With the popularity of ‘staycations’ this year, it’s inevitable that Assynt is busier than I have ever known it, as news of its beauty, tranquility and warm welcome reach previously uninitiated ears.
In fact I’d go as far as to say it’s pretty inundated, and not always in a good way.
You may have seen reports of campers and motorhomers, inexperienced in rural ways, treating our precious and fragile environment with unnecessary disregard. You may have heard cries of ‘Too many tourists!’ This would be only partly true. Scotland has always welcomed responsible and respectful visitors and is keen to continue doing so! However, what may appear to some observers (used, perhaps, to an urban setting), as an empty landscape, is, to us, our home. And although it may seem to a first-time visitor as quiet, (in comparison with, for example, the Lake District or Cornwall) when there is a village of only 300 inhabitants and suddenly 400 or more visitors descend on them, then it can begin to feel a bit overwhelming.
Luckily for me, and for you, I know a great many corners where other people are unlikely to be encountered. And of course, I know all the idyllic painting spots. A sketching or painting holiday is always going to be gentle upon the environment, undemanding on the infrastructure, friendly for the locals and that is my ethos no matter where in the world we travel.
Unsurprisingly, painting holidays here in the Highlands have been popular this year and the first Vistas trip, ‘Field of the Yellow Haired Boy’ took place earlier this month. We enjoyed a few days of hot – yes, hot! – sunshine where we were on the point of seeking shade when we decided to call it a day at the end of a stunningly calm, shimmeringly warm afternoon. Then a few days of rather mixed weather saw a hastily-revised itinerary but we painted every day and a good time was had by all.
Due to its recent surge in popularity, along with the Covid crisis (seeing several properties failing to open this year), a room in this area can be difficult to come by. If you fancy joining a Scottish sketching holiday, be sure to sort out your accommodation well in advance, then you can relax with delicious anticipation. The Highlands are always gorgeous, no matter what the weather throws at us!