Bad campers: Rubbish being left at Highlands beauty spot

Locals have complained about wild campers leaving rubbish bags and even human waste behind at the beauty spot.

Irresponsible campers have been leaving bags of rubbish and human waste at Glen Etive.

The beauty spot in the Highlands has welcomed wild campers for years, but locals have complained at the levels of waste left behind in recent weeks as lockdown lifts.

Scott McCombie, a senior ranger and estate manager for National Trust for Scotland, said he had been left staggered by some of the damage.

“There always has been an element of people who have camped badly but it seems to be more intense just now,” he said.

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“A combination of people stuck inside their house for the last three or four months with the Covid situation and everyone desperate to get back out into the countryside – but they are, or some of them, aren’t doing it too well.”

Scott is concerned about bags of rubbish, disposable barbecues and even human waste which has been left behind by some campers.

“It’s wilful damage, it’s not neglect,” he said.

“There is no litter here other than the remains of the fire but further down there is litter, and you see people wild camping up there and they do it within the outdoor access code, and they leave no trace and you don’t know they’ve been there the next day.

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“All of that is being put at risk by this element that is camping badly.”

While the area saw visitor numbers plummet due to coronavirus, they have suddenly soared as Scotland begins to ease itself out of lockdown.

Concerns were raised about the impact their return would have, with locals saying their fears have now been realised.

Local resident Helen Warboys said: “It is the few but it’s the few who get remembered, it’s the few who leave the human waste behind or the litter or the disposable barbeques. 

“There are a lot of good campers out there too, but it’s human nature to remember the bad. 

“In the last couple of weeks we’ve had people pulling up in lay bys, camping and dumping human waste, leaving their litter behind, piles of rubbish including plastic bottles and food waste.

“I’ve even had people leave whole tents and air mattresses behind.”

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Glen Etive isn’t the only area that has concerns about irresponsible campers.

The Cairngorms National Park Authority launched its campaign against so-called ‘Dirty Campers’ this week, saying irresponsible campers lighting fires and leaving rubbish put communities and the environment at risk. 

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Ministers are aware of a number of incidents of littering, anti-social behaviour and damage to our natural environment since lockdown restrictions began to ease and are clear that this behaviour is completely unacceptable, and disrespectful to local communities. 

“Littering and anti-social behaviour is unacceptable and it is always concerning to hear of damage caused by irresponsible campfires.

“Everyone should respect the countryside and take their litter home. Littering is a criminal offence. If you do litter you can be issued with a fixed penalty of £80 and, if prosecuted, be fined up to £2500.”

“Many are enjoying the opportunity to get outdoors after so many weeks spent close to home – and are doing so responsibly – but clearly a small minority of people are spoiling this for others, endangering themselves, nearby communities and our environment.”


Library book returned 37 years overdue to wrong place

Peter Bull’s To Sea in a Sieve was due back to Shetland Library on July 12, 1983.

Late: Bungay Community Library posted a picture of the book.

A Shetland Library book has been returned 37 years late to the wrong library 750 miles away.

Peter Bull’s To Sea in a Sieve was due back to the island library on July 12, 1983 – but was only returned on Friday to a library in Suffolk.

Bungay Community Library posted a picture on Twitter, asking whether the incident was fine-worthy.

Shetland Library joked that it was “a good job” it didn’t have overdue fines, and reminded readers that they can return their books to any of its branches on the isles.


Body found during mountain search for missing man

Police made the discovery on Ben Loyal while hunting for Stuart Campbell in Sutherland.

Missing: Stuart Campbell.

A body has been found on a mountain during the search for a missing man.

Police said the body was discovered on Ben Loyal, Sutherland, during searches for Stuart Campbell from Dornoch.

The 33-year-old was reported missing on July 27.

A Coastguard helicopter was involved in the recovery, which followed searches by Assynt Mountain Rescue Team.

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The body has not been formally identified but police have spoken to the family of Mr Campbell.

His red Suzuki Swift was found at a car park used by walkers accessing Ben Loyal.


Bonny baby: Newborn horse named after devoted volunteer

Three-month-old Bonny was named in tribute to Bonny Mealand who helped out with the herd at the wildlife park.

Baby foal: Bonny is three months old.

A three-month-old horse at the Highland Wildlife Park has been named following a public campaign. 

Bonny the foal was named in tribute to a woman called Bonny Mealand, who volunteered with the new arrival’s herd. 

While the park reopened last week, the wildlife conservation charity has struggled during the coronavirus pandemic and came up with the competition to encourage members of the public to donate in a bid to name the baby horse. 

Keith Gilchrist, animal collection manager at Highland Wildlife Park, said: “We had a lot of great suggestions and we’re so thankful to everyone who donated to our campaign.  

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“The name Bonny was chosen for two reasons. Firstly, because she is very bonny and secondly as a tribute to Bonny Mealand who volunteered a lot of her time helping the keepers train the herd to make things like microchipping and hoof care easier.”  

The Przewalski’s horse has been brought back from extinction in the wild following the success of rewilding and reintroduction projects, including in its native habitats in Mongolia. 

So the charity was delighted when mum Oyun gave birth in May, during the height of lockdown. 

