One of Scotland’s leading mountaineering and outdoors experts has raised “over-tourism” fears over the future of the nation’s Munros - warning they are at risk of being “loved to death.”
Cameron McNeish has blamed “ignorance” from walkers and climbers for their declining condition and said around £50 million was needed to bring them back their footpaths back up to scratch.
Writing in Scots Magazine, the author and broadcaster called for more education of walkers, climbers and wild campers to ensure “no trace” is left of their visits.
He said many wilderness areas were becoming eroded, scarred, worn and “shabby” due to their over-use.
‘Respect wild country’
McNeish has complained that too many people heading for the hills have no idea how to “respect wild country,” with damage being done by bags of rubbish left behind, water sources contaminated by human waste and “too many walkers bashing the same footpath.”
He has also suggested that a share of the funds raised from charity walks up Ben Nevis, Britain’s highest peak, be handed over to conservation bodies to help mitigate the environmental impact.
McNeish said: “Loving the hills to death has become a little cliched, but there is an element of truth to it, and that love affair is a growing problem on many of our popular hills.
“Much of the damage is done through ignorance. Many people simply don’t know how to respect wild country. Some of the ways to minimise your impact aren’t obvious and even experienced walkers can do unthinking harm. In Scotland, little advice is given on how to walk and camp softly in the hills, leaving no trace of your visit.
“Even in the wildest areas of Scotland it’s not unusual to find bags of rubbish left in bothies, water sources contaminated by human waste and litter crammed into the crevices of cairns and stone walls.
“Another problem we face in these days of over-tourism is the damage we do without realising it. On a typical Bank Holiday on Ben Nevis people make their way up to the summit in an almost continuous line.
“The problem is numbers. The paths on our mountains were never created for such a volume of traffic so damage has become inevitable. The Munros are so popular that many of the paths have become eroded scars and some wild camping spots are over-used and left worn and shabby.
“Yet the majority of folk who walk and camp in the hills of Scotland do so because they love it.”