The Digital Detox – Scotland
From smartphones to sat navs, ipads to kindles, the modern life is full of screens. The Digital Detox is becoming more and more of a necessity!
Gone are the days of a tool for each activity, such as a book for reading; walkman for tapes; discman for cds; road atlas for the car; a newspaper to catch up on daily affairs or even the essential phrase book for communication when travelling internationally. We now have the super-smart and super-efficient smartphone. We wake up to it, we come home to it, and we carry it around in our pockets all day – one screen to rule them all. Undoubtedly technology is incredibly useful and educational, allowing us creativity, connectivity and enjoyment, but there is balance in everything – dark and light, yin and yang – and with the increasing concern that the overuse of smartphones is a worldwide epidemic, are we now bound eternally in darkness.
The average person looks at their smartphone 200 times a day (that’s once every six and half minutes) and spends 2 days per year glued to their screen (cNet, 2013). Perhaps even more worrying is that the average teenager sends over 3000 electronic messages a month from their bed (Telegraph, 2013) – that’s right folks, you don’t even have to leave your bed. And that’s the problem – we are losing the ability to interact in the real world. You see it everywhere – at the supermarket, in cafes, in clothes shops, on the bus – customers plugged into headphones, eyes down at screens or talking, texting or tweeting. We are never present in just one moment anymore, with a multitude of other moments in the “cloud” drawing us in to connect and communicate in the non physical, digital world remotely, and at all times. There is no polite conversion, no eye contact, no thank you or goodbye to the person behind the counter, the bus driver, the fellow commuter on the train, hardly any acknowledgment at all that they even exist. So much have we become used to an isolated existence in the physical world that if you do strike up a conversation with a stranger it is treated with apprehension and hostility. Within groups of friends in coffee shops, families on days out, even couples on a romantic date, the phone is there too. Its flashing light reminding of online friends, followers and likers waiting to intrude on these intimate moments, tempting you from reality and into the Cloud. Here, we have no face-to-face interaction, lacking physical contact – no eye contact, no smiling face, no pat on the back or comforting squeeze. Without this we feel lost and empty, with four of our five senses taking a massive hit. And it should be obvious that life happens outwith our phone, no amount of likes and shares on instagram can beat real moments with people you love.
So, why not embark on a Digital Detox for the whole family – to re-energize, relax and rest away from the screen, taking the opportunity to focus on nourishing our spirits and focus on social interactions in the physical world. And what better way than at the beach, with your stress carried away on a sea breeze, the waves lapping on the golden shores whilst the gulls take flight in the blue sky, reading a book or chasing a frisbee, lungs filled with fresh air, or running your fingers through the soft sand as your batteries slowly re-charge. If that sounds ideal, then here are some amazing places to do just that…
With wide sandy beaches, dramatic cliff faces and picturesque fishing villages the Moray coastline is stunning. It makes for excellent walking, the Moray Coastal Trail and boasts some beautiful beaches. So whether your detox is a coastal walk or a beach towel on the sand you can find it here. Burghead to Lossiemouth has some superb cliff top walking with wonderful sea views. Nairn Beach, with its miles and miles of golden sand, has been a popular seaside town since Victorian times and enjoys one of the sunniest climates in the country. With its undulating, grass dunes and lapping shore, is there anything as calming and as soothing as a slow wander, hand in hand with your loved ones? The spectacular views across the Moray Firth to the Black Isles are not to be missed, and the coastline is home to a resident school of dolphins, so look out for them. Venture to the west and you come to Cullen, home to sandy beaches, great golfing and plenty of scenic walks. A haven for natural wildlife and sea-life, why not spend a few hours spotting as many different species as you can? With seals, puffins and dolphins spottable from the shore there is plenty to see. Or perhaps get the heart pumping and take a bike ride along the coast, or take a walk to the Cullen railway viaducts, marvelling at a piece of engineering…completed without the help of computers.
Machrihanish is a village in Argyll, located on the west coast of Scotland which faces out towards Ireland and the Atlantic. Whilst boasting a golf course and a pretty, picturesque centre, Machrihanish Beach is the jewel in crown of this west coast haven. Running 3 miles north to the town of Westport, Machrihanish bay is well-known for some of the best surfing in all of the UK, so get out that boogie board! Pure white sands and turquoise waters on a sunny day, this rural beach is hardly ever crowded and is an ideal spot for walking, relaxing, running and watching the sunset. If ever there were reasons to step away from the screen then those are up there with the best. The beach backs onto Machrihanish Golf Course, boasting one of the finest first holes in the world of golf, so if there is both a beach and golf lover in your party then your ways to unwind are covered! This is a breathtaking stretch of beach, strolling along in no haste, watching the surf rolling in with spectacular views to the islands, massive dunes underfoot and all with the added tranquility that you may not see another soul.