Keith added: “Bonny is getting on really well and can be spotted trotting around the main reserve with the rest of the herd.

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“Her arrival represents a potentially important contribution to the future of this endangered species. 

“We’re all really excited about Bonny’s arrival and it is fantastic to be able to welcome visitors to meet her too.” 


Locals’ anger over waste left by North Coast 500 campers

The popularity of the Highland route has left a trail of litter and human waste.

A trail of human waste and litter has left locals and businesses on the North Coast 500 trail frustrated. 

Following a post-lockdown tourism spike, wild campers and those in campervans have been frequently spotted alongside the route, especially in north west Sutherland. 

While most of the visitors are courteous, the popularity of the area has left a trail of litter and human waste.

The popular Smoo Cave attraction at Durness risks becoming known as ‘poo cave’, due to the amount of human and dog faeces littering the place on a daily basis.

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The issue is particularly galling for local residents, as well maintained public toilets are open 24 hours a day.

Fraser Eadie of Smoo Cave Tours said: “Dog poo, that’s a favourite, with people leaving sachets of dog poo around. There’s human excrement as well.”

There is frustration that the village’s waste centre, which Highland Council closed because of the Coronavirus pandemic, will not reopen next week despite hoards of litter being left behind by visitors. 

Donald Campbell, Durness Community Council chairman, said: “How would they like it if someone just dumped their rubbish in their garden, in a town?

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“We’re very fragile here and we’re very concerned about the amount of tourists coming and we’re restricted in how we can handle it.”

Parking has become another issue for residents, with visitors blocking single-track roads and creating potentially serious hazards for emergency crews.

Hugh Morrison, a hotelier and Highland councillor for the area, said: “People have blocked narrow single-track roads with their vehicles which is a potentially serious hazard in the event of emergency crews needing access.

“We obviously welcome visitors but also urge them to be respectful.”

Dave McBain of Historic Assynt is angry that campers and motor-homers have pitched up within close range of sacred ruins Calda House and Ardvreck Castle, beside Loch Assynt.

It has led to the landowner digging a trench to deter vehicles, with new signs installed to get the message across.

Mr McBain said: “These are scheduled historic monuments and people are camping, people are defecating, people are driving their cars right under the eaves in the scheduled area.

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“And that is not a grey area, legally. That is black and white – it’s illegal to pitch up there.”

The five-year-old NC500 project has become a victim of its own success, drawing vast numbers of additional visitors to the north of Scotland.

It is estimated to have boosted Scotland’s economy by £23m last year alone.

However, the extra traffic has left many stretches of its fragile road network crumbling.

NC500 chairman Tom Campbell said: “One of the things to emerge from the pandemic is the critical importance of tourism.

“There absolutely has to be an equal investment in infrastructure but it’s not tourism infrastructure. It is infrastructure for our economy.”

Taxpayers fund the road repairs. Both Highland Council and the Scottish Government say they’re committed to improving things for everyone using the NC500.

A spokesman for the Scottish Government said that, in the wake of the pandemic, it had committed almost £330m extra funding for local governments, “of which Highland Council will receive their fair share”.

He added: “While Highland Council is responsible for maintaining their local road network, we have responsibility for just over 100 miles of the (516-mile) route.

“We are committed to working with councils to improve the condition of roads and to develop new ways of working to strengthen the overall approach to maintenance.”


Rescued seal pups make a splash for the first time

Dave, Frank, Peggy, Logan and Button enjoy their first swim at Hillswick Wildlife Sanctuary.

Staff at the Hillswick Wildlife Sanctuary are caring for common seal pups which were rescued in Shetland.

Dave, Frank, Peggy, Logan and Button have all been keeping well and the experts at the sanctuary decided it was time they had a swim in the big pool.

A staff member told STV News: “The pups are not quite ready to move outside full time, but we thought it would give them a boost to give their flippers a good exercise.

“At first they all took a lot of encouraging to go into the water – even seals are scared of the deep to begin with – but it didn’t take long before they were racing around and enjoying themselves.”

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They threw in a few fish pieces to encourage them, but only two of them were able to suck them up unaided.

“It was an absolute joy to see them whizzing about in their natural element and we hope it won’t be long before they move out of the seal unit and into the big pool properly.”


Photographer finally spots pod of orcas after nine-year wait

Norman Watson captured stunning images of the whales while mackerel fishing with his son.

An amateur photographer has managed to capture stunning images of whales in Shetland after a nine-year wait. 

Norman Watson, 48, spotted the pod of orcas while on a mackerel fishing trip with his son.

He visited his son Sebastian after six-months of social isolation when he heard an Orca had been spotted near Meal Beach.

Mr Watson, a draughtsman from Aberdeen, said: “I was visiting my son Sebastian after the lockdown was eased. It had been six months since I saw him last.

Mr Waston’s nine-year long dream was to capture the creatures on camera.
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“I heard that Orca had been spotted heading north on the west side of shetland so took my chances and headed there as it’s close to where my son lives.

“One of his friend’s fathers, Andrew Brown, had arranged to take us out on his boat to do some mackerel fishing and the Orca were passing at just the right time.

