Highlands Set for Network of Motorhome Stopovers

Licensing rules have been temporarily relaxed in the Highland Council area to allow landowners to offer continental-style motorhome stopovers.

The council said interest in campervanning had “intensified”, with people seeking self-contained staycations amid the Covid pandemic.

But there are not enough overnight stops to meet the demand. Highland Council hopes to set up a network of sites offering basic essential services such waste disposal. It has offered information to landowners and communities on how to get involved.

 Highland Council’s idea is based on continental Europe’s long-established Aires network. Many of the motorhome sites are provided free of charge, while others can be used for a small fee. In the Highlands, the overnight stops will be called Àirigh – the Gaelic word for shieling, which is a rough shelter traditionally used by shepherds while tending flocks at summer pastures.

Highland Council first proposed the network last November after issues with “dirty camping” in the Cairngorms, and communities on the Sutherland coast being “swamped” by post-lockdown visitors in the summer. Problems included littering and campervan chemical toilets being emptied in lay-bys. Some communities have raised concerns about a repeat of these issues over the recent May bank holiday weekend.

Tourism committee chairman Gordon Adam said: “The Scottish government’s ongoing commitment to a temporary relaxation of planning controls allows Highland Council to consider temporary use of appropriate locations for overnight stops in motorhomes without formal planning permission. “To mitigate some of the problems experienced in the summer of 2020, temporary Àirigh will offer a safe, off-road location for motorhomes to park for the night and help alleviate parking problems experienced in rural areas.”