Scotland's national parks urge visitors to 'plan ahead' and respect countryside as restrictions ease
Visitors to Scotland’s national parks have been urged to “behave responsibly” and “have a plan B” if popular walking spots are too busy ahead of restrictions easing this weekend.
The Cairngorms National Park is preparing for a surge in visitors as restrictions on travel and outdoor meetups lift on Friday, 16 April.
During an unscheduled coronavirus briefing on Tuesday, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon confirmed up to six adults from six different households in Scotland are allowed to meet up.
And they will be permitted to travel across Scotland to do so, as long as they do not stay overnight.
Park chiefs however are urging visitors to “plan ahead”, adhere to Covid-19 restrictions still in place and to follow advice in the Scottish Outdoor Access Code (SOAC) – a government guide on how to respect the countryside.
Grant Moir, chief executive of the Cairngorms National Park Authority said: “I am sure many people will be looking forward to getting out into the Scottish countryside after a long winter.
"We want visitors to be able to come and enjoy the park in a responsible way, whilst respecting the communities who live and work here. The most important message we want to share ahead of this weekend is – please plan ahead.
“We are all familiar with social distancing guidelines now but when visiting a location we are asking visitors to plan their day, behave responsibly and be prepared to adapt those plans – if they arrive somewhere and it is busy, have a ‘Plan B’ ready, there is no shortage of spectacular places to spend the day in the National Park.”
Staff at Loch Lomond and The Trossachs also urged the public to “plan ahead” as they make preparations to welcome back visitors in their numbers.
A statement from them read: “We know from last summer that after a long time staying home, lots of people will want to travel again to the National Park.
"We have been working hard on extensive preparations to welcome you, including additional staff on the ground, extra toilets and more car parking spaces.
"However it’s more important than ever to plan ahead before you set off to make your visit as safe and enjoyable as possible.”
It also confirmed the park’s camping permit areas and campsites will remain closed until Monday 26 April.
Concerns have been raised over vandalism and littering in the countryside as people have been exploring locally during the pandemic.
Alex Hogg, chairman of Perthshire-based rural group Scottish Gamekeepers Association, called on MSPs during a protest last month to add the SOAC to the school curriculum in a bid to improve education about the countryside.
Many beauty spots have been blighted by visitors fly-tipping, causing fires and leaving litter in recent weeks.
Over Easter weekend, large groups were seen lighting fires at Coul Reservoir in Glenrothes and Stirling Council confirmed multiple incidents of verbal abuse and aggressive behaviour directed at staff working at Ben A’an and around Balmaha.
National Trust Volunteer Steve Burke also found abandoned tents littered with drugs and alcohol at the Barry Mill, a traditional water-powered oatmeal mill in Angus.
He said Scotland needs “emergency legislation” to tackle issues of vandalism and littering in the countryside otherwise “we are going to be in for one heck of a summer.”