A feast of slow adventures as three Celtic nations gather on the West Coast of Scotland

A transnational gathering took place in February to try out new slow adventures currently developing on the West coast of Scotland. The team at the University of the Highlands and Islands’ Centre for Recreation and Tourism Research (CRTR) welcomed project partners from Derry City and Strabane District Council in Northern Ireland and Leitrim County Council in the Republic of Ireland, and the business clusters involved in the project case study, to Mallaig as part of the Slow Adventure in Northern Territories (SAINT) project. This is a three-year research project lead by UHI and funded by the European Union’s Northern Periphery and Arctic Programme.

The aim of the visit was to give businesses from Ireland and Northern Ireland a taster of some of the slow adventures currently developing in Lochaber and to share ideas on business clustering and marketing a new tourism product. The business cluster from Northern Ireland visiting included Derry Equestrian, Butterlope Farm, Beech Hill, Landscape & Countryside Guiding, Bradkeel Social Farm, Finn Valley Cottages, Inish Adventures, Wild Strands, Walled City Brewery, Tamnagh Foods and Far & Wild. The business cluster from the Republic of Ireland included Cycle Trails, Old Rectory, Adventure Gently, Jo Suppers and Yoga, Leitrim Craft and Design, Wayto Go, Organic Centre, Leitrim Surf, and The Food Hub.

The visitors were given a warm welcome by the team at West Highland Hotel and enjoyed a locally sourced dinner in the new Terrace Restaurant before waking to a crisp and sunny day the very next morning.

Selkie Explorers, a sailing and activities company based on the Isle of Eigg, along with Yogasticks wild yoga tutor and a supply of Laig Bay Brewery on board, sailed over to the Rhu Peninsula, Arisaig to give a taster of their sailing and wild yoga slow adventure. A sunny day pottering along the shores, starting with a wild yoga session out on the Skerries, a beach fire, lunch and beer-tasting, and an invigorating sail across Arisaig Bay and on to Mallaig harbour to finish the adventure.

Minch Adventures met with the visitors at Mallaig Harbour before heading over aboard Cyfish to Inverie, Knoydart for a wilderness skills and fishing slow adventure. Wildwood Bushcraft gave a practical session on firelighting, wilderness camps, foraging and knife skills – the perfect preparation for heading into the remote hills of Knoydart! After a hearty homemade lunch at the Knoydart Pottery and Tearoom in Inverie, the visitors boarded Minch Adventures’ vessel for a spot of fishing, creel hauling, and tales of seafaring voyages from Billy.

Wild West Safari collected the visitors from West Highland Hotel in Mallaig and headed along the Rhu Peninsula. Oystercatchers, curlew, a red breasted merganser and a grey seal were amongst some of the wildlife spotted on this beautiful winter’s morning. The group continued on a walk to Port na Murrach beach, a peaceful white sandy beach at the head of the peninsula, where Ian shared interesting facts about geology, molluscs, shellfish, and seaweed. Lunch was needed before the afternoon’s kayaking adventure and what better place to dine than at Glenuig Inn, an exemplar green business, with a lunch of home-smoked meats and fish. After a brief stop to check the wind forecast, Mike of Arisaig Sea Kayak Centre gave the thumbs up and the visitors head out on a taster kayaking adventure in the sheltered bay of Lochailort.

The day of slow adventures ended with a Celtic Gathering at West Highland Hotel, which gave all Scottish businesses involved in the project the opportunity to meet, dine and enjoy traditional music with the visitors from overseas.

The business clusters involved in the SAINT project will continue to collaborate and work with partners in each region to create and market new slow adventure products throughout 2017 and into 2018.