‘I had been hoping to see the Orca for about nine years in Shetland, but never got lucky until that day.’

Norman Watson

“They were hunting seals, which was apparent when we came across them. They were trying to scare the seals off the rocks.

“I had been hoping to see the Orca for about nine years in Shetland, but never got lucky until that day. It was one of the best wildlife spectacles I’d witnessed and I’ve seen a few things now.

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“Orca are one of the oceans largest predators and are so intelligent. There are records of them hunting great white sharks, so they are true apex predators.

“Also no humans have been killed by wild whales, where in captivity, it’s happened on a few occasions. Top mammal.”


Schoolgirl gears up for 250-mile cycle in memory of grandad

Thirteen-year-old Isla Easto will take four days to complete the epic coast-to-coast challenge.

Family: Isla Easto will take on the challenge in memory of her grandad, Kenneth.

A 13-year-old girl is gearing up for an epic cycle in honour of her grandad who died from cancer during lockdown.

Isla Easto will pedal almost 250 miles from Ardnamurchan Point in the Highlands to Cruden Bay in Aberdeenshire in the four-day coast-to-coast ride.

The teenager has already surpassed her £4000 goal for Macmillan Cancer Support in memory of Kenneth Easto, 78, who died of lymphoma at the end of March. 

Challenge: The teen will cycle coast-to-coast.

Isla, from Newtonmore in the Highlands, said: “I wanted to do something to honour my grandad’s memory and to thank Macmillan Cancer Support for all the help they gave him and my family at a very difficult time. 

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“I’m doing this for my grandad, but also for anyone who’s life has been affected by cancer.”

The teenager, who leaves on Wednesday, will be accompanied on the challenge by her dad, Paul, who is a keen triathlete.

Mum Susie and younger brother Euan will be spurring them on in the support vehicle. 

Support: Isla will be joined on the ride by her dad, Paul.

The teen said: “The first day we are cycling Ardnamurchan Point to Fort William. 

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“The second day is from Fort William to Newtonmore, my home village, and then the third day will be to Ballater, probably the most strenuous part of the challenge because a lot of it is uphill.  

“Our last day is the Saturday, and we’ll finish up cycling the stretch from Ballater to Cruden Bay. 

“I’ve never done this route before so I’m quite excited about that, I’ve been doing a bit of training for it.  

“I have done 100km rides before but never consistently so that’s going to be tough, but I am really looking forward to it.”

Angela McCormack, Macmillan’s area fundraising manager in Scotland, said the charity is behind the teen “all the way”.

She added: “What a fantastic challenge and what an inspiration Isla is. 

“It’s a lovely thing to do to honour her grandad’s memory. Thank you so much, Isla, for raising money for us during a time when we most need it.  

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“All of us at Macmillan have our fingers crossed the sun will come out across the Highlands for your challenge.”


Teens rescued after inflatable doughnut drifts out to sea

A member of the rescue crew called the teenagers 'incredibly lucky'.

Helicopter: Teenagers rescued in Moray Firth.

Two teenagers had to be rescued after drifting out to sea on an inflatable doughnut.

The pair were airlifted to safety by a coastguard rescue helicopter after getting stuck the Moray Firth on Saturday.

The incident took place just off the coast of Ardersier near Inverness at around 5pm.

A member of the lifeboat crew involved in the rescue said the teenagers were “incredibly lucky”.

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He also said the incident highlights the dangers of using pool inflatables in the sea.

A walker called 999 after spotting the teenagers drifting out to sea.

Coastguard search and rescue helicopter 948 was sent to the scene and the teenagers were winched aboard before being flown to shore and handed over to the Scottish Ambulance Service.

The Kessock lifeboat was also called out and recovered the inflatable.

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The crew believes the teenagers entered the water around the golf course and drifted out to sea, possibly pulled out by the receding tide.

Lifeboat volunteer crew member Douglas Munro said on Sunday: “Yesterday’s rescue highlights the dangers of using inflatables at the beach.

“The teenagers were incredibly lucky to have been spotted by a walker on the beach who witnessed them drifting out to sea.

“The walker reacted quickly dialling 999 and the coastguard requested.

“A swift response by CG R948, local CG teams and Kessock lifeboat prevented what could have been a very different outcome.”

The lifeboat crew warned that “inflatables are not appropriate flotation devices and should only be used at the beach with extreme caution, and ideally kept for the pool”


Leads warning as blind dog dies after falling off cliff

The owners raised the alarm when the pet went over the edge at Birsay, Orkney, on Saturday night.

Cliffs at Birsay, Orkney. Owen Robertson (CC BY 2.0)

A warning to keep pets on leads has been issued after a blind dog died falling off a cliff in Orkney.

The owners raised the alarm when the pet went over the edge at Birsay at around 9pm on Saturday.

The Stromness lifeboat was called out along with the Kirkwall and Stromness coastguard rescue teams.

A Coastguard spokeswoman said: “They were sent out to stop the owners from going over themselves to try and rescue it.

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“Unfortunately the dog had gone straight into the water and had died.

“There’s a safety note for owners walking their dogs on cliffs to keep them on leads.”

The rescuers were unable to recover the dog’s body.

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