National Park Life – the push for more #Scottish #NationalParks

For more information about Keith and Scottish Horizons please visit or @outdoorfergie

The summit of Ben Nevis, Britain's highest mountain
The summit of Ben Nevis, Britain’s highest mountain

14 years have passed since Loch Lomond and the Trossachs became Scotland’s first National Park and 13 since the Cairngorms.  However over  the last decade there has been nothing.

Scotland has 3 Regional Parks (The Pentlands, Clyde Murshiel and the Lomond Hills), a number of Country Parks, National Scenic Areas and National and Local Nature Reserves but only 2 National Parks, which is something of a disgrace.

I have spent much of the last 9 months walking and photographing in Lochaber, working on a guidebook, and as we all know it is a quite stunning area.

It has Ben Nevis, Britain’s highest mountain, Buachaille Etive Mor (perhaps our most iconic peak), the serrated ridgeline of the Aonach Eagach and a litany of mountain ranges including the Mamores and the Grey Corries.

Add to this a number of stunning lochs and glens, an array of wildlife to match anything else in Britain, an excellent road and public transport infrastructure, accommodation to suit all pockets, pubs, restaurants and shops and you have, at the very least, the bare minimum of what is required for an area to be granted National Park status.

You also have a central hub in Fort William, which could really do with a helping hand. Whereas Aviemore has reaped the economic and social benefits that the Cairngorm National Park brings (in 2013 both of Scotland’s National Parks contributed nearly £300 million pounds between them to their local economies), Fort William has a tired High Street and several shops and pubs boarded up.

Yet this is the place that holds the World Mountain Bike Championship every year and where the West Highland Way starts or ends.

It is also geared up for walking (from low level to big mountains), skiing, cycling, mountaineering, wildlife watching and a whole litany of other outdoor pursuits.

Glencoe and Fort William already have National Scenic Area status but this is mere lip service to the benefits that a National Park would bring.

National Park status would not only benefit Fort William but places such as Spean Bridge, Ballachulish, Glencoe and Kinlochleven. You could extend the park to include the Ardgour and Ardnamurchan Peninsula’s and along the Road to the Isles past Glenfinnan and Arisaig to Mallaig.

The Ardnamurchan Peninsula would surely benefit from National Park status
The Ardnamurchan Peninsula would surely benefit from National Park status

All in all a magnificent area with an awesome diversity of wildlife and landscape.

But most importantly National Park status would provide much needed protection of the landscape, and not just from major housing developments and intrusive windfarms. More resources would be given to tackle path erosion, wildlife and conservation projects and the cultural heritage of the area while the recent spate of anti-social behaviour in Glen Etive would surely have been tackled better.

I realise that National Park status has only helped Loch Lomond and the Cairngorms to a certain extent as developers are always looking for loop holes, but some protection is better than just a little. The Scottish Government has also set ‘green’ targets, which is why the Allt Duine windfarm development in the Monadliath (and many others) doesn’t seem to be going away. Take a drive along the M74 and see the devastation of the hills along this corridor – is the landscape and wildlife here any less worthy than that further north?

At least a Lochaber National Park would stop these developments happening within its boundaries and we need to start pressing those in charge a little harder to give our natural landscape as much protection as possible.

Social media has provided a new voice to get our opinions over to our MSP’s and so why not tweet (or write) to the likes of Fergus Ewing (Minister for Energy, Enterprise and Tourism @FergusEwingMSP), Paul Wheelhouse (Minister for the Environment and Climate Change @AileenMcLeodMSP) and Partick Harvie (@patrickharvieof the Green Party, and express your opinions, thoughts and concerns.

The Western Isles and Northern Isles and Argyll and Bute (to name but 2) could also be future National Parks. But let’s start with baby steps and go forth to Lochaber.

