It has been hailed as one of the world’s best road trips since a drive to attract more visitors to remote parts of the North Highlands was launched exactly three years ago.
But now a new campaign is to be launched to help keep the North Coast 500 clear of rubbish after mounting concerns about the impact of the initiative on the environment.
The tens of thousands of new visitors being lured to the new tourist route are to be urged to “give your litter a lift” to ensure some of Scotland’s most scenic areas are not blighted by roadside rubbish.
Dozens of businesses and attractions on the 500-mile road are expected to display posters and hand out special “car litter bags” to motorists.
The new campaign will also see adverts running on local radio stations and motorists heading around the North Coast 500 route urged to post social media selfies giving their litter a lift.
It has been developed under a partnership forged between the environmental charity Keep Scotland Beautiful and the creators of the tourist route campaign, which is thought to have generated more than £10 million for the economy.
Concerns have been raised about the North Coast 500’s impact on the environment, as well as on the safety and condition of remote roads. A Highlands and Islands Enterprise study highlighted “accelerated deterioration” of road surfaces and verges, “poor or inexperienced driver behaviour” and pressures on car parks in towns, villages and viewing points.
The leading outdoors expert, Cameron McNeish, suggested the tourism campaign was sending completely the wrong message out to tourists at a time of concern about climate change, adding that visitors should be encouraged to walk or cycle to explore the country.
The official website for the North Coast 500, which will launch the new campaign with Keep Scotland Beautiful tomorrow, last year posted a lengthy blog in response to concerns about the growing of amount of rubbish being left by the side of roads.
It said: “We’ve been alerted to more and more incidents of littering on and around the route.”
Georgina Massouraki, campaign officer with Keep Scotland Beautiful, said: “Tourism is vital for maintaining sustainable local communities along the route and protecting the natural landscape is central to this.
“This campaign reminds road-users to be considerate and take responsibility for their litter when travelling across our beautiful country. Roadside litter is difficult, dangerous and costly to clean up and throwing litter from your vehicle is an inexcusable and illegal habit. The message is simple: ‘Give your litter a lift, take it home’”.
North Coast 500 managing director Tom Campbell said: “We hope that we can encourage drivers to take responsibility for their litter – helping to preserve this iconic landscape and attract increased visitor numbers.”