New motorhome stops planned for Highlands in face of visitor influx and 'dirty camping'

A network of low-cost stopovers for campervans and caravans will be created in the Highlands to cope with a rise in visitors and the scourge of ‘dirty camping’.

Motorhomes At Sango Bay near Durness earlier this year. Plans are afoot to create a network of low-cost overnight stopping places for motorhomes and caravans in the Highlands to better manage the large volume of visitors to the north. PIC: Getty Images/G Mitchell.

Highland Council has proposed a site for up to 30 vehicles in North Kessock on the Black Isle, near Inverness ,with communities and landowners across the north being asked for their views on other small scale sites.

Inspired by the Aires continental model, the stopovers are not classed as campsite sbut offer a place to stay overnight as well as safe waste disposal.

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Farmers with spare field and those with extra large gardens are being asked to consider offering stopping places.

The move to better accommodate campervans and caravans in the Highlands comes after a surge of visitors to the north as the Spring lockdown eased and people sought out ‘staycation’ holidays .

Highland Council hopes they could be a "safe place" for some of the thousands of vehicles which arrive every year.

The sites could also help tackle anti-social behaviour, such as waste being disposed of in lay-bys and streams, which became an issue as campsites and public toilets were close to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Black Isle councillor Gordon Adam said he understood the appeal of campervans and caravans during the health crisis.

He told BBC Scotland: "It's a very safe way to travel in this Covid era. You are kind of insulated."

"Just now we don't have sufficient numbers of places really where they can safely stay.

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"If they don't have a place where they can safely stay it is more likely they will park illegally and they might even dispose of their waste illegally as well."

He said it was hoped that an Aires system could be in place for next year's tourist season.

Communities around the North Coast 500 route at Lochinver, Helmsdale, Bonar Bridge and Cromarty have plans to develop overnight parking sites for motorhomes.

It comes as the North Coast 500 plans for a resurgence in visitors post-pandemic and how to accomodate them, while balancing concerns of communities as travel restrictions ease.

Highland Council has been working with VisitScotland, the Campervan and Motorhome Professional Association, VisitScotland and the Scottish government to find ways of better supporting visitors to the north.

Maxine Smith, chairwoman of Highland Council's tourism committee, said landowners might be interested in providing the "simple short-stay facilities".

She said: "It may be that you are a farmer with a spare field or someone with an extra-large garden, but we need to start thinking more commercially as well as trying to alleviate any issues caused by motorhomes.

"We welcome tourists in the Highlands, but we need to make sure we have the right infrastructure in place for them."

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