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Orkney campsites

Martyn Howe

Martyn Howe

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I notice the main Kirkwall campsite is closed for the season in Orkney and my friends are struggling to book campsites in Scotland. How far do you have to go?


Explore the outer reaches and catch a ferry or two?

What are the experiences of other Cali owners, exploring the far north?
 
Herman

Herman

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If you are thinking of visiting the north of Scotland, my advice would be, don’t.
There are very few places to eat that are opening normally, also very few campsites. There are no public toilets open and many of the lay-bys that are being used by ”wild campers” have become minefields of human excrement, as have the accessible off-road areas. Remember too that wild camping was intended for hikers needing somewhere to pitch a tent overnight before moving on; not for mobile homes caravans or campervans to holiday without paying to use a commercial campsite.
With more people staycating the highlands are decidedly busy at the moment and definitely not a pleasant place to be.
 
kp64zl

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I would second @Herman

However, for future reference: We stayed here a couple of years ago - in the hostel rather than the camping. A lovely spot.

 
RonB

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I would agree with both responses above, fewer campsites are open, and some that are do not have toilet/shower blocks open (this includes C&CC sites as well). In general, facilities are closed or are thin on the ground. The notorious NC500 route is experiencing everything from idiots camping in cemeteries to fences being used as firewood, plus the inevitable toilet mess chaos. Although local hospitality businesses are desperate, many locals quite correctly are objecting to the anarchic behaviour of many tourists who appear to have little sympathy for them or the environment. These remote places have had very low rates of Covid infection. There was previously very restricted travel to islands allowed via ferries and medical facilities (hospitals, ambulances, ventilators, etc,) can be very distant for the remote communities they serve. Now is not really the right time to visit!
 
flying banana

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the people of scotland clearly don't want your money or business. go elsewhere. try a much warmer Yorkshire welcome in the dales. less midges too
 
J

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Having had many trips to the Western Isles and one to Orkney and Shetland I think this may not be the best year for a first trip. A lot of the facilities are still closed or closed for the season and there are some areas where there is a minority anti-visitor vibe due to the scandalous behaviour of a new range of visitor. This is really sad for the businesses who have opened and are welcoming people.
 
Digger

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the people of scotland clearly don't want your money or business. go elsewhere. try a much warmer Yorkshire welcome in the dales. less midges too
The problem is lack of facilities and to be frank morons who have no regard for the environment. The forest at Borgie has motorhomes emptying their toilets and the harbour at Skerray has been swamped by campervans. This is just some examples of the issue along the north coast and there are many more complaints. Too many have rushed up here without thought or planning resulting in the NC500 becoming overwhelmed. No one wants to stop campervans but the area can only accommodate so many and as previously mentioned some were parking at cemetery's and other inappropriate places mentioned on park4night and other apps. Local MSP is out to introduce controls and if local people have their say it might just happen regretfully. Some have to learn the meaning of stealth.
 
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L

Lightning

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It’s also a shame that some people are using Covid to push their own agenda for permanent changes with respect to wild camping in vans. I imagine the morons are a very small minority, yet it’s convenient to use them as an excuse. Why not open the public toilets and long term introduce facilities such as Aires on the NC500 etc. to accommodate the visitors rather than banning them?

At the moment you can legitimately park and sleep anywhere on the highway. They already tried and failed to ban wild camping without a permit in Loch Lomond. As long as you are not behaving like a moron their should be no problem with this for anybody to complain about.

It’s inevitable that places get overwhelmed as each ban increases the density of the visitors elsewhere, in a positive feedback loop. At the moment Cornwall, the Lake District and Wales are moving vans on. They are not concerned about the wider impact of this Nimbyism.

I am in a large seaside town in France where they apparently have a total ban on parking for all motorhomes over 2m anywhere. It is not sign posted as far as I can tell, so you only find out when you get a parking ticket, if you find a space without a height barrier. This is fine here as they provide Aires as an alternative.
 
