Covid thoughts: Changing soundscapes in the Cairngorms

This blog series is a space to share thoughts and musings arising from the Covid-19 pandemic, and its impacts on current and future landscapes.

This piece is submitted by Sarah Hobbs, LRG’s Membership & Communications Manager.


The village is empty and the woods are full.

Of people, who are noticing they are not the only ones there.

The reversal of soundscapes in this small tourist town in the Scottish Highlands has been striking: the roads are quiet and the background roar from the A9 which previously filled the strath has considerably dropped, but the pavements, paths and trails are busier than ever.

The Scottish Government advice on exercising by foot from your front door has meant an exodus into the woods and open spaces: where once it was unusual to see one person on a little wander, it is now usual to see a dozen people or more. Having said that, the recordings below don’t particularly capture this change as it is the Highlands after all, with still many opportunities for non-human interactions.

The volume and richness of birdlife particularly has been staggering. Any vehicle noise now seems intolerably loud, a disturbance which is usually a constant, and which we have become adept at blocking out.

I’ve been making recordings, just for fun and my own personal record, since the end of March, when the village began to really get quiet (roughly Week 2 of lockdown in Scotland). Here are a few of my favourites.

Doorstep morning with cat, 21st April

Listen out for: woodpigeons, dog barking, A9 traffic, cat wandering, rooks, a bike wheeling past, a person walking past.

Aviemore Orbital footpath, 3rd May

Listen out for: seagulls, A9 traffic behind me (much reduced than normal), building/farm work, a mooing cow.

Rook at Loch nan Carraigean, 11th May

Listen out for: a rook doing his thing, oystercatcher, seagull, my footsteps.

If you’d like to submit a response, or your own thoughts on Covid-19, be it writing, images, audio or video, please write to Sarah: sarah.hobbs@landscaperesearch.org.