Tourism agency forced to abandon plans for mountain-top signs

VISITSCOTLAND has abandoned plans to put name signs on the top of Munros after a furious outcry from the country's environmental lobby.

The plans, outlined in a consultation paper seen by Scotland on Sunday, reveal that the national tourism agency was considering "signage on Munro summits" as part of an initiative to promote Munro-bagging to tourists across the world.

The aim would have been to allow summiteers to prove photographically that they had topped peaks such as Ben Nevis, Ben Lomond, Ben Macdui or Schiehallion. Snaps would be e-mailed to a central point in return for a Bag-a-Munro certificate.

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However, following objections from environmental bodies that the signs could ruin the experience of climbing Scotland's highest mountains - Munros are peaks over 3,000ft - VisitScotland has now dropped the plans.

The consultation paper, which was circulated among a number of environmental and outdoors groups, including the John Muir Trust, Ramblers Scotland and the Munro Society, outlines plans to launch a Bag-a-Munro initiative in 2011 aimed at creating a 'global fraternity of Munro-baggers' and the launch of a digital Munro-bagging certificate. It also floats the idea of creating "a series of unique 2014 cairns on Munro tops".

Mike Daniels, the John Muir Trust's head of Land and Science, said: "We welcome any initiative that encourages people to get out and explore (Munros], but this has to be balanced with the need to maintain the wild character that brings visitors to the hills in the first place.

"Mountain tops are often the closest that people can get to truly wild land in Scotland. Placing signposts and novelty cairns across the Munros would spoil this experience.

Other ideas suggested in the document include approaching 80-year-old comedian Ronnie Corbett to promote the 'Corbetts', the range of Scottish mountains between 2,500 and 3000ft, and adapting VisitScotland's walking website to provide information about bagging Munros, Corbetts and Grahams (mountains between 2,000ft and 2,500ft).

Ewan Colville, VisitScotland's international marketing manager, said the signage was an outline idea in the document. "Some stakeholders came back saying they didn't see a need for additional signage and we concur with their expert views."

He added: "Scotland's mountain classification system is utterly unique, as is the achievement of 'bagging' a Munro. With 2011 designated Year of Active Scotland, this is one of many initiatives VisitScotland is looking to develop."