Autumn in Dunkeld, Scotland: Is this the Instagram effect?

One bright weekend a few Octobers ago, we spent the day in Perthshire.

Our first stop was the Hermitage.

Only that now, the notable persons are not writers or artists, but amateur photographers.

What struck me most about this was not the photography — I am more than guilty about that at the best of times — but rather how the majority of people didn’t venture any further than the prime photo spots.

Leaving Ossian’s Hall and the bridge behind, the paths turned drier underfoot, sprinkled with pine needles and — aside from passing two parents who were vaping in the forest — we encountered only a handful of people as we ascended to Rumbling Bridge.

With the recent rains, the river exhaled a cloud of spray towards us, causing rainbow fractures in the light. Another few miles of farmers’ tracks and tree-rooted paths and we returned, legs worn, to the busy Hermitage car park.

After a walk, we thought about what we’d just seen over coffee and cake.

From the A9 we took a left, crossing a bridge onto Dunkeld’s high street with its hotchpotch of quaint storefronts, parked up and headed to Spill the Beans café (which you’ll find along the road to the cathedral). Light Victoria sponge, a frothy latte and a rich hot chocolate made us happy campers — but didn’t quite distract us from musing on the crowds we’d seen at the Hermitage earlier that afternoon.

There’s a bigger article to come, I think, about how Instagram has affected Scottish tourism but as for the Hermitage — well, our conclusion was bitesize. Over the past year, I’ve seen more online squares featuring the National Trust site that ever before, which surely has an influence on visitor numbers.

To the crowds collecting for the gram rather than the grit of what the Hermitage offers, I’d like to make a friendly suggestion. Take the path north up the river, leave your camera in its bag and phone in your pocket, and just breathe. There’s more merit in treating your soul to this silence than online sharing will ever give you.

Do you think Instagram is affecting nature spots?

Originally published at on October 27, 2018.

I write about slower travel, social media and Scotland.

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