Climate change isn't just something that affects other parts of the world. It is already altering Scotland's landscape and threatening some of our tourist draws and beauty spots, as well as infrastructure and the security of homes.

A project by Highland Adapts has begun gathering stories from the public about the impact of global warming and the increase in extreme weather events that come with it. They show how, from coastal erosion to storm damage and the changing distribution of biting pests, the changing climate is already starting to make its presence felt.

1. Brough and Dunnet Bay – storm damage and coastal erosion

The two-mile-long sweep of white sand, backed by undulating dunes that is Dunnet Bay is one of Scotland’s most stunning beaches. But climate change is likely to impact the dune systems, and the coastline is, said one contributor, experiencing stormier weather, which is causing damage to buildings. “We have lived in Brough for the past 15 years and have noticed significant changes in the weather patterns, with longer, milder, more stormy winters. Our house is in an exposed spot, which is not unusual for on and around Dunnet Head - there isn't much shelter. Our home has experienced significant damage during storms.”

The Herald:

2. North Kessock: storm damage and new wildlife behaviour

On the south coast of the Black Isle, just along the Kessock Bridge, is the small town of North Kessock. One of its locals observed the impact of Storm Malik in the winter of 2021, writing, “A tree was blown down from a neighbouring property, causing significant damage to our garden and outbuildings.”

“The climate,” the contributor said, “is subtly but changing - our area is home to several roosts of Soprano Pipistrelle bats, and they appear to arrive earlier and depart later every year. For example, in our first year here (2018), they began nesting in the first week in May but now arrive in the middle of April. Similarly, it is now usually late October when they clear the roost, whereas in the past it was late September / early October.”

The Herald:

Kessock Bridge, Shutterstock

3. Beauly riverside walk: flooding and extreme water-level changes

The name of this Highland village is derived from the French for 'beautiful place', and it certainly is, but it is also, at its river edges a changing place. “Whilst walking here over the last three to four years,” said one contributor, “I have experienced flooding, extreme changes in water levels, and beautiful scenery. Over this time one part of the river mouth has been washed away and parts of the riverside paths have collapsed into the river. Bluebells have increased as have blackberries this past year 2022. There were talks of the river mouth being repaired and a jetty being built by the Beauly Angling Club.”

READ MORE: Floods, drought, ferry disruptions. Highland climate change mapped

4. Raasay: Creagan Beaga road deterioration

On the small island of Raasay, off Skye, roads are vital – which is why the famed Calum’s Road was built. But in 2019 the Creagan Beaga was cut off. It was one of two roads closed on the Isle of Skye and Raasay – a landslip, on the C1239, also cut off the township of Kylerhea. A contributor to the map wrote: “Creagan Beaga road fell away due to water being trapped on the road. Increased frequency of rainfall and increased volume of water tied to significantly less maintenance on the roads led to the issue.”

The Herald:

Raasay House

5. Golspie and Coul: coastal erosion 

A popular stop on the NC500 circuit, with its fairytale Dunrobin castle and attractive little harbour and pier, Golspie is also host to one of Scotland’s highest-regarded golf courses. But this is a threatened idyll. Dynamic Coast described Golspie as currently “at medium risk”, but predicts that, as flooding likelihood increases due to climate change, maximum erosion rates could see a 330m retreat of the shoreline by 2100. Nearby Coul is also likely to be impacted, though less so. Some of Scotland’s best-known beaches could be lost within the next 30 years because of such rising sea levels – these include Lunan Bay, South Coll, Machair Leathan, Melvich Bay, Machrihanish, and others, according to a study by the University of Glasgow.

The Herald:

Coul Links

READ MORE: In the shadow of Trump. Coul Links golf course controversy

6. Inverness: heat and floods

Despite being so far north the capital of the Highlands saw impacts during the extreme weather and heatwave of July 2022. One observer said: “One of my friends works at Raigmore and said there was an increase in admissions relating to heat stress.” It has also been impacted by intense rainfall and flooding. The contributor wrote, “Tesco and the cinema flooded after a period of heavy rainfall in August 2022.” Stormy weather damaged buildings and trees in Whin Park. Overall, there was, “Increased variability in weather periods of extreme heat and drought and then record rainfall and flooding.”

7. Fort William – floods and winds

The Outdoor Capital of the UK, Fort William has also seen its share of extreme weather. One contributor to the map observed: “On the 17th February 2023, Storm Otto passed over the Highlands. I was in Fort William at the time and the wind was so strong it was making all the windows and doors in the hotel shake. When I woke in the morning there was a lot of localised flooding and news of trees on roads that needed to be cleared. There has been more variable weather but overall it is warmer and more stormy.”

The Herald:

Fort William

8. Grantown-on-Spey – disappearing snow

“The winters are rapidly warming,” said one local, “and becoming very unpredictable. When I was growing up here as a child only 15-20 years ago I remember the winters being much colder, snowier, and more predictable with the conditions. We would frequently get deep snow in the garden and in the town. Now it is pretty rare.

9 Braeriach, east coire - melting snow

The famed ice patch that endured year-round, no matter what the weather, is now no longer a constant feature. “Where is the ‘permanent’ snow patch now?” wrote a contributor, who was “concerned about milder winters”.

READ MORE: Global heating threat to Cairngorm snow fields

10. Cairngorm mountains - decline in snow

Scotland’s winter sports resort relies on snow as its tourist draw, but a report by the Cairngorms National Park Authority said that there was “likely to be a substantial decline in the number of days of snow cover” by 2030. One contributor wrote: “I'm an avid Munro-bagger and was lucky enough to be given a winter skills course for my birthday. Booking this for December felt like a dead cert for some good snowy conditions to practice my ice-axe and winter navigation skills. Alas no, it was 14C and we had to postpone for a later date. But when? The arrival of the winter snow, it's depth and duration is so uncertain now.” “Even over a short period (the last ten years) the change is stark. I used to take 3 months off over winter from my hillwalking because of the hazards of extreme weather but now I can be up Munros in January with no need to use any of my winter equipment. Even in the coldest months, I'm getting more use out of my sunscreen than my crampons.”

The Herald:


11. Braemar – clegs and midges

A hot spell is known to unleash the clegs, those biting, irritating horse flies. But that other bane of Highland summers, the midges don’t like a long, dry spell. Indeed, last year experts were warning that they were struggling to survive through the summer's dry weather. A contributor wrote: “Normally midges are bad in Braemar however for the last two years in June/early July there have been fewer midges but lots of clegs giving huge bites. I never really had them previously. Then we have a large amount of rain, the clegs disappear and the midges come out in force.”

Got your own story? Highland Adapts invites people across the Highlands and Islands to contribute to their map.