Monday, 8 December 2014

Wild Scotland Conference 2014 - Guest Blog part 2 - Ewan Miles

The Wild Scotland Conference was held at the Concert Hall, Perth on Wednesday, November 26th. It was named 'The Nature of Change'.

Myself and colleague Cain Scrimgeour arrived at the venue for the 10.30 start and were warmly welcomed by Wild Scotland representatives. We had a look around the stalls before heading into the conference hall for the morning session.  

An introduction to the event was given by the newly designated WS chairman Ben Mardell. He encouraged all the guests to interact and engage with each other and be very proactive, as we need to be in the wildlife/adventure industries we are all involved in. He gave an example of an excellent wildlife tourism operator based in Scotland showing the high levels that the country provides along with the level that other operators can aspire towards.  

Richard Whitcomb (Associate Director of Ekosgen) was the first guest speaker and he gave an informative talk before giving delegates the opportunity to discuss and contribute to The National Adventure Tourism Research Study by working together and sharing ideas in small groups. 

The next guest speaker was Gert Nieuwboer who set up an adventure walking holiday company in Holland called SNP Nature Travel which has grown to become the leading brand in the country. He discussed the benefits of researching every fine detail within your business which could reap huge rewards. He gave an example of researching the different age categories of his customers and what they wanted to gain from the experience. He discovered that the age group 16-25 was a lot lower than the other age groups and another discovery was that those customers in the 16-25 age category were regarding 'meeting new people' as one of the major factors of going on a trip. With all this collated dataSNP Nature Travel created a tailor-made trip with criteria suited just to that specific customer. A highly informative talk by Gert showing the importance of going through every statistic in a business and leaving nothing to chance. 

After the lunch break myself and Cain attended a couple of workshops with the first one being Market Data run by Mike Dennison and Katherine Taylor and the second one Industry-led Training by Sally Dowden. Excellent talks and engaging with other delegates was beneficial again in sharing ideas and business techniques in group discussions. 

The final guest speaker was Karen Darke who is the 2012 Paralympic silver medallist, 2012 Paratriathlon world champion and a ground breaking adventurer. Karen became paralysed from the waist down, in a rock climbing accident in 1992 and she discussed how she overcame her challenges in life and achieved some seemingly impossible feats. She used words like commitment, belief, motivation and inspiration and her 40 minute talk inspired me and I am sure many others in the room. She quoted that inspiration is an energy which comes in many shapes and forms. I am going to use her inspirations to help fuel my career aspirations in the future. 

Ben Mardell's closing remarks were spoken with real care, passion and determination encouraging us to digest all that we experienced on the day and to work harder and commit to our business to make it succeed.   

A highly beneficial experience and special thanks to Ben, Gillian and all at WS for their hard work in making the day happen and also for my opportunity to be a guest blogger for the organisation. I hope to see you all at the conference next year!

Ewan Miles

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Wild Scotland Guest Blog - Ewan Miles

The Wild Scotland conference in Perth will be held on the 26th November 2014 and this event brings together people working in the wildlife tourism sector to share ideas and learn new ways to enhance their business in a highly dynamic industry. Workshops and guest speakers aim to inspire you to improve your existing business or start-up as a new operator. 

At this time of the year a lot of our species like geese, waders and passerines will flock together in large groups as 'strength in numbers' can help decrease the chance of predation for individuals and also increase their chance of finding food source, benefiting the species as a whole. What a great chance for tourism operators to do the same at this time of the year by performing a communal gathering and benefiting themselves and their company through engaging with fellow professionals and working together to survive and to thrive in the sector. Just like all ecosystems rely on the interconnections to make it complete, I think an integral part for tourism operators is engaging with related businesses, attending workshops and corporate events to help evolve your business and it could be the missing link to your set-up. 

Working together for everyone's benefit

Visitor spending in Scotland is around 4 billion pounds annually and 1.4 billion of that is nature-based spending which works out at 40% of all tourism spending in the country. This means that anyone working in the industry has an important role to play in representing the country in a large part of its economy. By attending events like the Wild Scotland Industry Conference it can help you reach these high levels and keep up with the rising standards in the 21st century. 

Sustainable wildlife and adventure tourism can be achieved for the benefit of businesses, wildlife, customers and our natural heritage.
One of the benefits of joining Wild Scotland is to strengthen your marketing and advertising reach through the website, E-Newsletter and social media pages. Business support is also available for members through workshops and an on-line members section on the website. Wild Scotland is increasing its membership tally and on a broader spectrum this represents Scotland's outdoor tourism sector in a positive manner with a large variety of different operators available, showing a sign of a healthy expanding industry. 

