Dive in to Arran’s living seas

The launch of the Shorkell Trail in Whiting Bay with left to right: Councillor Ellen McMaster, Bruce Wilson, Jenny Turnbull, snorkel instructor Brian Grindall and MPA project officer Lucy Kay. 01_B30snorkel01

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By Hugh Boag

A whole new world is waiting to be found under the waves off Arran.

The sea surrounding the island is bursting with marine life.

For more than a decade, parts of the area have been highly protected against any extraction and therefore an abundance of fauna and flora inhabit the waters making them a special and unique place to explore.

Now a new snorkel trail featuring some of Arran’s most beautiful bays and beaches has been launched.

The self-led trail identifies areas for beginner and advanced snorkellers to explore all around Arran’s coast and discover what lies beneath the island’s waves.

The Arran Snorkel Trail – which joins part of an expanding network of trails around Scotland – has been developed in partnership by the Scottish Wildlife Trust and the Community of Arran Seabed Trust (COAST) as part of the Scottish Wildlife Trust’s Living Seas programme, with support from the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation.

The trail was launched last Saturday with an information day on Whiting Bay shore.

Bruce Wilson, public affairs manager Scottish Wildlife Trust, said: ‘As part of our Living Seas programme we are trying to raise awareness of the amazing life beneath our waves and encouraging snorkelling is a great way to do this.

‘People often associate snorkelling with exotic locations like the Caribbean, but Scotland’s seas have just as much to offer, even if they are a few degrees colder.

‘It’s been great to work with the passionate team at COAST, which is instrumental in many great local, regional and national marine conservation projects. This is a very special island and getting under the water reveals even more of this great place.’

The waters of Arran are increasingly popular with visiting scuba divers and with the launch of the new snorkel trail, the partnership charities hope that locals and visitors  are encouraged to get in the water and inspired to fight for the protection of the seas.

‘To truly believe in something, you need to see it for yourself,’ said COAST’s outreach and communications manager Jenny Stark.

‘Our seas are in a precarious position and it is up to all of us to do our part to help protect them.

‘With the launch of the snorkel trail on Arran, we hope that more people are encouraged to get in the water to see for themselves the wonderful marine life that lives here and therefore want to take steps to protect it.’

VisitArran’s chief executive Sheila Gilmore said: ‘The Arran Snorkel Trail will be a great addition to Arran’s offering – both for visitors and islanders who want to find out more about what’s going on under our seas.

‘The Arran Trust is delighted to have been able to support the initial snorkel taster sessions three years ago, and COAST is to be congratulated for joining with the Scottish Wildlife trust to develop the new trail.’

Arran’s MSP Kenneth Gibson, who was instrumental in getting the high level of protection for the waters around Arran, recognises the value that this trail can bring to the region.

‘Marine tourism accounts for 14 per cent of all of Scotland’s tourism,’ he said, ‘and I am delighted to see the Arran Snorkel Trail come to fruition as I believe it will really add value to Arran and put the island up there as a sustainable marine holiday destination.

‘Thanks to COAST and the local community, Arran’s wealth of marine life has seen remarkable recovery in the last decade; it is great that locals and visitors now have a guide to afford them the opportunity to see it for themselves.’

Bruce and Jenny with the new Snorkel Trail leaflets.