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More than a million tourists flocked to Cairngorms between July and September, new figures show

Holidaymakers use car parks as unofficial campsites with their motorhomes, caravans and tents in the Glenmore and Cairngorm areas despite toilets being closed and the Glenmore Camp Site remaining closed until next year.
A line of over 100 cars and vans was parked alongsid and on te Cairngorm Ski Road from the entrance to its car park as it remains closed as a result of Covid-19.
Holidaymakers use car parks as unofficial campsites with their motorhomes, caravans and tents in the Glenmore and Cairngorm areas despite toilets being closed and the Glenmore Camp Site remaining closed until next year. A line of over 100 cars and vans was parked alongsid and on te Cairngorm Ski Road from the entrance to its car park as it remains closed as a result of Covid-19.

More than one million people flocked to the Cairngorm National Park in the space of six weeks between July and September, half of the usual annual total.

The national park normally welcomes around two million visitors a year, but a staggering number of Brits eager to make the most of their freedom when lockdown was eased this summer headed to the hills.

Cairngorm Business Partnership (CBP) boss Mark Tate said the figures had been extrapolated from a number of sources, including path counters, with some ares showing increases in popularity of more than 40%.

 

Business partnership boss warns of significant impact on Cairngorm tourism

To help create a safe environment, around 100 local businesses signed up to the NHS Test and Protect app in a free scheme administered by CBP as the region became a hotspot for visitors.

The tourism influx created considerable challenges in destinations such as Loch Morlich, Aviemore and parts of Deeside, with uncontrolled camping and campfires, and unprecedented levels of litter and human waste in laybys and popular beauty spots.

Wild camping: Loch Morlich latest to be left in a mess by ‘disgraceful’ campers

It also created anxiety in communities worried that visitors could bring Covid to vulnerable areas.

Mr Tate said: “Communities are pivotal to giving visitors a welcoming experience, and by working with lots of partners, we worked through the challenges together.

“Contrary to residents’ fears, there were no Covid cases tracked back to visitor-facing businesses.”

Murray Ferguson, director of planning and rural development at Cairngorm National Park, said visitor management planning will take a different direction in light of this year’s experiences.

He said: “The great thing is more people are aware of what we have to offer in Scotland.

“We have seen a lot of new customers and we’ve got to be ready to meet people’s new expectations about green space and exercise.

“In some of our key hotspots like Glenmore and Upper Deeside we’ve got to try and be ready for the visitors, so we’re working on specific management plans for those areas.”

Mr Ferguson said the national park is also looking to use any available money to carry out quick and easy jobs over the winter, like fixing verges and small scale car park extensions, while the board starts work on a new five-year tourism plan.

Cairngorms rangers tackled 143 fires across national park last month amid ‘extremely worrying’ spike in irresponsible behaviour

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