Below is a list of the guest speakers and workshops which will take place at the annual Wild Scotland Industry Conference on the 26th November 2014. I hope to see you there! 

  • Fantastic speaker line-up with an International guest speaker and internationally-recognised British Paralympian and Adventurer, Karen Darke.

  • Chance for industry to input to the national Adventure Tourism research exercise that has been commissioned by  Highlands and Islands Enterprise in partnership with VisitScotland, Scottish Enterprise, the Scottish Tourism Alliance and Scottish Development International.

  • A wide range of workshops including ‘Professionalising the Sector’.  We have included this workshop as Wild Scotland has been commissioned to develop the existing Wilderness Guide Training scheme into a full-blown structured accredited Art of Guiding Programme. As Wild Scotland is at the start of the development process, industry input into the structure and focus of the Programme is invaluable!

  • Leading into the Year of Food and Drink, we will also have a few success stories of businesses which have incorporated Scottish food & drink into their current package and have seen bottom line results of giving visitors a quality food and drink experience.

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Ewan Miles

5 Excellent Environmental & Adventure Education Opportunities

If you would like to learn more about the environment we live in and develop new skills or you have thought about studying an environmental or adventure subject at higher education level, then you might be surprised at the number of fantastic opportunities that are available right here in Scotland. From community organisations, to environmental education charities and universities, there are lots of great ways to learn more about the environment, nature, the outdoors and the adventure industry. Read on to find out how you could learn something new.

1. Brush up on your natural history knowledge at Blairgowrie

The Field Studies Council’s Kindrogan Field Centre (LINK: not only offers a fantastic outdoor learning base for schools, universities and professional development, but it also offers a huge range of natural history courses for individuals and families, covering the countryside, its wildlife and the environment. From courses on Astronomy and Aquatic Plants to Small Mammals and Special Spring Moths, there really is something to suit all interests. Find out more here. (LINK:

2. Learn more about the Wildlife of Kailzie

If you live in the Scottish Borders and would like to learn more about the wildlife and environment around you, then you might consider joining the Friends of Kailzie Wildlife Group (LINK: At the community organisation’s centre just outside the beautiful gardens at Kailzie, they have created wildlife interpretation throughout the gardens and surrounding land including a signal post trail and bird call sound boxes. Not only that, but they have a Project Officer on hand to provide environmental education to local schools, community groups or even private groups on request – why not give them a shout. Find out more here (LINK:

3. Study higher environmental education

Still thinking about that environmental degree or masters you’ve always wanted to do?  If so, Edinburgh Napier University might have just what you’re looking for. This innovative and professional university offers a wide range of degree and post-graduate level courses in environmental subjects including Animal Biology, Ecotourism, Wildlife Biology and Conservation and Conservation and Management of Protected Areas.  Visit their website to find a course to suit you

4. Have a wild weekend on the Moray Coast

If you’ve ever wanted to unleash your inner Bear Grylls by foraging for food, lighting fires and learning bushcraft skills, then a Wild things! Wild Escape could be for you.  This environmental education charity offers a variety of courses teaching all manner of new skills to suit everyone, from families, to individual women and fathers and sons.  Find out what they have to offer here.  

5. Attend the School of Adventure Studies

The West Highland College UHI - School of Adventure Studies is located in one of the finest UK locations for adventure tourism, with natural heritage, culture, marvellous landscapes and seascapes, creating a playground of world-renowned rivers that flow from some of Scotland's greatest mountains to the sea.  With courses from School Link up to Post Graduate level, including our new MSc in Ecotourism, you can immerse yourself in all things adventure in this beautiful part of Scotland.  Find out more about the school here.

Monday, 20 October 2014

5 Fantastic Ways to Enjoy Autumn Wildlife

Autumn is a time of great change in nature, with migration in full swing and colours changing across Scotland. As temperatures dip and days get shorter, it can seem appealing to stay inside and keep cosy, but if you ignore this temptation, wrap up warm and head out for some wildlife watching, you won’t be disappointed. Here are some great ways to experience Autumn wildlife at its best.

