Tourism in a glaciated upland area – Isle of Arran, Scotland

Why do people visit the Isle of Arran?

The glaciated Isle of Arran is easily accessible with regular ferries from the Scottish coast, making it a popular tourist destination. The number of tourists visiting Arran in 2017 broke the 400,000 barrier for the first time – generating £61 million for the island’s economy.

The physical attractions of the Isle of Arran include:

  • Goatfell, the highest peak on the Isle of Arran, is the most popular natural tourist attraction. On a clear day, it is possible to see the whole island from the summit of its pyramidal peak.
  • A’Chir ridge, a knife-edged aréte that separates two carries. It is the most challenging and exciting ridge on Arran. The climb is not for the faint-hearted, as there are near vertical drops on both sides.
  • U-shaped valleys, such as Glen Rosa and Glen Sannox, where striations and polished rock surfaces can still be seen.
  • Outdoor pursuits such as climbing, running, biking, paragliding and abseiling are popular on the Isle of Arran.

The cultural/historical attractions of the Isle of Arran include:

  • Lochranza Castle, a hall house-type ruin which you can wander about, whilst Brodick Castle is a perfect example of a Victorian Hunting Lodge.
  • The many standing stones around Arran.

What are the impacts of tourism on the Isle of Arran?

Tourism in the Isle of Arran has a range of social, economic and environmental impacts.

Social Impacts of Tourism on the Isle of Arran

  • There is a lot of congestion, especially during peak times. Many of Arran’s upland roads are single-track, causing issues for locals and tourists.
  • Jobs in tourism are typically seasonal and poorly paid.
  • Tourism is helping to tackle the island’s ageing population. Families have started moving to the island after visiting it on holiday, ensuring local schools have a sustainable future.

Economic Impacts of Tourism on the Isle of Arran

  • Tourist revenue was £61 million in 2017, supporting hotels, shops and restaurants.
  • Nine thousand eight hundred seven locals are employed in tourism, working in shops, restaurants, hotels and other businesses.
  • New businesses, such as adventure tourism, create new jobs for local people. A new whisky visitor centre recently opened at the village of Lochranza.
  • Injuries and fatalities are frequent. This is not only upsetting for locals but also expensive, as Arran’s voluntary Mountain Rescue Service sometimes requires the help of expensive RAF helicopters.

Environmental Impacts of Tourism on the Isle of Arran

  • The main honeypot sites and footpaths experience considerable erosion, litter, and damage to verges by cars. One of the worst affected routes is the North Goatfell Ridge.
  • Ecosystems are affected by pollution from cars and boats.
  • Farmland is affected by walkers leaving litter, trampling crops and disturbing sheep and cattle.

How is tourism on the Isle of Arran being managed?

Managing Footpath Erosion 

Some of the worst-affected parts of the Island are owned by the National Trust for Scotland. They have established a mountain path team to restore mountain paths and have raised money through the Footpath Fund Appeal. The National Trust is now doing maintenance and small-scale restoration work on mountain paths. some have been stabilised using paving stones to create steps. This reduces soil erosion and mud flows, allowing vegetation to recover.

The National Trust aims to maintain footpaths for future generations using techniques with low environmental impact. Locally sourced materials are used whenever possible. However, the work costs up to £140 per metre.

Although the costs of footpath repairs are very high, there have been some significant improvements overall. Special attention has been paid to ensuring water drains from the paths quickly, meaning repairs are long-lasting and sustainable.

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