of Scotland's most treasured wild places - such as the spectacular Old Man of Storr, on the Isle of Skye

A lack of mobile network coverage is a bonus for visitors to many of Scotland's most treasured wild places - such as the spectacular Old Man of Storr, on the Isle of Skye

The owners of Creeside Farm, situated in the heart of an officially designated Unesco Biosphere, are lobbying authorities to prevent the introduction of 3G, 4G and 5G transmitters in the area.

They say the move would satisfy an increasing demand for digital detox opportunities.

The farm sits in around 200 acres of land beside Galloway Forest Park, one of the UK’s largest woodlands and an official Dark Sky Park.

Owner Sarah Redman insists guests staying at their remote Shepherd’s Hut B&B want a break from the demands of constant communications and actually welcome the patchy mobile coverage.

She said: “Everyone who stays at our Shepherd’s Hut actually want to get away from their phones. The fact we don’t have wi-fi or reliable signal is a big selling point.

"South Ayrshire Council has just published a consultation document on planning policy for the area. We have responded asking that they consider introducing policy to create or protect a blackspot on the land owned by Creeside Farm.

"This high level of protection doesn’t currently exist anywhere in the UK, so what we are proposing is unique. We're not looking to hold up improvements in connectivity across the region especially in communities where signal is poor.

"But it’s important to consider what wider impact it might have on some of our much-loved off-grid spots. These places are often uninhabited, rural and wild, and that's why people come here - to seek that sanctuary. If they don't get coverage on their phones then they don't have the compulsion to check and scroll, and they engage with nature more. And the benefits of that are obvious.”

She says the plans would restrict networks across a small area surrounding the 200-acre farm, but wouldn't impact the ability to make emergency calls or stop connectivity being improved from the surrounding area.

A recent survey by Shackleton Whisky has revealed that more than a third of of Britons have undertaken a digital detox to help escape distractions.

The poll found more half of mobile phone users find it impossible to switch off from technology, with the average user now spending at least 90 minutes a day on their handset.

The brand, inspired by the famous explorer Ernest Shackleton, is backing the creation of offline sanctuaries, creating a map of some of the country’s favourite communications blackspots.

Kenny Nicholson, head of modern spirits at Shackleton Whisky, said: “A good sign you are having an adventure is when you lose phone signal - whether that’s hiking up a mountain, or trekking through a forest, or heading to some of the more remote parts of the country.

“There’s something liberating about being offline and embracing what you’re doing instead. As the world becomes more hectic, it’s important to escape every now and then and to protect the places that make that possible.”

Scotland's favourite communications blackspots

1. Ben Nevis, Highlands
2. Glen Etive, Highlands
3. Goat Fell, Isle of Arran
4. Loch Cluanie, north-west Highlands
5. The Old Man of Storr, Isle of Skye
6. Puck’s Glen, Dunoon
7. Glenmore Forest Park, Cairngorms
8. Loch Faskally, Perthshire
9. Pentlands, Edinburgh
10. Torridon Hills, north-west Highlands

An interactive map of offline beauty spots can be found at https://offgrid.theshackletonwhisky.com.