Katie Tunn
  • OS Champion

Katie Tunn

Katie Tunn – GetOutside Champion

Meet Katie Tunn – ‘Serial Castaway’, lover of wild places, islands, foraging and conservation.

Katie Tunn

Tell us a bit about yourself:

My name is Katie and I’m an artist, content creator and ocean advocate based on the Isle of Skye. I’m a lover of anything to do with nature, exploring new places and finding solitude. Island life is surprisingly busy but when I’m not working you’ll often find me somewhere by the seashore; usually in the water or maybe poking around in the rockpools or foraging for seaweeds.

Spending solo time off-grid is one of my greatest passions, which works well alongside my fascination with islands, especially the small uninhabited ones.
Although I’ll never get bored of exploring Skye –there’s always new things to discover.

Living in a very popular visitor destination means that I’m especially keen on promoting #LeaveNoTrace and slow travel, it’s my mission to teach as many people as I can about the importance of responsible visiting –our natural world is one of the most valuable things we have!

Why do you love the outdoors?

The outdoors for me is a place of wonder.

Each time I step outside into nature I see something new -whether that’s the ever-changing colours and light of the sky or the sea, spotting some incredible UK animal species or learning about new plants and fungi –I feel like there’s magic in every corner.

I’m incredibly lucky to live in Skye, it’s a spectacular place with world class views and Attenborough doc-worthy wildlife.
But even in the inner city there’s something special to see if you look closely enough, a green shoot growing from between industrial brickwork or a flash of iridescence on the wings of a pigeon.

Getting out and about in nature soothes my soul, it’s a distraction from the worries and stresses of modern life and, to me, it’s what makes life exciting.

How do you get outside?

I’m super lucky to live in North Skye so I’m really spoilt for choice when it comes to getting outside… there are plenty of hills to hike, lochs to dip in and cliffs to roam. You never get bored!

I love that variety but ultimately I’m always drawn back to the sea. I love to snorkel, swim and paddle whenever I can, especially as it helps me connect to the marine environment which I’m passionate about protecting.
Flopping off the side of my paddleboard to snorkel through our local kelp beds has been my favourite way of getting outside recently.
I love solitude and I’m fascinated by uninhabited islands so the Hebrides is my perfect home.

Whilst I spend as much time outside as I can, I’m not a particularly athletic or sporty person.
I think it’s really important to know that getting outside is for everyone and that you don’t have to be particularly physically fit to enjoy the great outdoors.
Whilst I enjoy being active, I also really love getting outside and just ‘being’ -sometimes this is nothing more than just sitting and absorbing your surroundings!
When you slow down I think you notice a lot more; if I stop and pause for a few minutes I often find that wildlife will begin to emerge or I’ll notice things that I’d otherwise have walked past.

This kind of immersion is also why I love going off-grid on my own wherever I can get the chance. Immersing myself in nature is the biggest de-stresser. I’m a keen bivvy-er and hunkering into a hollow to listen to the creaking trees or dawn chorus is a wonderful way to feel more connected to the natural world.

Katie Tunn

What’s your favourite route?

How can we choose just one favourite route?!

Sometimes I’m in the mood for heather hills and huge skies, at other times I want damp mossy forest wanders or breezy beach marches. I’m spoilt for choice here on Skye but my local walk through the weird and wonderful rock formations of the Quiraing is probably my favourite and the views are spectacular. There’s a reason why it’s as famous as it is!

Have you got any adventures planned?

I have plenty of upcoming adventures planned, the hard part is just fitting them in around all the commitments of ‘real life’!

I’m currently continuing my #82islands project to visit all 82 of Great Britain’s largest islands (over 5km2). This is based on the poster created by Ordnance Survey alongside the University of Sheffield. I’ve partnered with CalMac Ferries. The aim is to visit them as a fellow islander, learning how each one is completely unique and finding out how we can be more responsible visitors.

I’ll also be running a couple of Castaway-style retreats. One of these will be taking a group of women away to one of my favourite uninhabited islands for a week of off-grid adventuring. I’m also really excited to be taking guests to the island of Coll for 7 days of basking shark spotting, snorkelling and general ocean-based fun!

Amongst these things I’m also desperate to get some solo off-grid time in again, hopefully for a few weeks or more. Perhaps I’ll go ‘castaway’ again on another uninhabited island or maybe I’ll try a month of living ferally in some deep, dark Highland woodlands… The escapist dream!

What’s the most essential thing on your kit list?

A huge part of island life is battling the Scottish West Coast weather so my essentials are always things to keep warm.
It’s too hard to choose just one but a woolly bobble hat, my Buffalo mountain shirt, my Kelly Kettle and my wee hipflask are all in constant use (even during the summer months!)

Katie Tunn

Who inspires you to get outside?

The outdoors means so much to so many people in all different kinds of ways, I try to take a sprinkle of inspiration from all kinds of folk.

For me, getting outside is about connecting with nature and what it is to be part of the natural world, to realise that we’re still an element of that, however disconnected we may seem sometimes. From this perspective I adore Nan Shepherd, how she used all her senses to experience the landscape. Her energy feels strong and feminine, she never sought to ‘conquer’ her beloved mountains but wanted to understand them like a lover.

In terms of attitude, I also greatly admire Al Humphreys. His ‘microadventures’ and ‘5 to 9’ ethos’ helped me completely rethink how I get out and about… I don’t always need to spend time planning and packing, taking the kitchen sink. The idea of just getting out there, coming back in yesterday’s clothes and even picking up a curry en route instead of lugging around a camping stove and cookware! I find his lack of machismo and general joy totally refreshing.

Lastly, I’m totally inspired by anyone who gets outside and gets out of their comfort zone. There are some incredible people out there, endurance athletes and highly-skilled mountaineers, but I find it really inspiring when anyone tries something new. That could be doing something totally crazy and notable but it could also just be someone who’s scared of the dark taking the plunge and sitting outside in their back garden to watch the stars. Adventures don’t have to be big and newsworthy, to me it’s all about exploring something new and out of your comfort zone. To me that’s brave and totally inspiring.

What do you prefer: Paper or digital map?

Oooh, what a question! To me, a paper map is more than a tool for navigation. I think that they’re beautiful objects in themselves –I’m inspired by them as an artist! So I love paper maps for their tangibility and ‘thingliness’.But, out on the hills, I’m a digital nomad. I often have my phone to hand for photos etc and it’s great to follow my GPS marker along my chosen route. Once again, island weather influences this as a paper map turns into a whipping sail in Skye winds!