Calls for careful camping to respect people and landscapes as Scotland opens up after lockdown
The excitement is palpable as easing of Covid lockdown restrictions means people are finally allowed to leave home and explore further afield.
This new-found freedom is expected to spark a major surge in home-grown tourists taking staycations around Scotland to enjoy fresh air and a change of scene.
But fears have been raised over the impact on rural communities and the countryside after a major problem with ‘dirty camping’ last year.
Dreadful scenes were witnessed after irresponsible holidaymakers pitched up in laybys, blocking roads, lit dangerous fires and left many of Scotland’s most popular beauty spots damaged and strewn with human waste and rubbish.
Now a Scottish campervan firm and a leading academic have joined forces to urge people to act responsibly ahead of the May long weekend and as summer approaches.
Professor Peter Higgins, a keen camper and adventurer, is personal chair in outdoor environmental and sustainability education at the University of Edinburgh.
He acknowledges the issues but believes it’s possible to encourage camping whilst also caring for residents and landscapes in rural areas.
“We know there were lots of problems last year but lots of people had good holidays they were desperate for,” he said.
“It will be the same this year too.
“We need to be as prepared as we can be to both manage the pressure and help people to benefit as much as possible from their experiences.
"For me, whilst I am concerned about the potential problems of too much pressure on sensitive environments, rural communities and such like, I think there are great benefits if these issues can be managed.”
He is a strong advocate of camping as a way of destressing and truly getting away from it all.
“It feels like, and often is, an adventure,” he said
“We need more of that in our lives.
“And it is good for you – there is strong scientific evidence for the benefits to our health and well-being of spending time outdoors, particularly in green spaces and near water.
“This is true for all of us but particularly so for children in terms of development.
“And from a sustainability perspective, staycationing means less flights – and that reduces our negative impact on the climate.”
He says anyone heading off their own expedition should plan ahead and think about how their behaviour affects the people and places they visit.
The team at Jerba Campervans, based at North Berwick in East Lothian, has echoed the need for consideration when pitching up.
Some of the key problems relate to poor toileting and waste disposal, lighting fires in the wrong places, which can damage sensitive habitats and risk spreading out of control, and pitching up in unsuitable locations.
But if done properly, Professor Higgins says camping and campervanning holidays can be one of the best ways to explore Scotland.
“That sense of adventure is really important to me, and freedom – especially when walking, canoeing and cycling,” he said.
“I feel better for being in the places I chose to camp, and I feel better when I come back.
“I even feel better just knowing I am going to be in those places.
“I like the way camping simplifies life.
“You focus on the basics, what you really need to support yourself – shelter, food, water and maybe company.”