Pitch perfect: how to camp responsibly as Scotland opens up after lockdown
Mountains of rubbish, human waste, trashed forests, blocked roads and out-of-control fires are just some of the unpleasant side effects seen as a result of a major jump in the number of people camping and caravanning around Scotland as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
But Professor Peter Higgins, a keen camper and personal chair in outdoor environmental and sustainability education at the University of Edinburgh, says it doesn’t have to be this way.
He believes camping, caravanning and campervanning offer great ways to enjoy a break in Scotland.
“It gives a sense of adventure," he said.
“It is relatively accessible in terms of cost for many more people than hotel or B&B accommodation and overseas travel.
“It can be loads of fun and – as long as the places aren’t too busy – it can be very flexible, meaning you can visit lots of different places.”
But before packing your bags and hitting the road this weekend or in the coming weeks, he suggests everyone should take heed of a few simple guidelines.
“And remember, the first thing to bear in mind is that people do live in places many might consider remote,” he said.
“It isn’t remote if you live there. So think about these communities.”
Read and follow advice in the Scottish Outdoor Access Code. Use campsites where possible. Find out as much as you can about the areas you are visiting – the landscape, wildlife, people, culture, history and language. It’s a great opportunity to get to know your country better. Check out the weather patterns for the areas you plan to visit. Parts of Scotland can be pretty wet and windy, which is great if you like wild conditions but off-putting for some, and if you don't know much about midges then you are strongly advised to find out. Be sure you can reverse your vehicle competently, especially if you are driving a large motorhome or towing a caravan or trailer. Use local shops to buy food and fuel wherever possible. It may be a little more expensive to stock up in rural locations than in city superstores, but the difference is tiny compared to the cost of travelling and accommodation in campsites. Be as flexible as you can about where you go – some areas will be much busier than others. Consider out of season holidays – places will be much less busy and you can help support the economy over a longer period.
Light fires where where they can damage sensitive habitats, especially peatlands, forests and the like. Better to stick to firepits provided at campsites and sites below the low-water mark on beaches. Leave behind litter – not just because it is unsightly, but because it can cause damage to landscapes and injure wildlife, pets and farm livestock. Disturb nature – especially breeding birds, which can be particularly badly affected by dogs let off their leads. Drive or park vehicles on sensitive habitats such as machair or even roadside verges, and don’t park in passing places or blocking roads.