When I was a kid at school in Glasgow, I was considered unusual in that I spent my summer vacation in the Highlands in my father’s home village while most of my friends went to Blackpool, Morecambe, or the nearby resorts of Saltcoats or North Berwick.

Another boy who lived across the street was thought to be even stranger: he was vacationing with his grandparents in North Uist, a country few in central Scotland had heard of at the time.

Campbell Gunn.

I would spend lovely vacation hours fishing from the pier or in the mountain hills behind the village, swimming in the bay, or waiting for fishing boats to arrive – the only busy time of the day. A few decades later, this sleepy village has been transformed, and hordes of tourists emerge from buses, cars, and trains and choke the narrow streets.

It is of course not a problem reserved for the Highlands. It affects practically all of modern Scotland. When I worked in Edinburgh I dreaded midsummer when it was almost impossible to walk the city center streets on my way to work as many tourists blocked the sidewalks and took selfies in front of the castle. the Scott Monument, Greyfriars Bobby or one of the dozen other must-see attractions in our capital.

Of course, the last few months have been different as no one was allowed to travel due to Covid restrictions and it can take some time before normal life is resumed. But I’m worried about what will happen at this point and the likelihood that stays will become the norm.

Outdated TV stereotypes

Last week I saw three programs on TV that might have passed me by in normal, non-covid times. All featured “personalities”, in these particular cases Julie Walters, Michael Portillo and Bill Nighy, traveling by train to the West Highlands, extolling the beauty of the lines and the unspoiled nature of the Highlands. Needless to say, there were references to Rob Roy, Bonnie Prince Charlie, and Harry Potter, with Julie Walters cooing about highland cattle and Bill Nighy about sheep. In another program, the Hairy Bikers cooked brown trout caught in Loch Assynt. This romanticized vision of Scotland, which also aired on prime-time television with the drone version of Edinburgh’s Hogmanay in 2021, isn’t just being trite. it also seems oddly out of date. Unrealistic.

Now I know how important tourism is for high agriculture. But isn’t there a possibility that we might kill the goose who laid the golden egg with hypertourism? Before the lockdown, we heard stories from virtual standstill in the Fairy Pools on Skye, Parking lots in Glencoe filled to capacity, complaints about parking at rest stops and Lack of facilities on the north coast 500and last Uncontrolled wild camping and parking on the single lane road through Glen Etive, all encouraged by unrealistic television documentaries along with dramas like Harry Potter and Outlander.

This romanticized view of the highlands and islands creates other problems, particularly in relation to casing. In many highland villages today, up to half of the houses are second homes or holiday homes. At one point it should be 80 percent. This is a big problem for young people as it is practically impossible to find accommodation as they are regularly outbid by property seekers.

No place to get away

When the travel ban is finally gradually eased, I worry that the pent-up demand for a proper vacation will flood the Highlands. I can see those in the tourism industry who have struggled so hard over the past year will be delighted with the view. But what about the rest of the Highland population? Not everyone makes a living from the tourist dollar, and they won’t like the vision of even more traffic on unsuitable narrow or single lane roads and tents and RVs parked overnight in places with no facilities. However, I fear that any attempt to limit the increase in tourism in the highlands is likely to fail, even if we agree that it is necessary.

I’m just worried that a time will come when the experience visitors to the Highlands are looking for – peace and quiet, space, “getting away from it all” – doesn’t do justice to reality and results in hypertourism in a collapse of the world Branch. And with it the destruction of our unique natural landscape.

Campbell Gunn is a retired political editor who has served as special adviser to two Scottish First Ministers