Residents and business owners in Highland Perthshire faced blocked roads, visitors breaking into car parks and 40-foot party marquees as 400 wild campers flooded the area this weekend.
What Perth and Kinross Council are now labelling “dirty camping” has blighted the region for years, but has come to a head this summer as lockdown restrictions have eased.
Repeated cases of abandoned camping equipment, trees being chopped down and fires left raging at lochsides have worried people who live around the water.
There are still no toilet or water facilities in the Loch Tummel area, but that didn’t stop more than 100 carloads of campers arriving at the lochside on Friday night, blocking the main road and filling every lay-by and field entrance along the way.
Authorities shut off the main road to Ben Lawers at one point on Saturday and namesake hotel boss Paul Goodwin says he had put a barrier blocking the entrance to his Loch Tay venue, but campers had removed it and filled the grounds with 26 cars and more lining the main road.
He said: “It’s been horrendous. There were cars parked everywhere.
“We barriered the car park off for safety but it was moved and they filled it, and more parked along the A827. For anybody wanting to get past, they’d need to have two wheels up on the verge.
“We saw four or five near misses. There was no consideration.”
Minibuses and taxis were also seen dropping people off as others set up pool tables and marquees along the lochside.
Jennifer Macintyre of Foss Home Farm on the banks of Loch Tummel says some tourists asked to launch their boat from her garden, as all the access points to the waterside were blocked.
She said: “Every weekend it seems to get worse. There are still no facilities.
“I had a vehicle carrying a fishing boat come into our courtyard and asked if they could launch from there. We said absolutely not.
“Last weekend it was 50/50 with responsible campers and fishermen and young party groups. This weekend it was mainly young groups.
“We didn’t feel like we could safely take our children out, which is why we moved to the countryside.
“I think the whole area should be made into a national park and given an appropriate number of rangers.”
Two firefighters from Kinloch Rannoch station say they spoke with around 400 campers in the Rannoch, Tummel and Struan area over the weekend, giving advice on how to act responsibly.
Police also explained that they may need to uplift vehicles that are left in a dangerous position causing a risk to other road users.
A spokesperson said: “All drivers are urged to park considerately and safely at all times, ensuring that their vehicle does not cause an obstruction when left unattended or put other road users at risk.
“We recognise that people have made significant sacrifices recently but we would ask people to use their judgement and avoid places which are busy to prevent beauty spots such as this from becoming over-crowded.”
Highland ward councillor Mike Williamson added: “This was the first weekend that police, SFRS and council officers will have worked together and had an increased presence in some of the ‘hotspots’.
“I am sure that there will have been some valuable lessons learned from this weekend which can be taken forward so that we all safely and responsibly enjoy our beautiful countryside.”