WHETHER we like it or not, the secret is out. From viral photos on social media to aspirational travel features in the Sunday papers, everyone now knows how spectacular Skye is. It’s become a bucket list destination.

Last week, a reader wrote to The National commenting on how local businesses appealing to tourist trade are “ruining the island” that he’s lived on for over 40 years.

I’ve only lived here for six years, barely any time at all (I’m really just a tourist who never left), and even I’ve seen the island change dramatically. Summer traffic has exploded and natural landmarks that were once peaceful and quiet now buzz with excited tourists way beyond the August holidays.

Litter is a growing issue and piles of human waste are now a common site at beauty spots.

It’s not just Skye that has been struggling. Glen Etive, the NC500 route and a number of other areas are facing the same problems.

As the commenter said, these things make local folk “deeply depressed”.

There’s a buzz in Skye at the moment as everyone prepares to reopen their businesses and welcome people back. Yet, there’s also some apprehension.

How much bigger will the numbers be now that people aren’t going abroad? Will the Co-op shelves be empty again? Are our favourite nature spots going to get trashed?

READ MORE: Road closures around Loch Lomond as visitor surge leads to 'dangerous' parking

There are a lot of uncertainties. The only thing we can be sure of is that Skye WILL be busy.

So, rather than wring our hands, we need to start getting vocal and educate tourists on how to be responsible visitors. Most people are keen to learn how they can travel more ­sustainably.

I’m lucky in that I get to see both sides as both a resident and outdoor enthusiast. To me, it’s about lessening our impact and learning to #LeaveNoTrace.

With that in mind, here are my tips on being a responsible visitor when travelling to Skye, the NC500 or any rural Highland and Island area …


Single track roads are an iconic feature of the Highlands and Islands. They’re also the cause for raised blood pressure in most local folk!

We’ve all experienced that laugh-or-cry frustration at being stuck behind a hire car going at 20mph when we’re already late to an appointment.

Look online for a guide to driving on single track roads and familiarise yourself with the advice before travelling.

Keep checking your mirrors; if there’s someone directly behind you please pull into the next passing place and let them overtake. They may be trying to get to school, work or the doctors.

Don’t park in passing places, we need them!


Lighting fires is a contentious topic. Some people feel like they are an integral part of camping whilst others think they’re completely unnecessary.

Whatever your views, the two most important things when it comes to fires are safety and to make sure that you leave no trace.

Drier, hotter summers mean that devastating wildfires are becoming a common occurrence in summer. They are often started by campfires that have got out of hand, discarded cigarettes or disposable BBQs.

Never leave a fire unattended and always douse the embers in water until they are cool enough to touch. This is especially important as they can continue to smoulder underground and rekindle.

The leave no trace ethos is self-explanatory. Leave a place exactly how you found it (or cleaner!).

This includes burn marks, fire pits and ashes. Some of the most beautiful places in Skye are dotted with ugly black fire scars. Making a fire on virgin grass kills all the microbes in the soil below and they can take years to heal.

Luckily there are plenty of alternative options, from off-the-ground fire bowls or fire boxes to things like Kelly Kettles, which keep a flame contained in a pan for heating water and cooking.

If you must make a fire, make sure that you light it on rocks or below the tide line on the sand and clear away any remaining ashes.

Avoid burning plastic. It releases nasty chemicals and very rarely disappears entirely, often leaving burnt lumps behind in the ashes.


Human waste is probably the most emotive issue here at the moment. Not only is it upsetting to find, it also carries bacteria which is highly dangerous to livestock, dogs and other humans.

Everyone gets caught short sometimes, especially in places where facilities are few and far between. It’s how you deal with it that matters.

Please do not leave it! Even the most seemingly remote trails are places where people often walk their dogs or take their kids.

Clean it up and dispose of it properly – dog poo bags are handy to have on standby.

If you must, you can dig a six-inch deep “cathole” with a camping trowel and bury it. Whatever you do, always take away the tissue paper.

Tissues do not dissolve quickly and baby wipes are made of plastic. They will be there for years. Pack them up and dispose of them properly.

Lastly, NEVER EVER empty a chemical toilet into the natural environment.


Your dog might be a cuddly puppy at home but many of the sweetest dogs still have an instinct to chase livestock and wildlife. Even a friendly sniff can cause a miscarriage in a pregnant ewe or make a seal abandon her pup.

Keep your dog on a lead around sheep and other animals and ­ALWAYS respect any signs in the area.

Similarly, remember the Countryside Code. Leave gates as you found them, either open or closed. Never park across an access gate, you might not see anyone working there now but it’ll ruin a crofter’s day if your hire car means he can’t get his tractor into his field.

Don’t forget that you also need to pick up after your dog, too, as dog waste is hazardous to livestock and other animals.

Similarly, give livestock and wildlife space. It can be tempting to get close but it can stress the animals and even be dangerous for you.


It goes without saying, please take your litter home with you. You came to this place for its beauty, please leave it that way too.

This includes cigarette butts, ­banana peels and “biodegradable” wipes (which can take years to start to break down!).


Spend money locally. Rather than stocking up at a supermarket, buy your groceries from independent stores. You’ll be surprised to find that it’s not always more expensive.

Wild camping is brilliant but also consider booking into local accommodation to put money back into the community.

If you see rubbish around do a little litter pick or beach clean. If everyone picks up a couple of items it can make a huge difference!

Remember that it might look remote but this isn’t a wilderness; it’s a home and workplace.

After all that, I’m sure you’ll find yourselves given the warmest welcome!

Katie Tunn is an artist, ocean advocate and eco-adventurer based in the Isle of Skye. She’s an Ordnance Survey #GetOutside Champion who promotes low-impact travel and responsible camping practices.


Instagram: @Katietunn