Controversial Loch Lomond camping ban comes into effect
A controversial ban on wild camping on the shores of Loch Lomond could stop people visiting one of the most popular and picturesque parts of Scotland, it has been warned.
New by-laws to restrict camping in parts of the Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park are aimed at cracking down on anti-social behaviour.
But outdoors groups have criticised the legislation, which they say undermines Scotland’s access rights, imposes charges for camping in previously free areas and will discourage people from visiting the area.
The legislation, which will be enforced between 1 March and the end of September, covers the western shores of Loch Lomond, as well as several of the Trossachs lochs and the northern tip of Loch Long. The National Park authority says the aim of the by-laws is to protect these “precious locations” and secure them for the future. More than 300 camping and motorhome permits will be available for the areas covered by the by-laws.
But Ramblers Scotland say national park management should have tackled any issues with over-use and anti-social behaviour by investing in low-cost campsites and enforcing existing laws. And they insist that the number of pitches being offered won’t be enough to meet demand.
Brendan Paddy, director of Ramblers Scotland, said: “We’re disappointed that the park is going ahead with this plan. It undermines Scottish access rights by providing too few tent pitches to cope with demand and by charging to camp in previously-free areas. Campers often won’t get any toilets, drinking water or bins in return – and we fear the hassle, cost and insufficient number of permits may put people off visiting this wonderful area.”
He said the organisation supported the park’s plan to provide more camping infrastructure, including toilets, bins etc. But their planned provision of about 300 camping spaces doesn’t meet levels of demand from before the by-laws – when up to 800 tents were recorded on busy weekends.
The National Park Authority said previous camping by-laws spanning the eastern shores of Loch Lomond had helped to bring about a significant reduction in anti-social behaviour.
Chief executive Gordon Watson, insisted that all kinds of camping were still welcome in the park. He said: “Camping is one of the best ways to get out and enjoy the stunning surroundings we have in the National Park and there is every kind of camping experience on offer here.
“The new by-laws do not change that. Whether you’re an experienced camper, coming on your own or with your friends and family, there is still a wide choice of places to camp in the National Park. To support this we have opened a new campsite in the Trossachs at Loch Chon and are promoting some excellent locations to ‘wild camp’ with a permit.
“Our focus just now is on making everyone coming to camp in the Park fully aware of how the by-laws work and of all the camping options available to them.”
Permits to camp within the restricted area cost £3 per tent, motorhome or campervan a night and can be booked online up to eight weeks in advance. The new campsite at Loch Chon costs £7 per adult per night, with under 16s going free. Costs at other privately-run campsites vary.
In addition to the many privately-run campsites throughout the National Park, there are low-cost, informal campsites with bookable pitches, parking, fresh water and toilets at Loch Chon, and Loch Lubnaig in the Trossachs. There is also Forestry Enterprise Scotland’s campsite at Sallochy on East Loch Lomond.
The by-laws also cover campfires. Fires must be kept small and under control, and you must bring your own firewood. Chopping trees for firewood is a breach of the legislation.
The Camping Management Zones are focused around the National Park’s busiest lochshore locations which attract very high numbers of campers every year.
Mr Watson said: “The aim of the by-laws is to protect these precious locations and make sure everyone can enjoy them now and in the future. Given the dramatic transformation seen on East Loch Lomond since by-laws were introduced there in 2011, we are confident we will see improvements with more responsible behaviour and less damage to the environment.”
In the most extreme cases of those who refuse to comply with the by-laws, a report could be sent to the Procurator Fiscal who could impose a potential fine of up to £500. Any criminal record would be imposed at the court’s discretion.
• For further information about camping in the National Park, including the by-laws, detailed maps of the Camping Management Zones and the booking system for camping permits click here
• Ramblers Scotland’s guide to camping in the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park can be found here