Tourists Are Stacking Stones in the Scottish Highlands and It's Eroding the Coast

Tourists in the Scottish Highlands could be quickening erosion with their “meditative” and “artistic” stone-stacking.

After appearing in the film “The BFG” in 2016, Fairy Glen on the Isle of Skye has become a tourist destination. Visitors frequently come to the secluded area of grassy hills on a “Visit Scotland” film tour.

When tourists get there, they often collect stones of varying sizes from the coastline, bring the stones back to the glen, then stack the stones in a tower and take a picture.

Within the past few months, a massive collection of the stone structures have appeared in the glen—which locals believe is quickening erosion on the coast.

“For that to be on the Isle of Skye, which you associate with isolation, is absolutely shocking,” John Hourston, founder of environmental campaign group Blue Planet Society, told The Scotsman. “Without a doubt it is having an impact on ecology.”

The stacks — also called “cairns” — are an old Gaelic tradition. The piles are often used to mark “the right way to go at critical junctions in the backcountry,” according to High Country News. A stray cairn in wilderness could lead hikers astray.

Over the weekend, a group of about 20 locals destroyed more than 100 stone towers and returned the rocks back to the coast. Residents left a sign that read “Please do not build stone stacks or leave litter as they are a danger to the animals who graze here.”

Stone-stacking, which some refer to as “natural graffiti,” has become a trend in the UK. Earlier this year, the Scottish town of Dunbar hosted the European Championship for stone-stacking. The coastline has been described as “heaven” for stackers for its array of colors and shapes in the stones.

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