Digger

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It’s also a shame that some people are using Covid to push their own agenda for permanent changes with respect to wild camping in vans. I imagine the morons are a very small minority, yet it’s convenient to use them as an excuse. Why not open the public toilets and long term introduce facilities such as Aires on the NC500 etc. to accommodate the visitors rather than banning them?

At the moment you can legitimately park and sleep anywhere on the highway. They already tried and failed to ban wild camping without a permit in Loch Lomond. As long as you are not behaving like a moron their should be no problem with this for anybody to complain about.

It’s inevitable that places get overwhelmed as each ban increases the density of the visitors elsewhere, in a positive feedback loop. At the moment Cornwall, the Lake District and Wales are moving vans on. They are not concerned about the wider impact of this Nimbyism.

I am in a large seaside town in France where they apparently have a total ban on parking for all motorhomes over 2m anywhere. It is not sign posted as far as I can tell, so you only find out when you get a parking ticket, if you find a space without a height barrier. This is fine here as they provide Aires as an alternative.
Actually wrong. They are still enforcing the restriction within the Lomond national park. As for the NC500 much is single track and the adjacent land privately owned so no legal parking without permission. The local authority has no money for road repairs let alone other facilities so there is no easy answer. We might just have to accept we will have to pay if we want better facilities. And it is not nimbyism!
 
L

Lightning

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Actually wrong. They are still enforcing the restriction within the Lomond national park. As for the NC500 much is single track and the adjacent land privately owned so no legal parking without permission. The local authority has no money for road repairs let alone other facilities so there is no easy answer. We might just have to accept we will have to pay if we want better facilities. And it is not nimbyism!
My understanding from a research report I posted previously, is that they are unable to enforce the permit scheme, as the ban conflicts with the highways act, although the permit scheme which was very expensive to introduce is still active. In my view it is at least in part Nimbyism. Happy for visitors to stay on sites in the area, not happy for them not to.
 
L

Lightning

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Actually wrong. They are still enforcing the restriction within the Lomond national park. As for the NC500 much is single track and the adjacent land privately owned so no legal parking without permission. The local authority has no money for road repairs let alone other facilities so there is no easy answer. We might just have to accept we will have to pay if we want better facilities. And it is not nimbyism!
Also, I have done the NC500, and I never use sites. It’s 500 miles long, there were plenty of places to park. The only place I have been where it was truly ridiculous is Skye. The amount of visitors at each hotspot is completely ruining the place. I imagine this is what Venice must be like with boats.
 
Herman

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Let’s lighten this up.
last year, my neighbour was forced off a bit of single- track NC500 near Lochinver by a speeding Porche that screeched to a halt; the driver then walked back and tried to tell him that the road was one-way. He hadn’t understood the signs saying that it was single track - he probably thought that the passing places were to allow overtaking!
 
barry

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Let’s lighten this up.
last year, my neighbour was forced off a bit of single- track NC500 near Lochinver by a speeding Porche that screeched to a halt; the driver then walked back and tried to tell him that the road was one-way. He hadn’t understood the signs saying that it was single track - he probably thought that the passing places were to allow overtaking!
I take the point ...
But many of the northern single track roads have large official and legal signs asking for slower moving vehicles to pull into passing places if a much faster moving vehicle comes up behind them so it can pass. It/they recognises that slower moving vehicles are often wandering tourists admiring the views whereas faster moving guys are local going about their daily business (and know the road very well).
 
Martyn Howe

Martyn Howe

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I much prefer just driving up the M6/A1 and turning up at sites on the night, to keep things flexible, but this isn't going to work this year. I am not a campervan wild camper usually, only doing that when necessary or where I am so remote that it doesn't upset the locals. I AM a long-distance walking/cycling wild camper, particularly in Scotland and follow the usual LNT (leave no trace) philosophy. Local bye-laws are enacted in areas where "fly camping" has been a problem (Loch Lomond) to ban wild camping.

