Highlands & Islands

Beauly walkers in access row with aristocrat Lord Lovat

Singe track road
Image caption Traffic cones and rocks have been used to discourage parking

A Scottish aristocrat has been accused of making "strenuous efforts" to stop people from using a popular riverside walk near his Highlands home.

Lord Lovat, Simon Fraser, has blocked off car parking areas at Lovat Bridge near Beauly, making the walking route inaccessible for many people.

"Unofficial" parking tickets have also been left on cars parked in the area.

A spokesman for Lovat estates said it welcomed walkers but asked that they used public parking.

Rocks and traffic cones have been used to block lay-bys and other areas used for parking, local residents have said.

'Very disappointed'

Lord Lovat recently returned to live in his ancestral lands but has upset local people by the moves.

Walkers say he has removed a well-used car park and blocked up other areas.

A walking group for older people and families with young children are among those affected.

Image caption Lord Lovat's estate has asked that people use public parking and not park on a private road

Liz Hoey, a local resident who has been walking in the area for the past 20 years, said she had enjoyed the previous ease access to her walk because of arthritis.

She told BBC Scotland: "They want you to park in Beauly but that would add on so much of a walk and it's a single track pavement with big lorries rushing past.

"This pavement is not good for either dog walkers or small children. A lot of people I know that used to walk there just can't now, including a friend who leads the Beauly Walking Group which is a walking group for older people who are trying to exercise to keep healthy and they can't park anywhere near.

"I'm very disappointed about the whole thing because it's a beautiful walk that people have used for years."

Maintenance costs

A spokesman for Lovat Estates said: "We are asking people not to park down a private road, they are very welcome to walk, as is their right."

He said this was because the estate had to pay for the maintenance and upkeep costs of the road which were "considerable".

The spokesman also said a number of verges were being ruined by cars parking on them and cars were blocking access for the estate's farm vehicles.

Image caption Local people say they previously had unrestricted access to the riverside walk

However, he said the estate had made improvements to benefit walkers, including installing a fence alongside a core path to help walkers who were worried about walking through livestock and by replacing dead and dying trees.

A Highland Council spokesperson said: "The River Beauly - Lovat Circuit is not on the Catalogue of Rights of Way maintained by Scotways, no-one has provided the council with evidence that any of it is a public right of way and, as a circuit, it is unlikely to meet the requirements of a public right of way. The council has received several complaints about it.

"The complaints have been about the diversion of the path by the river; and the closure of a car park near the Dutch Barn at the junction of the A862 and A831 (notices being placed on cars and walkers being approached while out walking)."

'Problematic area'

Davie Black, access officer at Mountaineering Scotland, which represents the interests of outdoor pursuits enthusiasts including walkers, said Scotland had some of the best land access legislation.

But he said car parking was not protected under the Land Reform Act.

He told BBC Radio Scotland's John Beattie programme: "Where you don't have a right of vehicular access this is where we come into a problematic area.

"Where do you put your cars when you want to take to the hills?"

Image caption Highland Council said the River Beauly was not on the Catalogue of Rights of Way

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