I had the radio on in the background – Radio 5 Live, I think – not really listening too hard and I caught a feature on a Trip Advisor review. A review of Ben Nevis of all things. So a few days later with a bit of time on my hands I thought I would try to find the review. This I duly did. It seems the station was broadcasting some old news, the review was from September last year.
I wondered then whether it might be instructive to see what other Scottish mountains had had the benefit of feedback on the Trip Advisor website. I was reminded also of a thread from last year on the WalkHighlands site on the question of whether Scotland lets itself down. I was concerned to find what I think might be further worrying signs that this may be the case.
I must admit that the comments I set out here are not necessarily always a fair reflection of the reviews. Nonetheless, if the Scottish tourism industry is to thrive, the views of all visitors need to be taken into account. In some cases clearly some corrective action is required.
So going back to the review that originally alerted me to the possible problems that might exist with Scottish hills here is the one for Ben Nevis.
“After going up Mount Snowdon by train in Wales I’d forgotten just how high some mountains can get. And they don’t come much higher than this one – that’s for sure. LOL! This was almost a FULL day’s climbing and my girlfriend was crying at one point. When we did get to the top there was nothing there (Mount Snowdon has a pub, restaurant and toilets at its top). Luckily we had brought some sandwiches and drinks, so anyone else climbing this one – BE WARNED- there are NO facilities at the top.
The climb basically went on for far too long and the last part was particularly steep and difficult. It was also cloudy at the top so the view was non-existant. The long walk back down was boring and again took too long. It was a great relief to get back to our B&B in Fort William for a hot soapy bath and the joys of a flushing toilet with soft toilet rolls.
This attraction is free but I honestly couldn’t imagine anyone – and I mean anyone – paying to climb this.”
I hope that the John Muir Trust as custodians of the Ben is listening.
I move on to one of Scotland’s mighty and popular peaks, Ben Lomond. Clearly the climb is a significant undertaking as can be seen from this report from June last year.
“First of all what a bright, warm sunny day it was was high 20’s.
Set off walk through Rowardenan Car Park at 10am, took the tourist up past the forest and into the hills, met so many friendly hillwalkers on the way as this was my first time hill climbing, was initially struggling but took plenty of rest and drank plenty of water.
Reached summit at 5.45 pm- took me 7hrs 45mins to get to the top, thought off giving up was I got to the steep climb towards the summit but was encouraged by other experienced hill walkers on the way. Once I got to the summit views were breathing taking and has it was a clear sunny day could see everything all around at the trig point at the summit,
Spent 15 mins at summit and started descent down, its quicker getting down, did it in half the time took about 4hrs getting down and got to the deserted car park about 10.20am [NB I think he means 10.20pm], just before it got dark.
A big Thank You too all the people who helped me carrying my rucksack down during my descent, especially the two young couple from the Youth Hostel. who offered to take my rucksack down the rugged forest and left it at the entrance of the climb.
Overall a spectacular and memorable Hill Climb I will cherish forever.”
Blimey – a round trip of 12 hours and 20 minutes in total with just a 15 minute stop at the top! At least the reviewer seems to have enjoyed the experience. If I do Ben Lomond again I now know I will have to be better prepared for the long day than I have been before.
Well, Arthur’s Seat is not exactly in the same league as Ben Lomond – clearly given that last review. But, nonetheless, it is a popular climb given its accessibility to Auld Reekie. There are nice views to the city, to the Pentlands and out to the Firth. But quite obviously the punters’ experiences show that not all is well.
Take these four reviews (two from January this year and two from August 2013)
“Awful! I went up here for nice relaxing sit-down, and not a seat in sight! Awful! Not even a goddamn deckchair. I’m never climbing up a mountain to just be left chairless and embarrassed!”
“Unfortunately, unless you come prepared with walking gear, you probably won’t make it up. We got 1/4 up in trainers, to realise if we went any further we’d get stuck or end up coming down on our bums. Its such a shame there wasn’t a solid route all the way up – we went to get the sun rise, so this kind of ruined our day a bit (oh nature! it was even sunny!)”
“Roller coaster we had heard about we could not find. It was too high and at the top no seat. With the name Arthur’s seat we had expected a chair for photographs.”
“As the number one rated tourist attraction in Edinburgh, Arthur’s Seat is a disappointment. Frankly the summit is a shambles – mostly worn rocks and boulders. The much-lauded view of Edinburgh is no more than that – a view of a city that can be seen in much better detail close up. Undoubtedly, the people of Edinburgh have promoted this unremarkable mound in outright imitation of more notable metropolises associated with a neighbouring volcano – Naples and Mexico City spring immediately to mind. Arthur’s Seat simply cannot hope to compete internationally against the likes of Vesuvius, Popocatapetl, and (closer to home) Penrith’s Beacon Hill. Many of the visitors to the Seat have no better business being there than elsewhere, and one cannot help but believe that they are the unwitting victims of hype, mass hysteria, and the mobsterish machinations of mass marketing media men.”
Given the clearly disappointing nature of the place, I think that there is no alternative probably than to demolish the whole thing – not sure where you would put the rubble though…
Although the following review from this month suggests an alternative approach that might find favour:
“This place could do with a selection of bars/restaurants and maybe a casino for late night reveling. Apart from that it was a special place.”
Most who visit appreciate the grandeur of the Highlands and perhaps no more so than the mountains on the Isle of Skye. But perhaps, in fact, we are mistaken in our blinkered obsession:
“You would definitely pass by Black Cullin and Red Cullin while driving. And that is all that it warrants. Nothing special.”
So that’s us told then.
At last and finally I came across an honest appraisal and one with which I am sure the vast majority of WH’ers will relate to. Here is a review for Ben More on Mull from April of this year.
“I walked this in the fog and rain. I have been told that the scenery is great but I could see less than 50m. Maybe one day I’ll get to enjoy it in the sunshine.”