Wild campers are being warned they are “not welcome” in the Highlands after the scenic surroundings of another popular tourist spot were left in a “disgusting mess”.
Loch Morlich in Glenmore, located in the shadows of the Cairngorms, was strewn with rubbish at the weekend – with firefighters also being called early on Sunday to deal with a “small fire” in the woods.
There has been a long-running debate after the initial Covid-19 lockdown restrictions were lifted about how uncontrolled camping was being handled across the region, with calls for extra funding to increase patrols by rangers and the introduction of bye-laws.
Travel guidance has been put in place following the introduction of a new tier system to try to cut the spread of the virus.
But it is thought restrictions on overseas travel and the popularity of staycations has extended the tourism period for the Highlands – and not always with positive consequences.
‘Since when did it become acceptable to trash our countryside?’
Pictures of the state of the land next to the scenic Loch Morlich, overlooked by the Cairngorm mountains, left locals infuriated at the weekend.
Badenoch and Strathspey councillor – and Highland council convener – Bill Lobban launched a scathing attack on inconsiderate campers, saying they are having a dreadful impact on the Highlands.
He said: “Covid-19 has had a strange effect on some people and has disconnected the bit of their brain that deals with behaviour.
“Since when did it become acceptable to trash our countryside?
“If you visit our beautiful area then do so responsibly, leave your footprints behind not your rubbish. Either that or stay home as you’re not welcome here.”
You have to question where these people are coming from. They are obviously not local, as locals wouldn’t leave this kind of disgraceful mess.”
Duncan Ferguson, local resident
The images were posted on social media by local resident Duncan Ferguson, whose family has lived in Glenmore for generations, and captioned: “Hope you had a good night, you idiots”.
He said: “You have to question where these people are coming from. They are obviously not local, as locals wouldn’t leave this kind of disgraceful mess.
“They are travelling north, from areas where restrictions about travel are meant to be in place.
“It was not just one camp, there were loads of campervans just parked around the area.
“They are travelling here and taking the mickey.
“They should be policed properly and told to go home.
“Glenmore has been an utter disgrace all year, but this camp is horrific. The mess is awful. The fire brigade were called.”
There was also reports of campers using a power saw to cut down trees to get wood for fires.
‘Wherever they’re from, that’s absolutely shameless and heartless behaviour’
The images brought an instant reaction on social media.
One said: “It is time for legislation to be used to ban any form of camping outwith recognised campsites.
“Tough decisions need to be made now to protect the area for future generations. Enough is enough after this year.”
Louise Thomson added: “Shocking site at Loch Morlich this morning. Campers allegedly from Glasgow left this destruction behind them, leaving the fire service and warden to clear up their mess.”
And Melanie Cooper posted: “Wherever they’re from, that’s absolutely shameless and heartless behaviour.”
Others said their actions could have resulted in a significant fire.
A spokeswoman for the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service confirmed they had been called to a “small fire” in the open in the Loch Morlich area, which was “extinguished quite quickly”.
‘It is residents, landowners and the National Trust for Scotland who are left to clear up the mess’
Highland Councillors have raised the issue of wild camping several times during the pandemic, with Caol and Mallaig Councillor Ben Thompson saying it raised health issued.
He said: “Steps that may be taken to reduce public health risks include increasing waste collections, better traffic management, restrictions on alcohol consumption, and financial support for beach or countryside wardens, temporary toilet and hand-washing facilities.”
Mr Thompson said the council should be committed to use its resources where practicable and affordable to support steps needed, but called on the Scottish Government and its agencies to work with them.
Councillor Andrew Baxter, who represents Fort William and Ardnamurchan, has described the “invasion” of wild campers as a “scourge of idiots” who are “trashing” beauty spots such as Glen Etive.
He said: “It is residents, landowners and the National Trust for Scotland who are left to clear up the mess.”
Last month, after the issue was raised, a Highland Council spokeswoman said: “Ultimately landowners are responsible for waste and fly-tipping on their land as a result of wild-camping.”