Ben Nevis and The Caledonian Canal from Corpach
Ben Nevis and The Caledonian Canal from Corpach

#Lismore – Gardener’s World

Lismore is an idyllic island that stands out on Loch Linnhe and a short distance across the Lynn of Lorn from Port Appin in Argyll.

A short passenger ferry journey (bikes are also allowed) transports you onto the island at Point and into a more peaceful, laid-back world. Achnachroish (where the Oban car ferry docks) and the idyllic Port Ramsey are the island’s main settlements and much of its history can be discovered in the superb Lismore Heritage Centre.

Lismore’s name derives from the Gaelic lios-mor, meaning ‘the great garden’ and its fertile landscape is due to its Dalradian limestone geology, which has helped nurture an abundance of wildflowers including primrose, bluebell, wood sorrel, dog violet, purple and common spotted orchid, silverweed, tormentil and meadowsweet. Hen harrier, buzzard, dunlin, oystercatcher, shags, guillemots and migrating common and arctic terns is a selection of birdlife.

There is also a very good chance of spotting golden eagle and white-tailed sea eagle when on Lismore as it lies under what is thought to be an eagle ‘highway’, one that travels from Mull in the west to the Tay Estuary in the east near Dundee. Successful introduction of both species has taken place in both locations in recent years.

Lismore’s industrial history lies firmly in its limestone quarrying. Much of it took place at Salean, on the island’s north coast, and the remains of this small, industrial centre can still be seen here. The stone was quarried and shipped out on locally owned smacks (a traditional fishing boat) for agriculture and building mortar between 1826 and the 1930’s.

Many of the buildings date from early days of the quarry, including a manager’s office, workers cottages, a shop and a cottage on the pier. It is a very atmospheric, evocative spot, hemmed in on its southern side by the quarry and with some lovely sea views.

Port Ramsey Bay, Lismore
Port Ramsey Bay, Lismore




Beinn an Lochain – the finest #ArrocharAlp?

Beinn an Lochain rises sharply above the Rest and Be Thankful, a few miles west of Arrochar in Argyll & Bute, and grants a short, tough but rewarding out and back walk.

It is a Corbett, a Scottish mountain between 2500-2999 feet but of all the Arrochar Alps, with perhaps the exception of The Cobbler, Beinn an Lochain has the most mountain character, with great crags, an airy ridge and several steep ascents; magnificent views emanate from her slopes and summit.

A fine walk begins from either of the 2 lay-bys on each side of the A83, 1.5km north of the Rest and Be Thankful on the wonderfully named Bealach an Easian Dubh (the Pass of the Black Water).

The Rest and Be Thankful sits at 244-metres above sea level, at the junction of the A83 and the B828, and is overlooked by the steep crags of Beinn an Lochain. Its name refers to the inscribed stone that was placed by soldiers when they completed the original military road in the mid-1700’s. Ever since it has provided a welcome break for drovers, travellers and cyclists who have taken the steep climb from either Loch Long or Butterbridge; Thomas Pennant, Boswell and Johnson and Dorothy and William Wordsworth are just some of those who have enjoyed the spectacle.

As height is gained when ascending Beinn an Lochain there are superb views of Binnein an Fhidhleir’s spiky ridge, Ben Ime’s conical outline, and northeast along the length of Glen Kinglas. Below is the Kinglas Water at Butterbridge, spanned by the wonderful old stone bridge, built as part of General Wade’s 18th century military road network.

The higher you climb the outlook north to Ben More, Ben Lui and Ben Oss is remarkable while Loch Restil lies directly below. Beinn an Lochain’s sharp profile rises above and a real sense of its mountain character can now be appreciated – it is a marvellous sight.

The path then follows a line to the left of steep crags up its eastern face to arrive at the summit cairn – the panorama extends to the Arrochar Alps and Ben Lomond, the Cruachan Massif, Glen Etive Hills and, on a clear day, Mull.

Glen Kinglas from Beinn an Lochain
Glen Kinglas from Beinn an Lochain