Highland Council Bid for More Rangers

The council has already hired 10 rangers as part of its £1.5 million strategy to help mitigate the tourism pressures felt keenly by Highland communities last summer.

The access rangers are seen as a key part of visitor relations and communication, engaging with visitors about the Scottish Outdoor Access code, helping campers leave no trace, warning about open fires, encouraging visitors to take home their litter and park responsibly.

They can also issue fixed penalty notices, if appropriate. Working on solutions with communities and landowners is also an important part of their remit, along with establishing volunteer rangers to assist them during busy periods.

The first ten rangers are covering sections of Skye, West Lochaber, Caithness and Sutherland, Ross-shire, the Black Isle, Mid Ross and Nairn.

But recognising the need to fill in the gaps, the council is bidding into the NatureScot Better Places 2 fund for a further seven.

This is in conjunction with a number of community organisations including Skye Connect, Wester Ross Biosphere, Applecross Trust and Visit Inverness Loch Ness.

The council will receive a decision this coming Monday and outdoor access manager Phil Waite said the indications are good.

“The 17 posts will allow much wider distribution because I know some areas were feeling that they perhaps weren’t covered sufficiently, and hopefully that will be mitigated by these extra posts.

“They will be working in shift times, sometimes starting at 7am or finishing at 9pm so they catch and be able to speak to campers when they are setting up and taking down. “We’re working now on getting the equipment, uniform and vehicles for this team and hope they will be in place by May 3.”

The news was announced to the council’s tourism committee, but some councillors remained concerned about the lack of rangers in their area.

Dingwall councillor Margaret Paterson said: “Just because you’re not a strong tourist area, and I speak about my own area, you still have people lighting fires, leaving a mess, litter and there’s no-one there to clear it up, where people walk. Mr Waite said there will be a ranger around the Black Isle, Mid Ross and round the Beauly Firth.

“Whilst that isn’t as big an investment or as big a team as some of the other areas, at least it is an increase on what we already have and we will be able to cover a little bit more, with landowners and communities who are willing to help.” Caithness councillor Raymond Bremner said he noted a gap in coverage on a Caithness section of the NC500. “One ranger for the whole of Caithness and as far west as Tongue, how practical is that? I understand what you’re saying about engaging with volunteers but I’m not seeing the plan for that.”

Mr Waite said an extra ranger would be deployed in that area, if the bid for the extra posts is successful.

“Covering the Caithness area I was advised by staff in that area that the number of sites needing to be monitored in that area is very low compared to other areas.”

Meanwhile eagle-eyed Highlanders will have observed many more NC500 signs appearing on the roads. Highland Council completed signage of its own roads last autumn, and Transport Scotland is now filling in the rest, so the route will soon be fully signed.