1. Capture Rutting Red Deer on Camera

One of autumn’s greatest wildlife spectacles is the red deer rut, when the sound of roaring stags can be heard echoing round the hills. With Glen Tanar Estate you can head right in to the hills with their experienced deer stalkers to view the latter stages of the rut and capture the deer with your camera. A fantastic way to get great shots of these magnificent animals in their natural habitat. Find out more here.
Taken on 19 Oct at Glen Tanar Estate © John Blair
2. See Salmon Leaping

The annual migration of salmon is in full swing at this time of year and at the Philiphaugh Salmon Viewing Centre you can see these fantastic fish leaping up the cauld on the last leg of their epic journey. Footage from underwater cameras is displayed at the Salmon Viewing Centre where you can also learn all about the salmon's life cycle.  Find out more here.

3. Enjoy Autumn Colours in the Cairngorms

The Cairngorms National Park is a riot of colour in autumn, with golden birchwoods and snow dusted mountains, and the Bird Watching and Wildlife Club at the Grant Arms Hotel provides a fantastic base from which to explore. Guests are advised on what wildlife is around and when and where to go to see it, ensuring you get the most out of your wildlife exploration.  Find out more here

4. Witness the Wonder of Bird Migration

Tentsmuir Point is a haven for seals and wintering wildfowl and each autumn thousands of birds flock here to feed and rest during their migration. Up to 12,000 eider ducks gather together between October and March and you may also be lucky enough see pink-footed geese, bar-tailed godwits, grey plovers and scoters. To top it off, you might also see white-tailed sea eagle! Find out more about Tentsmuir National Nature Reserve here.

Wildlife Watching at Tentsmuir © Lorne Gill
5. Relish a Red Squirrel Safari

Red squirrels are very busy at this time of year, finding and storing food for the winter months, and Atholl Estates is a great place to see them in their natural habitat. On this guided 4x4 tour you will have the opportunity to learn more about our bushy-tailed friends. Driving through hidden parts of the grounds of Blair Castle, through open countryside and woodlands, out to the Falls of Bruar and up Glen Tilt to the Estate's squirrel hide, you will experience some of the Estate's diverse and beautiful landscape whilst on the lookout for squirrels and other native wildlife. Find out more here.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

8 self-catering escapes where the outdoors is on your doorstep

There’s a wealth of spectacular scenery, special wildlife and exciting outdoor activities to enjoy in Scotland and this selection of comfortable self-catering accommodation has it all right on the doorstep.  If you’re planning a trip to enjoy the Scottish outdoors and looking for inspiration on where to stay, look no further.

1. Get away from it all with your canine friend to the Isle of Mull

Located on a High Nature Value Farm, rich in bio-diversity, in north west Mull, Treshnish and Haunn Cottages are 8 award-winning sustainable self-catering cottages (sleeping between 2 and 6), many of which enjoy sea views towards Coll and beyond.  Pet friendly and close to Calgary beach, they are the perfect place for those who enjoy wildlife, bird watching, walking and exploring.  The Haunn cottages offer the most remote experience…being an additional 15 minutes along the farm track from the farm.  Find out more here.

Spectacular views from one of the Treshnish and Haunn Cottages

2. Experience the thrill of winter sports from Onich, near Fort William

Set within a 17-acre private hillside location with panoramic views overlooking Loch Linnhe into the Glencoe/Argyllshire mountains, Springwell Holidays offer five self-catering cottages, sleeping between 4 and 8 people.  This is an ideal base from which to enjoy the winter sports on offer at Glencoe and the Nevis Range, which are within 30 minutes drive.  Ramblers, climbers, cyclists and mountain bikers are also spoilt for choice, with many routes nearby. Find out more here.
Views of Loch Linnhe from Springwell Holidays cottage

3.  Explore the hills of Ellary Estate, Argyll

As a guest in one of the Ellary Estate Cottages you can walk throughout the whole of the Ellary and Castle Sween Estates, which extend to approx. 15,000 acres!  From the heights of Corrbhan on a clear day, you can see as far as the Nevis range to the North, the head of Loch Fyne and Ben Arthur to the East, Kintyre and Northern Ireland to the South and the Isles of Jura, Scarba etc. to the West.  There are also plenty of less demanding strolls for those feeling less energetic.  The cottages sleep between 2 and 8 and many are within a stone’s throw of the sea.  Find out more here.

