Skating Scotland: A Land For Everyone
On Scotland’s Highland hills, Hannah Bailey and Lyndsay McLaren skateboarded like no one had ever done before, breaking stereotypes, barriers and expectations along the way, that not only exist within skate culture, but the outdoors too
By Hannah Bailey
Photography by Hannah Bailey
For more than a decade, myself and Lyndsay McLaren have pushed side by side on our skateboards and on our career paths. I was first introduced to Lyndsay thanks to journalist Sam Haddad, who asked me to interview her for Cooler Mag (the long running, but no longer, women’s action sports magazine). We hit it off as fellow Scots, and skateboarders. The seed was planted.
My work as a photographer, producer and journalist began when I saw the gap in coverage of women in action sports, specifically in skateboarding. I set off on a journey documenting women, girls and lesser seen faces in the culture. I have travelled to Cambodia, California, Sweden, South Africa and beyond in order to capture these stories, of which I think are inspiring visually and narratively to help challenge society. When I moved back to Scotland a couple of years ago, the landscapes and people got me thinking creatively beyond just the skateboard. It gave me the space and the canvas to do so. Whilst I love the work I do and have done over the years in skateboarding, I am also driven to capture the stories of those in nature and the outdoors in general as someone who spends much of their free time adventuring. I have always felt fuelled to do things differently in the skate space, and the idea brewing was definitely that.
Lyndsay found skateboarding when she was living in the US, and since then had always wanted to find a way to encourage more women and girls to get on boards, so in 2021 she founded the grassroots organisation, Neighbourhood Skate Club.
On a sunny frosty morning in February I caught up with Lyndsay to shoot her skating the smooth coastal paths of her hometown, Inverbervie. We did as much chatting as we did photographing or skateboarding, and the ideas flowed between us. One of which was caught right in the middle, a desire to explore the wilds of Scotland on a skateboard, like no one had done before and for reasons beyond just to explore or skate on Highland hills. We set off to think deeper on the land, the outdoors, and skateboarding, and explore how as the scenes grow, we must learn to share, respect and protect it, to invite more people in to feel the benefits of it. A land in skateboarding is to land a trick successfully, but we wanted to explore how we can be successful to make it all more accessible for all. The journey of A Land For Everyone began. An exploration on the topic of the outdoors, skateboarding and adventure for all, through a trip we took to Torridon this summer, with the amazing filmmaker and documentarian Rachel Sarah joining us to capture a short film, which we hope you will watch.
On the side of the film, here is a short story of our journey…
Like the wheels of our skateboards, we have come full circle, standing back on the soil, tarmac, heather, concrete, moss mounds and wild grass of Scotland. Born here in the 80s we chose to spread our wings and explore the world, to now finally return with new ideas, perspectives and appreciation.
We returned on skateboards, having taken unexpected paths to get back here. Both of our lives and careers have been greatly influenced by skateboarding, but much like our adventure into the wild of Torridon, with its unpredictable weather and rugged landscapes, our journey hasn’t always had fair winds.
Standing now in the towering Glen Torridon, with skateboards under our arms, grip tape itching our skin, mud under our nails, wind in our hair, and wide eyes taking in the vast view, we feel truly alive and present. These hills, mountains, lochs and burns don’t mind that we’ve been gone, so long as we now travel through them with the respect they deserve. We push and are pushed to take the wild roads, paths and routes of Scotland, and specifically Torridon, to explore what it means to be ‘A Land For Everyone’.
A land in skateboarding is to do a trick successfully, and so we headed off across the land to break stereotypes, barriers and expectations that not only exist within skate culture, but the outdoors too. As we skateboard, hike and explore, we are challenging ourselves, but more so the industry and indeed, society. In nature, in the skatepark, in bothies and beyond, we put the code of respect, protect and share, at the forefront of our minds as we journey into the wild, weaving our way along the coast, through the glen, up the hills and into the land. Wild camping, and staying the night at Craig bothy, leaving no trace as we move.
Both from Scotland, Aberdeenshire and Edinburgh (but living in Aviemore now), the Highland views are not uncommon to us. But they still never fail to catch our eyes and take our breath away. It was only the first turn of the road outside of Lochcarron, but we had already stopped to shoot. Safely navigating the single track, sharing the land with the odd vehicle or two, we were met by a solo cyclist from Saudi Arabia bikepacking from London. Heading north he exclaimed, “You are skateboarding in this place? It is like, the street is your own, you know?” We were fitting in already, whilst standing out. This land was ours but it was, and is, for everyone, including him.
The route through to Applecross over the Bealach Na Ba presented a buzz of enthusiasts; a sportive of cyclists, a pack of bikers, an engine of cars, and the (single) push of a skateboarder. Respecting each other and sharing the roads made the view even more special, not just that in front of us, but all around.
Those passing by took an extra glance, gave us a smile or a wave, or even shouted that they’d never seen such a thing. Because, skateboarders are not something you do expect to see in Torridon. That’s what these road users, the locals and the internet had hinted at. It reminded us of the days when people would exclaim “women can’t skateboard!”.
In the wild, you are more likely to spot a regal stag, a majestic golden or even a white tailed eagle, than two skateboarders pushing along the winding roads to Shieldaig, and on to Beinn Damph. But we are here, women, thirty-year-olds, skateboarders, photographers, who are on a mission, not just with this adventure, but with all of our work. The way we have often been treated, or excluded even, from the skateboarding industry, has opened our eyes to the exclusion existing across the outdoors in general. It comes from varying roots, but one of them is the expectation to conform to what you are told is for you. The media and industry hint, time and time again, that we must look and act a certain way to be skateboarders, just as we are made to think we always have to reach the summit to be a true outdoors (hu)man.
After cruising the final hill and winding road of the day, we rambled our way alongside the river Balgy to find a camp spot in between Beinn Damph and Beinn Bhan. Our tent was put to the test but we were rewarded with a breathtaking double rainbow. It was a sign, two halves make a whole. Together we do feel strong, like a force of nature. We combine our love of adventure and the outdoors, with our passion to protect it and invite more people into these spaces. It is the same way we feel about skateboarding. We apply the code of the Bothy to how we see it – respect each other, protect the good in the scene and share it for others to enjoy.
We were warned before taking the winding roads from Torridon to Diabaig that they were not suitable for motorhomes and we can now attest that it is also the case for skateboards. But still, we pushed our way to the start of the path to Craig Bothy. Once the most remote youth hostel in Scotland, and now a beautiful shelter for all to find comfort and peace for a night or two. With boards on our backpacks, we hiked in an hour and a half, swirling our way along the coast, seeing snippets of Skye as the sun set.
We left civilisation, tarmac and concrete behind us, to let the bothy have the final say. As the guestbook described, “Craig has a wonderful history, and the MBA have been doing a fantastic job keeping this beautiful building in the sanctuary of the Craig Valley alive. It could tell so many stories. Treat it with respect, and it will remain for others to enjoy”. In honour of that, we hope this trip inspires an understanding that “respect, protect and share”, applies in the outdoors, skateboarding, sport, the land, and every day humanity. And that this land is for everyone, and that includes you.