Gairloch Beach, situated on the southern outskirts of the village of Gairloch, is a beautiful, secluded beach, set amidst rugged moorland and glorious mountainous scenery, with first class views out over The Minch, the atlantic sea channel between the Outer Hebrides island group on the west and the mainland of Scotland on the east. Safe, sheltered and sandy with a backdrop of dunes, Gairloch is popular with families for a day at the beach, or for boating and walking, there being plenty of footpaths not far from the beach. The stunning views of the nearby islands from the sandy shore and from its westerly point the panoramic vistas awe-inspiring Scottish sunsets from its westerly position. The village of Gairloch itself boasts a number of delightful pubs, restaurants and places to stay as well as a choice of attractions. The Gairloch Heritage Museum sheds light on the history of the area, and for the nature enthusiasts marine wildlife tours are available and include glass bottom boat trips and whale-watching expeditions. Watersport equipment is also available for hire, and does anything really beat a canoe up the dramatic coast? In short, whether it be through a game of beach rounders or a sunset picnic, detox and relax and be in the moment with the golden sandy beaches, magnificent in all weathers but especially so in the sun, under blue sky – truly magical.
Just over an hour’s drive from Inverness, Dornoch is a historic small town on the edge of the Dornoch Firth. A delightful town, its medieval town centre clusters around the Cathedral, and so steeped in history there are trails around town with interest at each turn. With a good range of shops and places to eat in Dornoch there is everything you need for a great day out. Although famous for its golf course Royal Dornoch (rated the best in Scotland and no 6 in the world) Dornoch most desirable feature is the miles of golden sand that is Dornoch beach, stretching from Dornoch Point heading past Embo beach to the mouth of Loch Fleet National Nature Reserve. This famous beach is an officially designated E.C. Bathing Beach and has been given rural ‘Seaside Award’ Status 2012 as a clean bathing beach. Popular all year round, Dornoch Beach is ideal for families with its gentle shallows, sheltering dunes and miles of golden sands make it safe for children to play and explore, and get the phones away and get an exuberant game of beach football on the go! It is very popular with dog walkers out for gentle and picturesque stroll, or a longer more challenging route on to Embo beach. The surrounding links are home to both wildlife and wildflowers and a ramble along the dunes vantage point provides the opportunity to spot sea birds and possibly see seals and even occasionally dolphins playing in the firth. A day on Dornoch beach is unforgettable and at any time of year, so what are you waiting for?
WEST SANDS ST ANDREWS
Located on the eastern coastline of the Kingdom of Fife, St Andrews West Sands extends for almost 2 miles of uninterrupted white sand and blue water. Backed with rise-and-fall dunes and the world-renowned golf course, it is also conveniently a 15 minute walk from the town centre which boasts great shops and a variety of restaurants. And with Scotland’s notoriously unpredictable weather every plan A needs a B, here in the form of British Golf Museum, the nearby castle and cathedral, and the sea-life centre. The beach is amazing and beautifully clean, and when the tide is out the sheer size of it is enormous. Sheltered from the blustery winds by the sand dunes between the beach and the golf course, it is very popular whether for joggers, elderly walkers, families and friends for walks all year round, or beach baking in the summer and it is not unusual to see horses being galloped along the water’s edge, splashing the clear waters high. So why not pack a picnic, a windbreak and perhaps a thermos and a few choccie biccies and head down for day of breathless fun in the fresh seaside air, leaving that phone firmly at home!
Moments and memories that matter don’t require validation by other faceless people. The feeling of warmth and comfort that recalling a happy time gives you is all you need to know an experience improved your quality of life. And these are different for every individual person. What makes us happy will vary from person to person, and no opinion should alter what we feel is right for us. So, turn off the likes and re-programme to leave your phone at home, because being constantly connected to texts, emails, and tweets is having a huge impact on our stress levels and mental health. We humans are not machines, we can’t be plugged into the mains in order to recharge our batteries. We need to switch off – so do just that, and you never know, you might have the time of your life!