Cove Cottage, Ellary Estate Cottages

4.  Watch wildlife in Dumfries and Galloway

Located on the Colvend Coast (otherwise known as “Scotland’s Riviera”) and with various nature reserves close by, including RSPB Mersehead Nature Reserve and Galloway Forest Park, the Kippford Holiday Park is the perfect place for keen wildlife watchers and those looking for a quieter holiday park.  With lodges, caravans or bungalows to choose from, there’s plenty of accommodation from which to watch the resident population of Red Squirrels!  Find out more here.

Relax in peace and quiet at Kippford Holiday Park

5.  Take an outdoors break with friends or family in Assynt

Located on a working estate, Glencanisp Lodge is a splendid example of a traditional Victorian hunting lodge, sleeping 26 plus.  Set amidst some of the most stunning and beautiful natural scenery to be found in the Scottish Highlands, it offers a huge range of outdoors activities on the doorstep, from fishing and kayaking, to wildlife watching and Ranger guided walks.  Perfect for an escape to the country with your nearest and dearest.  Find out more here.
Glencanisp Lodge is a splendid example of a Victorian hunting lodge

6. Escape to an unspoilt Highland glen

From Culligran Cottages, located in a beautiful Highland glen near Inverness, outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy abundant wildlife, salmon and trout fishing, bird-watching, hill-walking, Munro-bagging or cycling along the 17 miles of private road.  With the choice of a traditional 3-bedroom cottage or four Norwegian chalets (2-3 bedrooms), guests can enjoy unique access to Glen Strathfarrar with its mountain scenery, lochs and river, Caledonian pinewood and breathtaking views of the unspoilt wild Highlands of Scotland.  Find out more here.

7.  Go “glamping” on a working farm in Dumfries and Galloway

Set within a traditional 330-acre working beef and sheep farm, right beside the breathtaking coastline, Solway View Wigwams offers guests the chance to enjoy “glamping”!  Wooden camping pods, sleeping up to 5, come with heating, lighting and some cooking facilities.  Enjoy access to farmland, nature trails, the nearby, secluded bay and adjoining woodland, with its ever changing colour scheme, all from the comfort of your wooden “tent”!  Find out more here.

8. Take a ferry to the Morvern Peninsula and leave the rest of the world behind   

Although on the mainland, Morvern is best reached via the Corran-Ardgour ferry and after a short journey across Loch Linnhe, you’ll find yourself in a special place touched only lightly by the 21st Century.  From a range of comfortable, well-equipped accommodation – from Rahoy Lodge (sleeps 16), with the sea at the bottom of the garden, to Caorann (sleeps 8), a stunning new house with superb views over Loch Teacuis and the Rahoy Cottages (sleeping 4) - you can enjoy a paradise for anyone seeking peace and tranquillity close to nature.  Find out more here.

Peace and tranquillity at Rahoy Cottages

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

6 Ways To Explore Scotland On Foot

Scotland is a land of breathtaking scenery and clean, fresh air and there’s no better way to soak it all up than roaming amongst its hills, islands and coastal paths. Below are just a few of the many different ways you can enjoy Scotland on two feet.

1. Take on the challenge of the West Highland Way

One of the world’s most famous long distance walks, the West Highland Way stretches 96 miles north from Milngavie, in the northern suburbs of Glasgow, to Fort William, a Highland town nestled at the foot of Ben Nevis. With Absolute Escapes, you can take on the challenge of this spectacular route over 5-9 days, experiencing stunning scenery as you hike into the heart of the Highlands. Find out more here.

The West Highland Way with Absolute Escapes

2. Follow the Fife Coastal Path

Discover the wild and spectacular natural landscape of Scotland’s east coast with a walking holiday along Fife’s coastal path. Macs Adventure offer either short breaks or longer experiences, taking in the Kingdom of Fife’s historic castles and caves, an abundance of wildlife plus fresh local cuisine.  Find out more here.

The Fife Coastal Path with Macs Adventure

3. Self-guided walking on the Great Glen Way

Formed by a massive glacier during the last ice age, The Great Glen traverses Scotland from west to east, and what better way to see it than with an exciting self-guided trek with Easyways. The Great Glen Way begins in Fort William at the foot of Scotland’s highest peak, Ben Nevis, and from Loch Linnhe on the Atlantic Coast the route follows tree lined canal towpaths, loch shores and forestry tracks before crossing over the Ness Islands to the finishing point at the Inverness Castle on the Beauly Firth. Although a mostly low-level walk there are some challenging sections with steep inclines offering glorious views over Loch Ness. Find out more here.

