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Highland lockdown showdown: Locals confront out-of-area staycationers camping

Ardvreck Castle on the shores of Loch Assynt, Sutherland.
Ardvreck Castle on the shores of Loch Assynt, Sutherland.

Angry locals have spoken of a lockdown showdown after they confronted a couple from outwith the Highlands camping at a historic Sutherland ruin.

Police also ended up being called in – which residents fear is an early portent of staycation mayhem with rules expected to ease soon.

The showdown took place at 16th century Ardvreck Castle, which stands on a rocky promontory jutting out into Loch Assynt.

The ruins are close to the A837 – part of the North Coast 500 (NC500) road trip route, which is Scotland’s answer to America’s Route 66.

But the weekend confrontation reinforced fears that this season will see a repeat of the dirty and wild camping that plagued the area last year.

Kinlochbervie Community Council member Margaret Meek, took to the NC500 The Land Weeps Facebook – which has nearly 8000 members – to say: “I am delighted that the police have been to Ardvreck Castle.

“In case anyone doesn’t know, this is private property and camping is NOT allowed by the owners. The campers were also wrong about their right to camp anywhere they wanted; the Scottish Outdoor Access Code does not apply to motorised vehicles and does not allow camping near historic buildings. Sadly, the people have apparently moved on to Coldbackie near Tongue where they are setting up on the beach.

“It makes me so sad to see the photo of a tent at Ardvreck Castle. This is an ancient monument and completely unacceptable.

“It needs to be reported to the police. I know many people have given up doing this because they’ve learned that it is not very effective (just a few officers who have to cover a huge area). But inform the police anyway. Or they will never know.

“I’ve also heard a few reliable reports of campervans in other locations arriving very late, staying overnight beside the road and leaving very early to avoid detection.”

Highland communities in despair as ‘dirty camping’ spirals out of control

Other locals told of the lockdown showdown, some of whom had spoken to the man who confronted the camping couple.

One wrote: “And so it begins – these folk were approached because they were inside a scheduled ancient monument and the person who approached them was told ..’we can go anywhere under the right to roam,’ they also said they can camp where they like and were entitled to be away from home.

“Totally refused to move. He also spoke to man who said he had a drink and couldn’t move van now. This was at 2pm..they have now left site 6pm. Why cant people be respectful. Just want to add tent had been removed but food/vomit and burning campfire was there at 6pm.”

A police spokesman said: “We received a report of people camping in the grounds of Ardvreck Castle near Inchnadamph around 12.20pm on Saturday.

“Officers attended and offered advice about the current Covid-19 regulations and the two people subsequently left the area.”

The NC 500 is estimated to be worth more than £22m a year to the local economy.

However, the route has been described as both a highway to hell and a road paved with gold – boosting tourism but with complaints from residents of speeding motorists and, conversely, also of slow moving convoys of motor homes and long tailbacks of bikers.

Highland Council unveils £1.5m plan to tackle tourism pressures


Earlier this month Highland Council unveiled its plans to deal with tourism pressures with a £1.5m package of funding, designed to “create a good experience” for visitors.

They are currently advertising for staff.

In a report to councillors, tourism officer Colin Simpson and outdoor access officer Philip Waite describe how the sheer numbers of visitors in certain spots last year ‘overwhelmed a number of Highland communities and existing services and facilities.’

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