Glen Lyon looking towards Meall Garbh and Càrn Gorm. Photo: Gordon Hatton CC-BY-SA-2.0

Glen Lyon looking towards Meall Garbh and Càrn Gorm. Photo: Gordon Hatton CC-BY-SA-2.0

Mountaineers are appealing to a Scottish Government minister to intervene in a dispute between hillwalkers and a Highland estate.

The Mountaineering Council of Scotland said the North Chesthill Estate in Glen Lyon is flouting access laws.

The council said walkers have faced locked gates, intimidating signs and abusive behaviour for several years when venturing on to the estate, near Invervar.

It has now contacted John Swinney, MSP for Perthshire North, and Holyrood finance secretary, after it said the local council had given up the fight with the sporting estate.

It said: “Reports of problems have been made over a number of years to the access officer for Perth and Kinross Council, but the issue has still not been resolved.”

There are four munros on the land: Càrn Mairg, Meall Garbh, Meall nan Aighean and Càrn Gorm, but the MCofS said a gate at the starting point for the walk is regularly locked and signs imply that access of forbidden.

David Gibson: 'estate is closed to access'

David Gibson: 'estate is closed to access'

In his letter to Mr Swinney, David Gibson, MCofS chief officer, said: “The North Chesthill Estate has been restricting the statutory right of access for many years.

“There has been a considerable amount of time spent by several organisations in endeavouring to solve the issue of locked gates, intimidatory signs and abusive behaviour, but this still continues.

“Perth and Kinross Council, the Perth and Kinross Local Access Forum, Ramblers Scotland and the Mountaineering Council of Scotland have all been involved in discussions with the owner but he still continues to lock gates and erect signs stating ‘Deer management in progress – please walk elsewhere.

“The locked gates and signs effectively close the whole estate to access.”

“There have recently been a number of complaints made to Perth and Kinross Council about the removal of access rights but the authority’s response has been that their powers to pursue the matter any further are limited.

“Scotland’s world class access legislation is being undermined and devalued, and the local authority, which has powers in the legislation to address this, appears to have given up.”

He said previous communications between the MCofS access officer and Perth and Kinross Council have left the MCofS with the impression that the council considers too much time has been spent on the matter and that there is no more they can do to resolve it.

“In effect, the landowner is being allowed to prohibit access and responsible walkers are being denied their statutory rights,” Mr Gibson said.

“Our members and other hillwalkers are becoming increasingly frustrated by this blatant flouting of the Scottish Outdoor Access Code.”

The Chesthill Estate website says: “The deer management programme here is very important to the livelihoods of local people and our employees and the welfare of the deer herd, so we would ask you to respect the guidance we offer.

“Walking needs to be fitted into the estate business and has to be managed.

“The estate is subject to ever increasing access which is affecting our wildlife operations and business. We would ask you to cooperate to mitigate these adverse environmental impacts.

“A sensible balance is needed if the uplands here are to remain sustainable.

“The adverse impacts are felt particularly acutely by the animals and birds during the breeding seasons April to July.”

The estate asks walkers to follow a designated route, using waymarking signs and to stay on ridges, avoiding corries.

Visitors should also walk quietly, it said, and be off the hills by 7pm ‘to allow the hinds to return peacefully to their calves’.

It adds: “When we are on the hill carrying out our programme, August to October, but mainly September and October, we will tell you at Inverar with very clear notices and we ask that you respect these by staying off the hills allowing us to do our work.

“Please walk elsewhere at the local alternative areas offered. You can always come back here at another time.

“If we indicate we are out please walk on the alternative areas. This is in accordance with the wishes expressed by [Scottish Natural Heritage] and is asked for in the access code.

“These small requests will assist in preventing this upland wilderness becoming a wildlife desert, which is currently where it is heading if human access impacts are not more actively managed, carried out responsibly, or curtailed.”

Mr Gibson said in his letter to Mr Swinney, who is also Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Employment and Sustainable Growth in the Scottish Government: “Many walkers travel a significant distance to access the hills and in 2009 the value to the Scottish economy from walking tourism was estimated to be £533m per year.”

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