4. Enjoy luxury hiking in Highland Perthshire and Argyll

If relaxing in comfort after a day of walking sounds good to you, then check out a luxury hiking trip with About Argyll, combining the Perthshire hills and the Argyll coastline. You’ll explore the high mountains, deep glens and abundant trees of Highland Perthshire, before heading to the long, broken coastline and rugged hills of Argyll in the west Highlands, enjoying the comforts of small 4-star country house hotels along the way. Find out more here

Luxury hiking in Argyll with About Argyll

5. Combine walking, whisky and wildlife in the Western Isles

Perfect for those with a love of all things W! Join Walkabout Scotland for a week long walking holiday to the Inner Hebridean islands of Islay, Jura, Mull and Iona, featuring great walks with plenty of opportunity for spotting wildlife and sampling the product for which the islands are famous - whisky! With landscapes as diverse as the whiskies produced within them, this tour is suitable for people of reasonable fitness who enjoy walking or the outdoors but who needn’t necessarily have any previous hiking experience. Find out more here.

6. Step up the pace on Orkney

If you’re keen to step it up a gear, then Inside Orkney’s running holiday could be for you. Hosted by William Sichel, who has gained multiple World ultra distance running records since starting ultra running in 1994, this week offers keen runners the opportunity to explore their potential for athletic achievement in beautiful Orkney surroundings. Find out more here.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

5 Great Days Out From Glasgow

With the eyes of the world on Glasgow for the Commonwealth Games, it’s easy to forget how quick and easy it is to get out and about into the great outdoors from Scotland’s largest city.  So if you’re ready to take a break from the hustle and bustle of the Games and city life, try one of the following great escapes:

1. Explore the Clyde Valley Woodlands

Scotland’s oldest and richest forest lies hidden in dramatic gorges in the Clyde Valley, just half an hour from Glasgow city centre.  Since the last Ice Age, rivers have gouged deep clefts in the soft sandstone and woods of oak, ash, rowan and hazel have been growing here since the ice melted away.  While the main visitor facilities are at Chatelherault and the Falls of Clyde, various walks can be enjoyed via the paths accessing all six of the woodlands which combine to form Clyde Valley Woodlands National Nature Reserve.  Find out more here.

Clyde Valley Woodlands © Lorne Gill
2. Visit the Aberfoyle Ospreys

You can catch a glimpse of Aberfoyle's famous ospreys by visiting the wildlife hide at The Lodge Forest Visitor Centre, located less than an hour north of Glasgow.  A live CCTV stream allows you to get up close to these noble raptors and offers a unique opportunity to observe the birds in their natural environment.  Whilst there, take a walk through the forest, past dramatic waterfalls; burn some energy on the Go Ape tree top adventure; or get lost in the brushwood maze.  Find out more here.

3. Take to two feet in the Loch Lomond & Trossachs National Park

The stunning Loch Lomond & Trossachs National Park is just a short drive from Glasgow (approx. 20 miles) and offers some stunning Scottish scenery.  Take a day trip with Walk Wild Scotland and enjoy a hike with a gentle elevation and ever changing views over the hills.  This excellent introduction to the Scottish Highlands will give you your first sense of the wide, expansive landscapes Scotland has to offer.  Find out more here.

4. Watch spectacular Red Kites

Central Scotland's only red kite feeding station can be found just north of Stirling, about 45 mins from central Glasgow, and visitors to Argaty Red Kites can watch these exciting birds and their spectacular flying.  Since being reintroduced, these stunning birds are fed daily and can be viewed as close as 50 metres from the purpose built hide, so you can enjoy their aerobatic behaviour first hand.  There’s lots of other wildlife to see as well, and guided walks and Land Rover safaris are also available.  Pre-booking is advised.  Find out more here.

Argaty Red Kites
5. Enjoy a warm welcome in Rob Roy Country

Just a little further afield, the villages of Balquhidder, Lochearnhead, St. Fillans and Strathyre are located in an area of outstanding natural beauty with lochs, mountains and forests in abundance.  There’s plenty here to keep you outdoors and active: walk or cycle the many footpaths and waymarked trails; watch for local wildlife; make a splash with some water sports on Loch Earn; horse ride across heather clad moors and along forest paths; or simply enjoy exploring the villages and learning more about the Scottish folk hero, Rob Roy MacGregor.  The Loch Earn Tourism Initiative provides a great starting point to planning your day.  Find out more here.