A resident living and working along the NC500 route says noise pollution from travellers is killing animals.
Working and living slap bang in the middle of the NC500, Arthur Fulton, a resident of Wester Ross, says he has no opposition to visitors, sports cars or motorbikes in general – just the ones who are “excessively loud”.
Moving to the area himself just five years ago, Mr Fulton says he has noticed a rise in loud motorists along the route which has led to him fearing for the safety of animals and wildlife.
He says “mass eco-tourism” is having a big impact on both locals and wildlife due to the noise it is creating.
Describing a “tranquil” Wester Ross, Mr Fulton said: “This special place is only special because it has not had to cope with this type of pollution in the past.
“You can hear some vehicles three miles away.
“Noise can affect an animal’s ability to hear or make it difficult for it to find food, locate mates and avoid predators.
“This can result in the animals, spending more time sourcing food, limiting their ability to thrive and in turn leading to their decline.”
‘Respect our communities’
The resident is now pleading with road users to “respect our communities and our community’s way of life”.
Insisting he doesn’t want motorcycles or sports cars banned, or for visitors to stay off the route, the Wester Ross resident says he just asks for the minority to stop speeding or using excessively loud exhausts.
He says it is key that people act now to manage the effects of the noise pollution so that “we can still describe our in area in 10 years time as a land of breath-taking landscapes”.
The Wildlife Habitat Council have likened the effects of noise pollution to the sounds of a lawnmower or rattling air vent affecting the ability for humans to carry out everyday activities.
They say the effects are the same for animals who rely on their sense of sound for survival.
Studies have also shown that loud noises can cause birds to have fewer chicks while caterpillar’s hearts have been proven to beat faster when noise is excessively loud.
“I believe that those who have promoted this experience have a responsibility to protect the area otherwise the reason why people want to come here will be lost,” Mr Fulton said.
He believes that NC500 Limited, the company who markets the road trip, should contribute in some way “to address the problem they have created”.
The local has called for the company, who he says is “de-wilding” the 500-mile area, to provide financial support to local areas to purchase noise cameras to catch drivers who are breaking the law.
The company has previously been linked to campaigns such as the “Scotland is Stunning – Let’s Keep It That Way” litter prevention where they encouraged visitors to bring their own bin bags and leave campsites cleaner than they found them.
However a 2019 study revealed that there had been significant environmental impacts as a result of the route, with residents reporting a “downturn in quality of life because of the increased numbers of tourists.”
And while NC500 Ltd say they are in talks with an environmental charity provider, they say police need to tackle any breach of law.
NC500 Ltd statement
A spokeswoman for NC500 Ltd said: “The issues that have been highlighted by this resident should be raised through their local councillor to the multi-agency North Highland Visitor Management Group, which has a representative from Nature Scot.
“It is always important that issues raised such as this are not only evidence based, but dealt with by the appropriate and responsible organisation, such as Police Scotland if there is evidence of a potential breach of the law.
“NC500 is in advanced discussions with an environmental charity partner which will be announced shortly.”
In recent months, police have been carrying out a spate of operations in the Highlands in efforts of tackling dangerous driving following complaints from residents.
For three days from August 13, officers focused on the roads that make up the NC500 where they stopped and checked 72 vehicles, with 32 offences detected.
Incidents reported included careless driving and speeding, as well as some drivers being caught using mobile phones.
Further offences included MOT and insurance transgressions.
A similar operation in July meant 160 drivers were stopped within a three day period, with one road user caught travelling 145mph earlier in the year.
It comes as residents say they are “worried for their lives” due to tourists using the route as a “race track”.
As a result, police have provided advice for those wishing to travel to the Highlands during the summer months.
Constable Neil MacDonald of Highlands and Islands Road Policing said: “The scenery in the area attracts people from all over the world. While we welcome the visitors we would like to remind them that some of the roads are different to what they may have encountered before and to be careful and safe while visiting.”
The force have reminded holiday makers about the dangers of single track roads and have asked those visiting to be courteous to road users who may be carrying out vital deliveries or travelling to work.