In 2012 I published an article entitled “Scotland – No more parks?” about Scotland’s National Parks which in the year that Scotland’s first National Park Loch Lomond and the Trossachs celebrated its tenth anniversary I raised concerns that despite Scotland having landscapes that rank amongst the best in the world, including wild mountains, pristine rivers, and lochs, ancient forests, stunning coastline and islands, all rich in wildlife and history there were still only two National Parks and there didn’t appear to be any political will towards the further development; certainly the Scottish Government had no overall strategy.
Scotland’s National Parks
At the time a project was underway to promote a National Parks Strategy by a partnership between the Scottish Campaign for National Parks and the Association for the Protection for Rural Scotland. The aspiration was that this could result in at least three new National Parks being designated by 2015, including Scotland’s first coastal and marine National Park.
The project was completed and a report published “Unfinished Business” which calls for at least seven more of Scotland’s National Parks. They were Lochaber which includes Ben Nevis, Glencoe, and Black Mount, a coastal and marine National Park, centred around the Isle of Mull, The Cheviots as an extension of the Northumberland National Park, Galloway, Glen Affric, Isle of Harris, and Wester Ross.
Another two years on and nothing further has happened but now Argyll and Bute Council has indicated their interest in exploring the possibility of a National Park by including a statement of support in its local development plans to seek views on whether the council should or should not, actively explore the potential for a National Park in the future.
The area stretching from the tiny islands of Tiree and Coll all the way to the west Kintyre coast which will cover an area of roughly 2650 square miles, would become the UK’s largest National Park. Although much of it would extend into the ocean, it would be the first of Scotland’s National Parks to be coastal and would dwarf Loch Lomond and The Trossachs and would also be bigger than the Cairngorms, which sprawls across 1748 square miles of mountain terrain and is currently the largest in Britain.
Provisionally dubbed Argyll and Islands National Park, the new conservation area would cover the marine, island, and coastal landscapes. While no fixed boundary has been drawn up, officials said the new park could take in Knapdale, Jura, Scarba, Lunga, and The Garvellachs – as well as Mull, Coll, Tiree, Islay, Gigha, and the west Kintyre coast.
Having been fortunate enough to have visited some of these locations I would like to add my support for the proposal and share some of the amazing landscapes that could be part of this new area.
Let’s start on the marvellous Isle of Mull at Uisken (Uisgean in Scottish Gaelic) a settlement on a sandy bay on the Ross of Mull. Originally a small hamlet of farmers in the Scottish farming tradition called crofting, the area had several running crofts until the 1900s. The population is roughly 20.
Or Loch Scridain in the southwest of Mull, a sea loch running from the Ardnamurchan peninsula on the north shore to Pennygael at the head of it, where it turns a corner and becomes Loch Beg.
It is also intended to include The Isle of Islay and Jura in the proposed area. On Islay is the 12th century ruined chapel of Kilnave, Cill Naoimh in Gaelic meaning the church or burial ground of the saint has a grim history. Within this charming little chapel, 30 MacLean clansmen were burnt to death in 1598 by Islay MacDonalds, the MacLeans having sought sanctuary in the chapel after a bloody battle with their adversaries on the shore of nearby Loch Gruinart. In the tiny cemetery, set in lawns of lush turf, carved grave slabs remain laid out around a 9 ft high Celtic cross, battered but still imposing, dating from around AD750.
And there will be this magnificent view across the Sound of Islay to Jura. The island is dominated by three steep-sided conical quartzite mountains on its western side – the Paps of Jura which rise to 785 metres (2,575 ft). Also in the image are two ferries from Port Askaig, the larger one returning to the mainland at Kennacraig and the smaller Jura ferry, the only way to access the island, which crosses the fast-flowing Sound of Islay, to reach Feolin in a little over five minutes.
And of course not forgetting the west coast of the Kintyre Peninsula. This famous beach at the north end of Machrihanish Bay faces the Atlantic and Ireland and has long been a popular surfing spot. Machrihanish Dunes are a Site of Scientific Interest and are the biggest sand dune area in Argyll.
There are 3,500 National Parks in the world, Scotland has only two. Those two Scotland’s National Parks have been a great success – surely it’s time for more. Scots-born naturalist, explorer, and writer John Muir inspired the creation of the world’s first National Parks in the 19th-century USA and is known as the ‘Father of National Parks”. It would be a fitting tribute to his memory if the Scottish Government committed to more National Parks.
More images of locations that could be in the proposed National Park can be seen in the Argyll, Arran and the Isles gallery.