I have booked a couple of sites and have spoken to the owners/managers to make sure we are welcome. I intend to drive directly to these sites and keep stopping to a minimum. The Pickaquoy site on Orkney is the islands camping hub and remains closed for 2020. Shetland's "bods" are closed and I read this morning that a major hotel near Brae (Shetland) has been destroyed by fire, placing greater demands on accommodation.

Even before the pandemic, the NC500 was under huge pressure for campsites. Peak demand far exceeds supply. I can remember touring in the Highlands and Islands 20-30 years ago when there were hardly any campsites, but with increased popularity and unusual demand from staycation travelling, this is going to be a difficult year.
 
L

Lightning

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I much prefer just driving up the M6/A1 and turning up at sites on the night, to keep things flexible, but this isn't going to work this year. I am not a campervan wild camper usually, only doing that when necessary or where I am so remote that it doesn't upset the locals. I AM a long-distance walking/cycling wild camper, particularly in Scotland and follow the usual LNT (leave no trace) philosophy. Local bye-laws are enacted in areas where "fly camping" has been a problem (Loch Lomond) to ban wild camping.

I have booked a couple of sites and have spoken to the owners/managers to make sure we are welcome. I intend to drive directly to these sites and keep stopping to a minimum. The Pickaquoy site on Orkney is the islands camping hub and remains closed for 2020. Shetland's "bods" are closed and I read this morning that a major hotel near Brae (Shetland) has been destroyed by fire, placing greater demands on accommodation.

Even before the pandemic, the NC500 was under huge pressure for campsites. Peak demand far exceeds supply. I can remember touring in the Highlands and Islands 20-30 years ago when there were hardly any campsites, but with increased popularity and unusual demand from staycation travelling, this is going to be a difficult year.
It’s interesting that when you do it, it is called wild camping, yet when other people do exactly the same thing it becomes fly camping.
They promote the NC500 without investing in the infrastructure, and then react with bans and hostility rather than investing in the area when it becomes too successful.
 
WelshGas

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It’s interesting that when you do it, it is called wild camping, yet when other people do exactly the same thing it becomes fly camping.
They promote the NC500 without investing in the infrastructure, and then react with bans and hostility rather than investing in the area when it becomes too successful.
Disagree. According to news reports a very apt description.
Wild camping - you camp, you leave and all that's left behind is some flattened grass +/- tyre tracks.

Fly camping you camp, you leave and all that's left behind is some flattened grass, a fire pit, disposable barbecue, rubbish bags, excrement, etc: etc.
 
L

Lightning

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Disagree. According to news reports a very apt description.
Wild camping - you camp, you leave and all that's left behind is some flattened grass +/- tyre tracks.

Fly camping you camp, you leave and all that's left behind is some flattened grass, a fire pit, disposable barbecue, rubbish bags, excrement, etc: etc.
There are morons in every walk of life.
Using the behaviour of them to define the policy for everybody is simplistic, as is using pejorative terms to encompass a mostly fantastic and almost universally positive activity. The vast majority of people leave no trace, and bury their waste. Some don’t, probably teenagers.
Some pedestrians drop litter at the seaside, and leave the public toilets in a horrendous condition. Trips to the seaside should therefore be banned accordingly.
 
Amarillo

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A cyclist wild camping on the foreshore here had a lucky escape. Halfway between spring and neap tides, the high tide at 06:09 this morning must have been just inches from inundating his tent. Yesterday with an onshore gale he’d have been under six inches of water.

By 9am we could not even see where he’d pitched his tent.
 
WelshGas

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There are morons in every walk of life.
Using the behaviour of them to define the policy for everybody is simplistic, as is using pejorative terms to encompass a mostly fantastic and almost universally positive activity. The vast majority of people leave no trace, and bury their waste. Some don’t, probably teenagers.
Some pedestrians drop litter at the seaside, and leave the public toilets in a horrendous condition. Trips to the seaside should therefore be banned accordingly.
Ah yes, Teenagers.. The generation that bunked off school to demonstrate against us oldies who are responsible for damaging the environment and climate change.
 
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