Vistors urged to stay away from 'hot spots' in the Cairngorms

Visitors to the Cairngorms have been urged to stay away from “hot spots” in the national park this weekend given the influx of large numbers of people and cars to the area.

Loch Morlich on the edge of the Glenmore Forest near Aviemore is one of the 'hot spots' in the Cairngorms National Park that visitors are being urged to avoid this weekend. PIC: PA.
Loch Morlich on the edge of the Glenmore Forest near Aviemore is one of the 'hot spots' in the Cairngorms National Park that visitors are being urged to avoid this weekend. PIC: PA.

Peter Crane, head of visitor services at Cairngorms National Park Authority, said the national park was “very much open” but encouraged those who planned to visit to venture away from the most popular areas.

Streams of parked cars have posed safety risks in some parts with some cases of ‘fly camping’ - the equivalent of fly tipping where campers leave behind their overnight equipment and rubbish - also reported.

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Mr Crane said eight seasonal guides have been recruited at the park for the first time given the anticipated rise in visitors given the easing of lockdown and people looking to holiday at home this year.

He urged people to avoid the Glenmore Forest near Aviemore, Muir of Dinnet near Aboyne, Linn of Dee near Braemar, Loch Muick near Balmoral and Glen Clova in the Angus Glens.

Mr Crane said: “We need visitors - the whole economy around here depends on them and they are important to everyone who lives and works in the Cairngorms.

“We want to encourage people to come so the park is open but people do have to think where they are going to go when they get here.

“What we are really trying to say is avoid the hotspots - there are lots of other places within the park you can go.

“We are definitely busier than normal at the moment but it is a different kind of busy.

“People want to experience the outdoors on a simple level but they are heading to say half a dozen sites.

“The Cairngorms is bigger than the islands of Menorca and Majorca put together. We have 666 miles of core paths.

“We are encouraging people to come but to have a second and third choice of destination in the park if their first choice is busy. If you think it is going to be busy, it probably is.”

Issues arose last weekend at the national park when 150 cars parked on the roadside leading to Loch Muick, a main access point to Lochnagar.

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Mr Crane added: “The road is pretty much a dead end . Having 150 cars parked up on the side is not an issue it itself but it becomes one if someone needs to get in and to get out. It can create a challenge for the emergency services.

“What we are saying is come to the national park, come to Grantown on Spey, come to Ballater, enjoy all the lovely food and drink that is on offer there. The place is very much open but just considering exploring a bit more.”

He said he did not want to “overstate” issues of ‘fly camping’ but added that a small number of incidents had “stood out” as it had not been an issue in the national park before now.

He said: “It’s a bit like these people who go to festivals and buy inexpensive camping equipment, say for three days and then leave it all behind as they think someone is going to clean it up for them.

“I don’t want to overstate is as we are talking about really only half a dozen cases but those who live and work here have not seen this before.”

Mr Crane said the park also had good links with the fire service, who have been known to put out fires as campers look on.

He said ‘fly campers’ were typically ‘new visitors’ to the area who hadn’t visited the Highlands before.

Mr Crane added: “It’s a new audience. We hired eight seasonal rangers for the first time to improve the visitor experience simply because we anticipated we would get more visitors this year.

“People are coming here because some of the entertainment in Scotland’s cities is not happening this year. There are no festivals, for example. Also, people are not going abroad.”

Mr Crane said it was likely some parts of the national park would see fewer visitors this weekend given the lockdown in Aberdeen and the ban on people travelling more than five miles for leisure and recreational purposes.

He said national park staff had no powers of enforcement, but that any apparent breaches of the rules by those who live within the city limits would be reported to the authorities.

Mr Crane said: “Our experience in the first lockdown was that the vast majority of people stuck to it.

“As a National Park Authority, we can only report back what we can see and any information will go to the Scottish Government and Aberdeen City Council.

“We are expecting people from the City to behave but if we saw that the place was becoming a weekend destination for them, we would feed that back.”

Meanwhile, police in Highlands and Islands have urged visitors to be mindful of residents when visiting the Arisaig area and the beaches at Morar.

Complaints have been made about anti-social behaviour of campers and people blocking roads with their cars and campervans.

An increased police presence is due on the B8008 between Airsaig and Morar this weekend with the fine weather expected to attract a high number of people to the area.

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