NC500 - Applecross to decide whether to pull out of driving route promotion

Residents of the Applecross peninsula in the north west Highlands are set to have their say on whether to pull out of promotion for the North Coast 500 driving route.

The Bealach na Ba road leading over to Applecross, Wester Ross, has made it a prime destination on the North Coast 500 driving route but an influx of tourists has created challenges for the small community.  PIC: geograph.org/Stuart Wilding
The Bealach na Ba road leading over to Applecross, Wester Ross, has made it a prime destination on the North Coast 500 driving route but an influx of tourists has created challenges for the small community. PIC: geograph.org/Stuart Wilding

The Applecross peninsula has become a key destination on the 190-mile road trip, not least given the challenging drive to over the winding Bealach na Ba mountain pass.

But the peninsula, like many parts of the Highlands, has experienced a swell in visitors as lockdown eases with problems of overcrowding, dirty camping and poor driving with the impact of high levels of motorists on the road also an issue.

Sign up to our History and Heritage newsletter

Sign up to our History and Heritage newsletter

Jess Whistance, of the Applecross Trust, which owns much of the peninsula, denied reports that residents would vote on whether to remove Applecross from the driving route.

Campers on the shore at Applecross last summer. A new designated area for campers has been set up. PIC: Applecross Inn Facebook

She said: “We are looking at whether we would ask people if Applecross should be removed from the marketing of North Coast 500 or if they want to stay on the marketing.

"We are on the route regardless. To remove ourselves from the route would involve contacting Ordnance Survey mapping and we certainly won’t be doing that.

“There are so many benefits of the North Coast 500 along with the negatives. It has brought in a huge amount of income and it has allowed additional businesses to flourish. It has brought visitors who have grown to love the area and return here and stay longer. It has given us a wider audience.”

However, work has been going on since December by the Applecross Tourism Management Group to plan ahead for this summer given experiences in 2020.

Ms Whistance added: “Like most of the Highlands, we had an influx of visitors and perhaps some of them wouldn’t be here by choice, maybe they had nowhere else to go.

"There were problems with people camping everywhere, with human waste, with litter.”

A ranger was hired, signs put up, camping spaces designated by the bay and more litter bins put in place.

The consultation on the direction of tourism in Applecross will follow with surveys to be sent to the 230 residents of the peninsula.

She added: “It is about presenting Applecross in a way that attracts the right behaviour.

Read More

Read More
North Coast 500: Tourists urged to head off the beaten track

"For example, few people go to The Alps for all-day drinking and to burn themselves in the sunshine. That is because of the way the Alps presents itself. Those who want to that don’t go there.

“We need to present ourselves as a place where you are outdoors, close to nature and away from urban life.

"It’s not about dissuading people from coming here, it’s about people coming with the right mindset.”

Research found that the NC500, which loops from Inverness through Easter Ross, Caithness, Sutherland and Wester Ross, boosted the Highland economy by £22m in 2018.

Judith Fish, owner of the Applecross Inn, said she would not support Applecross being pulled out of the NC500 marketing but said more work was required to improve the infrastructure and information surrounding visiting the peninsula.

Ms Fish said: “I don’t think there is any point coming out of it. We just have to learn to deal with what is happening. It’s about infrastructure and information. We have lost a lot of regular people (visitors) as it’s not the same atmosphere. We have been discovered.”

A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this article. We're more reliant on your support than ever as the shift in consumer habits brought about by Coronavirus impacts our advertisers.

If you haven't already, please consider supporting our trusted, fact-checked journalism by taking out a digital subscription.

 0 comments

Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.