WALKERS are ruining Ben Nevis and other Scottish mountains by building bizarre “mini cairns” on their peaks.
The world-renowned John Muir Trust say the 4,409ft mountain has been blighted by small piles of stones which detract from the stunning scenery.
Peaks near Loch Ness and elsewhere in the Highlands have also been festooned with tiny cairns left by “daft” walkers.
In the worst cases, visitors are leaving rubbish and even excrement under the miniature mounds of rocks.
Large navigational cairns are already in place on many Scottish mountains, built especially to stick above the snow and guide walkers along the right path to the summit.
Rangers have issued a heartfelt plea for visitors to leave the landscape alone, fearing that the DIY cairns could even misdirect walkers and result in tragedy.
The modern trend for creating mini-cairns stems in some cases from wish to leave a memorial, to create a photo opportunity, or hide rubbish. Many walkers now do do it simply to jump on the bandwagon.
The most bizarre items found under unofficial Ben Nevis cairns in recent years include a wheelchair and even a grand piano.
Fran Lockhart, Partnerships Manager with the John Muir Trust, says that rangers have had to remove “hundreds” of the mini cairns on Ben Nevis.
“There are official cairns built to stick up above the snow in winter time to help people navigate,” she said.
“But people have begun building additional cairns in various parts which can be misleading. It is our job to take them down.
“When we take some of these cairns to bits we find things underneath, like rubbish and even piles of poo. Occasionally you get one which is quite robust and built as a memorial.
“It’s hard to know where to draw the line, but we are continually having to clear new ones which have been made.
“It just gets bonkers - it takes one or two people to start it and now it’s gone daft.”
She issued a plea for walkers to leave the scenery as it is.
“People think it’s a fun thing to do but we would prefer them to leave the countryside as it is,” she added.
“They detract from the scenery and now we clear any new cairns that appear on the summit.”
Pictures taken by the roadside next to Loch Loyne in Inverness and areas of Skye show hundreds of neat piles of stones against a stunning backdrop of mountains and lakes.
Angry Scots have expressed their exasperation at the photographs, which have been shared around social media, branding the cairns “ugly” and “like a demolition site”.
Chris MacIntyre, from Glasgow, said: “Have to say I hate them! Ugly and messy, littering up beautiful spots.”
Rob Wood wrote: “Like a demolition site, it’s awful. Talk about a blot on the landscape.”
Sara Downes added: “Places that used to be lovely are now covered in them, you can’t walk anywhere.”