Move over, Nessie: Scottish sea creatures are having a moment. Hoping to attract tourists and raise awareness of the region’s precious natural resources, the Scottish Wildlife Council has created the country’s first snorkeling trail, which officially opened on July 9. 

Snorkeling? In Scotland? Admittedly, the chilly waters off the Northwest Highlands are wetsuit, not bikini, territory, but those waters boast an impressive wealth of marine life to observe. Snorkelers visiting the trail’s nine stops can spot corals, cuttlefish, jellies, anemones, sea stars, dolphins, and even harmless basking sharks [PDF]. 

Culture, Tourism, and External Affairs cabinet secretary Fiona Hyslop thinks the trail is a brilliant way to benefit visitors, residents, and the region’s wildlife. 

“Scotland’s coast boasts some of the UK’s richest spots for marine wildlife,” she said in a press statement, “which is why nearly half of the visitors surveyed come to Scotland for our scenery and landscape.” 

Noel Hawkins is the trust’s Living Seas Officer. “The coast of Wester Ross and Sutherland features some fantastic sheltered headlands and beaches that are great places for snorkeling,” he said. For now, the trail is a self-led experience, but in time the trust hopes to set up a snorkel club for kids and a training program so that residents can become instructors.

“Scotland needs healthy living seas that can adapt to climate change,” Hawkins said. “The snorkel trail will encourage more people to explore the fragile habitats below the waves and the marine life they support, whilst also helping to raise awareness of the need to protect them.”

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