Scotland’s far north has already reached peak tourism

“The North Coast 500 has helped create jobs in communities right across the North Highlands, grow awareness of the area and boost tourism numbers, particularly for attractions on the main route,” a spokesperson told me. “However, there are many places to visit off it. The ambition of local stakeholders, including VisitScotland, is to inspire visitors to discover more of the region, stay longer, visit during quieter periods and take time to really immerse themselves in the destination.”

That’s what travel writers like me are increasingly here for nowadays: to recommend, try-out and advise on how you can visit places in a sustainable way to avoid dirty words like overtourism. Sometimes, though, we don’t always get it right. 

In Lonely Planet’s defence, the publisher dovetails its recommendation of touring the coastline with visiting the interior and – due praise – it’s both boggy and brilliant. There are certainly fewer crowds to contend with when visiting Forsinard Flows Nature Reserve, where you can hunker-down with tea and binoculars while picking out an Ark’s-worth of birds. It’s almost the same story on a hike through the marshy peatlands of Flow Country, which is aiming to achieve Unesco World Heritage status later next year. 

If that sounds like music to your ears, then go north in Scotland – far north. I’m not saying don’t. Out of season, it offers a magical close-up with stags, starry nights, starker hills and smoky fireside drams. All that good stuff. 

But if you’re only interested in the blushed pinks of long summer skies and sublime blues of beach days, you might find yourself stuck behind the motorhome and campervan crowd and completely miserable. If you’re not, then you’re laughing.

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