The leader of the Highland Council has urged campers visiting the region to ‘leave no trace’ following an upsurge in discarded rubbish and human waste at beauty spots.
Councillor Margaret Davidson said there has been a “massive recent upsurge” of people driving to beauty spots and camping overnight in car parks, laybys, on beaches and on public and private land, and leaving litter and human waste, while cars have also blocked some rural roads.
Councillor Davidson described tourism as the backbone of the economy and said the Highland Council were delighted that the region was Scotland’s number one destination with people wanting to “experience our scenery, landscapes, coastline and open space following months of lockdown.”
However, she went on to issue a plea.
She said: “Welcome to Highland; it is like nowhere else on earth, but please do not leave litter, please be considerate to local residents, please don’t light fires and please, please, do not leave human waste!
“We really want you to enjoy your time here and wish to welcome you back again. Help us keep the Highlands clean and safe.”
One area which has recently fallen victim to the upsurge in littering has been the Coral Beach near Dunvegan on Skye.
This was starkly illustrated on Sunday (19th July) by photographs posted on social media highlighting bins overflowing with rubbish and a discarded tent with food and toys inside, while a nappy had also been dumped on the ground nearby.
In a letter to the Skye and Raasay Highland Councillors, Claigan resident Sarah Morris, who lives close to the Coral Beach, said that she and her partner Kirk – who took the photos – were moved to take action to address the mess left at the island beauty spot.
She said there had been a “massive increase of wild camping” at the beach and near the car park and that one of her friends had counted 30 tents at the beach one night recently.
Describing the scene she wrote: “I was shocked to see the overflowing refuse bins and surrounding waste, litter across the car park, and human waste and wipes, it was a minefield throughout the adjacent shelterbelt.
“My partner and I walked the one and a half miles to the beach, past recent campfires – the ‘no fires beyond this point’ sign disappeared a few weeks ago – past more discarded wipes and litter, to find an abandoned tent, complete with more rubbish, that included soiled nappies, midgie whackers, and plastic and glass bottles!”
Sarah said that through further investigation on Facebook she discovered that the tent had been there since Friday (17th July).
She added: “We packed it away and my partner dragged it back up the track, collecting other refuse as he went – I had the dog. In fact, we spent a good couple of hours this afternoon removing the tent and other rubbish.
“This is not our responsibility…”
John Laing, chair of Dunvegan Community Council told the Free Press: “Dunvegan Community Council members are appalled that such a beautiful and popular spot as Coral Beach should be treated with such disrespect, unfortunately, this is becoming all too common in many other areas as well
“We are delighted to see tourists returning to Skye and Raasay, and the vast majority enjoy our area and treat our environment with great respect but sadly there is an element coming to Skye now that have no care or respect for the area, we have no problem with wild camping but the minority are spoiling it for the majority and frankly they are not welcome here.
“Coral Beach and its environs are crofting ground and crofters have to make their living there, they do not need the debris of uncaring tourists left on their land.”
Skye Councillor John Gordon said the latest instances of littering on the island were unacceptable.
“I attended a meeting on Thursday with area chairs from the Highland Council to address these issues because this is happening across the whole of the Highlands,” he said.
“Coming out of lockdown people are wanting to travel and motorhomes and camping seem to be the preferred option, but as much as the council are developing an emergency plan to address some of these issues in terms of infrastructure, we have to highlight the fact it’s about personal responsibility too.
“Who thinks it’s acceptable to leave their rubbish for someone else to deal with it?
“Nobody wants to stop wild camping because the right to roam is the law, but I think informal camping needs more guidelines.
“It’s unacceptable that people think it’s fine to walk away and leave their rubbish, I want to people whether they are locals or visitors to tidy up after themselves and leave no trace.
He added: “I find it staggering that at a time when there are some many voices coming together to talk about climate change and the environment there are others who are trashing the landscape.”
Meanwhile, in Kyle, the Kyle and Lochalsh Community Trust have been left to foot the bill for a new bin after someone placed a disposable barbeque in one of the public bins.
Derek Noble of the Trust said that the remnants of the bin and the associated rubbish, which all melted, as a result, would have to be taken up to the Portree dump for disposal.
Councillor Davidson said that the Highland Council was working with police, and local partners in some areas to try to address the issues but urged visitors to book ahead and not to travel if appropriate accommodation was not already planned.