THERE was a small piece in The Herald the other day, all about the outcome of the North Highland Initiative. The 500 miles of the North Coast 500 (NC500) came into being four years ago to “breathe life into the most remote and economically fragile areas” of Scotland by encouraging tourism. You would think the first requirement might be proper roads, but I digress. “Ah,” I smiled, as I read, “memories ... but not of the good kind.”

According to Gary Woodcock of Stirling University, there have been “antagonistic encounters” between residents and tourists, ranging from drivers slowing to a crawl to take in the scenery to the other kind, using small, single-track roads as racing tracks and everything in between, thereby holding up the natives as they try to go about their business. Been there, done that and never would again.

In our first encounter with tourists we lived on Arran where my husband’s family came from. He had grown up carefree and happy there and wanted the same for our three children. So we lived in one of four cottages, surrounded by farmland, way up the glen from the nearest village, with the only access a track that dissolved in rain, leaving huge boulders sticking out.

Fine for tractors and not advisable for cars, but you would be surprised how many tried – split petrol tanks and punctures were not uncommon. And sadly some lot had published a tourist guide directing the unsuspecting to a waterfall, describing the terrain as “easy ... pleasant”. It lied.

Those who had wisely left their cars behind, usually in someone’s driveway, would walk in their flip-flops with small kids and picnic baskets, arriving at the cottages in need of rest before tackling a forest then a long slog up a hillside that couldn’t be described as easy or pleasant, especially with Scotland’s own brand of torture swarming around them, the dreaded midge.

In front of our cottage the garden was marked out with huge stones, and we would find the exhausted trekkers having picnics or knocking on the door asking “do you do teas?”. “I can’t get a mobile signal, can I use your phone?” and the constant “Where’s your loo?”.

The more civilised used the barn as a loo where the hay was stacked – and one of places our kids used to play. Out front they also had a sand pit and all the usual toys, including swings, slides, paddling pool etc – if they could get to them that was, given the number of cars that were deposited on the manicured grass, waiting for new petrol tanks or tyres, not to mention the tourists’ kids who seemed to think it was a public playpark and gaily – and unchecked – monopolised the facilities.

Worse than that though were the tourists who fed sweets to our kids, who were used to knowing everyone and everyone knowing them and no kid worth the name would ever refuse a sweet. I regularly remonstrated with these “kind” strangers who always replied with a bemused “but we’re all on holiday here”.

I would then ask where they came from and say what a coincidence, I was planning to go there on holiday the following week. Would it be OK to feed their kids sweets in their garden? And at least I was asking permission, unlike them. Blank looks.

I came to the conclusion that the tourists regarded the area as their own personal “Truman Show” where the Jim Carrey character is unaware that his life is a TV reality show. To the tourists we were all characters in “Our Holiday”, put out in the mornings to amuse them and taken in at night, and they deeply resented the merest suggestion that they had no right to intrude in our lives.

Being on holiday seemed to give them a sense of entitlement to behave any way they wanted and even polite requests to have some consideration produced annoyance. I have a collection of snarling remarks from these lovely people, mainly those from the south, it has to be said. “Just you remember,” one worthy yelled into my face when asked to move so that I could get the car out, “that we keep you people afloat!” Another opined: “If you lot get independence we won’t be back, then what will happen to you?” “Oh good,” I replied “Yet another reason to vote ‘Yes’!”

When the kids left home we moved to a flat near Fort William, and the show continued. Behind the flats was a small residents’ car park, which was regularly jammed with tourists having a bite to eat, a snooze, cleaning their cars out, hosing down their kids who had been sick and changing babies, all activities they could carry out in one of the many lay-bys. Their “detritus” they simply dumped on the ground when they departed.

On one occasion, my husband asked a bloke to properly dispose of the dirty nappy he was carrying, and he did: in the bin right at our back door. In the height of summer, with another two weeks before the bins were emptied again.

Coaches would squeeze in at all hours to drop off or pick up passengers from a nearby hotel, sitting by our bedroom windows, engines running, waiting for their punters. One 5am I really lost it and advised the coach driver that his presence was unwanted, or words to that effect. To my astonishment he replied that he had nowhere else to wait, the hotel didn’t want him sitting in their car park because it disturbed other guests.

We even had one lot on a charity bike ride who used our little car park as a staging post, unasked of course, setting up a cooker for breakfast and a spare parts van to repair their bikes. And we weren’t to worry, they’d only be sitting across the entrance for a couple of hours, and even if we did worry they seemed to think flicking the V-sign answered all questions.

So next we went further afield to another small collection of houses, and it was idyllic, so quiet you could hear it – in winter. The lochside was dotted with herons, Highland cattle wandered about and we had every species of bird. Pine martens and deer roamed the back garden and Ben Nevis towered above. For a road we had a single track with passing places on both sides and the natives behaved impeccably.

Whoever was nearest a passing place on their side pulled in to allow traffic coming towards them to pass, and that courtesy held until spring and summer. That scourge on the Scottish landscape, the motor home, would appear on cue and the inhabitants would set up home for days in the passing places, sitting in garden chairs, having a bite and sipping happily at their little tables, as we raged and beeped our car horns.

They couldn’t understand it, didn’t we realise that they had every right to do what they pleased, where they pleased? Hadn’t we read the damned script?

Then a terrible thing happened: the road was laid to tarmac – enter cyclists who wouldn’t have tackled the potholes before. In droves they came, four abreast, refusing to move, ignoring the passing places, and anyone who tried to explain the rules to them risked being abused and given the usual V-signs as they blithely held everyone up. And you could see their point. We didn’t have lives, we were actors in their own private drama, we had no right to expect to be treated with civility.

And then we had the boat that operated all summer, taking tourists up and down the loch, all of them with binoculars and cameras poised to record The Natives In Their Natural Habitat as they neared the houses. We were all doing exotic things, of course, mowing the lawn, washing the windows, sitting in the garden doing The Herald crossword, click click click all summer long – they made the midges seem like butterflies.

Winter came as a welcome relief – except for the climbers. In the one large supermarket one would stand at the checkout while six others would run back and forth filling the trolley.

Of course, you get the odd ill-mannered creatures doing the same in cities, but tourists seem to think they have a right to do it. My slow-to-anger teuchter husband finally had enough one day and refused to allow it.

“But we’re going climbing,” stuttered a rope-festooned bloke. “Fine,” replied husband, “you can climb to the back of the queue!” The looks of total bemusement were a joy, they just couldn’t believe it.

It’s said that the NHI has brought some 29,000 extra visitors to the area since 2015 and £9 million to the economy, all of it welcome.

The expense to the NHS of treating native blood pressure has yet to be calculated.