Cows could roam free again in Highland village - 15 years after ecoli outbreak led to ban

Cows could be free to roam once again in a west Highland village - 15 years after the tradition was hit with a ban.

A cow wandering down a street in Plockton. Picture: submitted by George Finlayson
A cow wandering down a street in Plockton. Picture: submitted by George Finlayson

Livestock were a common sight in Plockton until e-coli struck Scotland.

The outbreak lead to a ban of cattle in the village after an agreement was made between the National Trust for Scotland (NTS) and the Plockton common grazings committee.

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But the ban is set to come to an end within weeks, and a decision could be made to resume the old grazing rights.

A meeting will be held next Monday in Plockton for residents and crofters alike to hear more details and discuss any future moves.

Plockton Community Council chairwoman, Mary Campbell, said: "Until we have the meeting, and everyone has the chance to put across their views and hear the facts and legalities, then it's really difficult to come to a decision.

"People should come to the meeting with an open mind, but right now the community council does not have a view on the matter."

Opponents say there are no longer any safe grazings for the 44 or more cows in the village, with extra cars on the roads and more tourists about, and that the dark days of the ecoli outbreak will not be forgotten.

Before the ban came into force, cattle would tend to graze on a grassy island in front of the village and on another grassy area called Rhu, often meandering along the streets and grassy verges and onto the beach.

Plockton has a relatively busy streetscape and shoreline compared to other parts of the Highlands and Hebrides where livestock roams free. In Plockton, the cattle would sometimes wander into gardens and block the road.

The concern 15 years ago amid the ecoli outbreak was the number of people and dwellings in potentially close proximity to cowpats, which could carry the transmittable e-coli bacteria.

An NTS spokesman said: "The National Trust for Scotland will be represented at a meeting called by the community in Plockton and we are interested in hearing the views of crofters and other residents alike.

"A 15-year voluntary management agreement has been in place between the Trust and crofters to effectively remove cattle from the village and this comes to an end shortly.

"We are happy to engage in discussion about the future of the moratorium (temporary prohibition). Clearly, there must be a sensible balance between the graziers’ statutory rights and other considerations such as access rights, public safety, good animal husbandry and private property rights in the village."