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LOCH MESS: ‘How dare you set fires by our loch?’– residents and authorities want to stamp out fires that cause damage

By Louise Glen

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People lighting fires on a Highland beach have been roasted by those who have to clean up the mess.

Members of the community, Visit Inverness Loch Ness, the leader of Highland Council and the fire service have all asked people to stop lighting fires on the popular beach.

With temperatures soaring this week, hotspots such as Dores beach on the shores of Loch Ness have been particularly attractive.

But evidence suggests signs stating No Fires are being ignored by visitors staying into the evening and using fires to keep warm, or cooking food on barbecues or make-shift fire pits.

A sign stating No Fires.
A sign stating No Fires.

While countryside rangers have recently been appointed to help manage tourism on the lochside, it cannot come quick enough for many – after mature and ancient trees have been burnt down and there is evidence of trees being ripped apart to be used as fire wood.

Ali Wilson, the founder of tour company Hielan Quine, said over the last few weeks she has seen a rise in the number of fires in the area.

She said: “It really rips my knitting, it is not good enough that people use the land like this. It is a sad state of affairs at Dores beach – almost every part of the woods walk from the beach to Aldourie Castle is scorched with fires that have thankfully been put out just in time.

“The scorched fires are also covered in beer bottles, underwear, unmentionables, masks and camping equipment.”

She continued: “How dare you come here to our beloved loch, the most famous loch in the world, and set fires that could have destroyed acres of forest and wildlife.”

A possible make-shift fire pit.
A possible make-shift fire pit.

Regular visitor to the beach Shona MacKay said she had counted 30-40 fires over the last weekend, something she called “irresponsible”.

Ella MacRae, the chairwoman of Dores and Essich Community Council, said: “Before I go to bed at night I check to see if there are fires. Adam Da Silva from the Dores Inn is very good at keeping an eye on the fires that people are lighting on the beach.

“It is a constant worry that it will get out of control and someone will be injured.

“The majority of people are respectful and people who live around the beach do not hesitate to call the fire service if anything looks to be out of control. I have to say that we are relieved the ranger service has now started and they have already been down on the beach talking to people about litter and fires.

“Hopefully that will continue to help with keeping fires to a minimum and keep the area tidy. But I would encourage people not to light fires in the first place, especially when the land is so dry. “

Michael Golding (right) at Dores beach with countryside rangers Tim Francis and Elsa Tokunaga. Picture: Gary Anthony
Michael Golding (right) at Dores beach with countryside rangers Tim Francis and Elsa Tokunaga. Picture: Gary Anthony

Highland Council leader and Loch Ness councillor Margaret Davidson said: “This happens most years and it causes worry every time.

“I wish people could enjoy the loch shore and not light fires.

“The beach has a backdrop of grassland and woodland and in a dry spell it would be very easy for a wild fire to take hold and cause awful damage.”

She continued: “So please anyone going to the beach, please no fires. Respect our trees and leave them in peace and take any litter home.

“And enjoy the loch. It is wonderful these sunny days.”

Ross Nixon, fire service group commander in Inverness, said: “We would ask the public to exercise extreme caution outdoors and think twice before using anything involving a naked flame.

A possible make-shift fire pit.
A possible make-shift fire pit.

“A small fire lit outside can get out of control and cause significant damage to our landscape, our wildlife and ultimately endanger life.

“Human behaviour can significantly lower the chance of a wild fire starting. It’s crucial that people act safely and responsibly in rural environments and always follow the Scottish Outdoor Access Code.”

Michael Golding, the chief executive of Visit Inverness Loch Ness, encouraged people to leave only footprints after a visit.

“The appointment of Loch Ness rangers through Highland Council is certainly a positive step to help reduce some of the pressures,” he said.

READ: Fourth recorded sighting of Loch Ness Monster in 2021 is a third sighting for seasoned watcher in Ireland

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