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Hundreds of walkers complain as estate restricts access to Munros

HUNDREDS of complaints have been made about one Scottish estate causing problems with legal access rights for walkers and climbers.

great VIEW: Walkers enjoy the panorama from Carn Gorm, but some people say their access to the hill has been restricted. Picture: Vincent Lowe
great VIEW: Walkers enjoy the panorama from Carn Gorm, but some people say their access to the hill has been restricted. Picture: Vincent Lowe

Walkers claim they have had difficulty gaining access to North Chesthill Estate in Glen Lyon, Perthshire, for several years. Off-putting or misleading notices, locked gates, hostile responses to email or phone enquiries, or approaches by the landowner or his representatives are the most cited problems.

Now the Mountaineering Council of Scotland (MCofS) says it will try to bring pressure on Perth and Kinross Council to take action over the estate.

However, the landowner hit back, saying walkers are threatening the continuation of his deer stalking business.

The estate contains a round of four Munros (mountains over 3000ft), Carn Gorm, Meall Garbh, Carn Mairg and Creag Mhor, which is very popular with visitors.

The complaints came in a survey by the mountaineering body this year. In total, there were 709 responses, with more than 80% reporting they had walked these Munros in the last 10 years. Of the remaining 19%, some attempted to walk on the Estate but were deterred.

In total, 611 problems were reported. A handful of respondents did say they had received helpful advice from the estate but, in general, there appears to be a poor attitude to access.

Andrea Partridge, MCofS access officer, said: "Responsibility for enforcing compliance with the access legislation lies with the local authorities. In this case that is Perth and Kinross Council.

"We will be asking it to use its statutory powers to ensure there is open access on the North Chesthill Estate throughout the year, along with appropriate signage during the stalking season that is updated on a daily basis. This will help not only walkers but also the Estate to manage the deer population and run its business without antagonising those taking access."

But landowner, Major Alastair Riddell, said the estate had made every effort to accommodate walkers while endeavouring to operate a hill sheep and stalking business.

He said: "Most people have no complaint. We genuinely feel the views of MCofS fail to address local concerns, real rural issues, conservation and sustainability.

"Over the years the deer here have been disturbed beyond all reasonable measure and, as a consequence, deer management on the estate and the revenue we gain from it has suffered to the point that its continuation is, frankly, unviable.

"Through all this, however, I continue to hope for a solution that will work for us all."

A Perth & Kinross council spokeswoman said: "We are continuing to work hard to address these concerns, together with the Perth & Kinross Access Forum, the landowner and with a range of organisations representing outdoor activities, including the Mountaineering Council of Scotland."

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