Tourists urged to spread out across Skye to stop visitor crush
The plea followed pictures being circulated of cars parked for miles around the Old Man of Storr because the car park for the rocky pinnacle was overwhelmed.
The boom has caused congestion at other popular sites.
Skye was named on a global list of “destinations to avoid” by the American broadcaster CNN because it attracted so many visitors last year.
Plans to close Skye’s only 24-hour filling station in Broadford for three months from August have also raised concerns.
A group promoting the island said there were plans for more parking for the Old Man of Storr, while more vehicle space was also being created at North Skye’s other big draws - the Fairy Pools, the Quirang landslip and Neist Point, at the island’s westerly tip, guarded by a lighthouse.
The pictures were taken by Martin Mann, who visited from Dundee with his wife Irene this month.
Mr Mann, 59, said: “Cars were abandoned everywhere for miles in either direction.
“There were one or two small car parks which were obviously full.
“Double yellow lines have been painted along the road verge.
“But drivers seem to believe that it’s ok to park on the what’s left of the verge on the ‘inside’ of the double yellows.
“As far as what can be done about it. I’d venture to suggest nothing would help.
“The ground would make it expensive and a logistical nightmare to build a bigger car park.
“Your average tourist would still park on the verge anyway.”
However, tourism group SkyeConnect said there was much more to see across the island.
Project manager Alistair Danter said: “We would urge Martin and Irene and anyone else to visit Skye and maybe stay a bit longer and explore areas away from the ‘Big Five’ iconic locations in North Skye.
“They may be surprised to find the island’s population density of six people per square kilometre is accurately represented - there will be some places where your only company will be, your companion, some sheep, the odd eagle, some seals and maybe an otter or two.
“In the last 12 months, car park facilities have been created at the Quirang and Neist Point, work on the Fairy pools car park is starting, and a planning application for the first phase of a car park facility at the Old Man of Storr has been lodged with Highland Council.
“The work behind these developments is significant and there are often complicated issues of land ownership and management to consider.
“It is not possible to wave a magic wand at a piece of ground in a remote location which has crofting designation and on which crofters have grazed stock for generations and turn it into a car park with toilets, wifi and camper van service points – this all takes time.”
Mr Danter said tourism added around £110 million a year to the island’s economy.
He said: “A huge amount of work by a range of public agency staff and community groups to identify funding, negotiate land access and implement car parking and other infrastructural developments will enable Skye to continue to welcome visitors for the foreseeable future.”