Campervan conflict? Not in Tiree

Campervan conflict? Not in Tiree

With an ever-growing number of Britons choosing to holiday in the UK, campervans and motorhomes have become much more popular, providing, as they do, a balance between freedom and home comforts. But in Scotland, in particular, the sheer number of large vehicles visiting popular rural areas has become a seasonal problem for some communities. Last summer, issues with inappropriate parking and waste management reached crisis point, causing local frustration and negative newspaper stories.

Calmac, which runs ferries to the Hebrides, reports that annual motorhome crossings have risen from 16,507 in 2015 to 56,420 in 2021. The story is similar in the Highlands – Gordon Petrie from Scottish Campervan Rentals in Crieff, tells of an overwhelming increase in inquiries.

Many visitors do not understand that Scotland’s wild camping rules don’t apply to motor vehicles, which causes additional problems. So, as campervan numbers climb, many Scottish communities are looking for ways to make their tourist season more sustainable. One successful model is on the Hebridean island of Tiree.

Tiree was suffering from uncontrolled campervan arrivals long before this latest surge in popularity, and the community took uncompromising action in 2010. Visiting camping vehicles must now book an overnight pitch in advance, which will be checked by a ranger on arrival. To facilitate this, Tiree’s Croft Camping scheme allows individual crofters to allocate an unserviced piece of land and host a maximum of three vehicles. There are nine sites on the island, with pitches costing £12 a night and water and waste facilities in the island’s main village of Scarinish. There is also a traditional campsite at Balinoe.

Tiree ranger Hayley Douglas says: “The scheme was introduced to ease pressure on Tiree’s fragile environment, and reduce conflict over inappropriate access. Our machair and sand dune habitat is unique, hosting protected rare species. Additionally, some crofting land is unfenced. Previously, visitors were driving on to folk’s crofts and damaging their grazing, as well as our protected areas.”

This is an excerpt from an article by Katie Featherstone, originally published by The Guardian.

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