All about the Learning – Shaping eco-tourism in SW Scotland
Autumn has been a time for learning in our Biosphere. 10 participants from Galloway and Southern Ayrshire attended a learning journey to North Karelia, Finland through the SHAPE project – Sustainable Heritage Areas – Partnerships for Eco-Tourism, and we have just welcomed 10 participants from Finland, Iceland and Wester Ross, Scotland to our Biosphere.
Our learning journey was focused on Glentrool, The Cree Valley and Newton Stewart and day one began with a guided visit to Glentrool and the Cree Valley accompanied by Barry Donnan one of our newly trained Biosphere Experiences guides. First stop was RSPB Wood of Cree to meet reserve manager Crystal Maw who took the group on a walk through Barclye, explaining about the management of the woodlands and the many species of birds and bats. The group were treated to amazing views showcasing all the characteristic features of our Galloway landscape. We carried our journey onward to an atmospheric Loch Trool and Bruce’s Stone to hear the history of Robert the Bruce and the Battle at Trool by Barry through some very animated story telling.
Our participants were then welcomed with a local produce lunch at Glentrool by local stakeholders and the Glentrool and Bargrennan Community Trust. We heard about the work of the Trust and the plans for the old primary school to become the Glentrool Hive and for tourism development at Glentrool.
After lunch local resident and newly trained guide Martin Webber led a nature walk and told the story and history of game-keeping and land management in Galloway and visitors were introduced to our famous Belted Galloway Cattle. This was followed by a visit to Minniwick pottery and ceramicist Andy Priestman. Participants were treated to drinking Japanese tea out of Andy’s beautiful hand thrown pots and were in awe of his home and pottery!
The end of a busy day was complete with a Dark Skies Experience with Biosphere Dark Sky Ranger Elizabeth Tindal who wove the stories and fables of the stars along with celestial science – and a camp fire and toasting marshmallows.
Our final day was a morning of heritage and culture with a guided walk by guides Nic and Janice down through Minigaff to the church, graveyard and river and then onward to experience the wonderful eclectic mix of treasures at Newton Stewart Museum. So much to learn and so much to see we completed our learning journey with a workshop exploring the challenges but also the solutions and opportunities for developing eco-tourism in our respective countries.