You’re either king of the road or the scourge of the highways – depending on whether you’re behind the wheel or the unfortunate driver bringing up the rear, praying for a place to pass. 

Summer has brought an invasion of campervans and motorhomes to Scotland’s usually open roads, occupying lay-bys, chugging along the NC500, taking the Skye Bridge to the Fairy Pools and sprawling across at least two parking berths outside the local Co-op to stock up on supplies of Chardonnay and hand-cooked crisps. 

Find yourself staring at the back end of one – typically loaded with mountain bikes – while negotiating one of the country’s narrow roads and you could be in for a long, frustrating journey. 

Campervan and motorhome sales and hires in Scotland are said to have rocketed in recent years as adventurous tourists seek to explore hard-to-reach areas and take control of where they visit, when and for how long they stay. 

Such is the demand for them that some campervan dealers are reporting seven-month waiting lists for certain bespoke vehicles.

According to the most recent figures from the National Caravan Council, 2017 saw a 14 per cent rise in the number of motorhomes registered in the UK, with an estimated 225,000 on the road at the time.

It’s a figure that’s thought to have leapt even higher since then, fuelled by slick marketing for north coast road trip holidays and a new breed of tourist anxious to lower their carbon footprint by avoiding flying in favour of embracing nature on their own doorstep. 

However, concern is mounting that the trend for hitting the road means some may be inadvertently adding to the environmental crisis and even creating their own green calamity.

Earlier this month, alarm over a “campervan epidemic” prompted one local councillor on the NC500 route to announce plans to log registration numbers of campers who flout prohibition notices by setting up camp at Dornoch beach. 

East Sutherland and Edderton councillor Jim McGillivray claimed the vans were taking up limited parking spaces in the area and causing hygiene problems, with “wild toileting” a particular concern. 

Others have raised worries that self-sufficient campervans and motorhomes bring little financial benefits to the communities they visit.

Meanwhile, soaring numbers heading to the Western Isles have previously prompted MSP Alasdair Allan to raise the suggestion of a “motorhome levy” on the vehicles, citing concerns over the space needed for locals on ferries as well as the impact on areas of natural beauty by drivers parking overnight on the machair, leaving litter, toilet waste and tyre tracks. 

Add to the mix the diesel emissions pumped out by motorhomes and campervans and the “happy camper” image of someone in touch with nature seems just a little at odds with reality.

“Campervans are a growing market,” agrees Gary Hayes of Grangemouth-based Eco-Campers, which creates a new breed of hybrid campervans designed to be less environmentally toxic than their diesel-fuelled cousins. 

“There are lots of people ‘staycationing’, and lots of people want to explore their backyard. 

“There has been a phenomenal rise in campervan sales since 2008 and the industry has also seen big changes. But we haven’t built a diesel campervan in two years.”

While an all-electric campervan would certainly tick a few “green” boxes, issues such as finding a recharging spot in the middle of nowhere make their practicality tough for even the toughest of camper. 

Instead, Mr Hayes claims to have pioneered the next best thing – the world’s first fully hybrid and “tribrid” four-wheel-drive fully independent campervans, powered by low-emission petrol engines and a hybrid battery that also powers white appliances. 

The design removes the need for gas fuel and a 240V hook-up for power. The result, he says, is a “game-changer”. in the modern campervan market – and perhaps some peace of mind for the environmentally-conscious camper.

“Electric vehicle range isn’t there,” he says. “The point with a campervan is you want to get to places where you’re quite far away from home. You’re not going to park up and find somewhere to charge your vehicle.

“The hybrid petrol and electric system is designed to use electric around town and, when you’re out on the road, you use petrol. 

“It’s self-charging – so when you’re driving on the petrol engine, every time you slow down or brake, you recharge the battery.”

His design for an LPG -fuelled van is even greener, emitting fewer toxic gases than petrol or diesel – and it’s cheaper. 

Eco-Campers, which has received backing from Scottish Enterprise, has positioned itself as an innovator in hybrid technologies and has worked hand-in-hand with researchers at leading universities to develop new energy sources and improved hybrid batteries for its vans. 

Such is demand that the business anticipates seeing its turnover rise by 400% over the next five years, while there are plans to expand the technology to markets in Canada, Australia and America. 

However, a boost in green credentials is unlikely to be much comfort to islanders and rural communities struggling to cope with the influx of large vehicles on narrow roads. 

For Western Isles residents and businesses hoping to squeeze on to ferries, campervans and motorhomes have added to the pressure: while just 145 took the Ullapool-to-Stornaway ferry in 2007-08, an estimated 1,408 used it 10 years later. 

Over the same period, the figure for Uig to Tarbert in Harris jumped from 354 to 1,987, while Oban to Castlebrae rose from 44 to 500. 

The roll-out of the Road Equivalent Tariff (RET) in the Western Isles, which has reduced fares, is thought to have encouraged many on to roads. 

Meanwhile just getting anywhere with your campervan is becoming a challenge in itself: the pick of campsites on key routes regularly display ‘no vacancies’ signs, while earlier this year campervan tickets for the 10th Tiree Music Festival sold out within 10 minutes of going on sale.

“In terms of scenery, the Western Isles plays host to some of the most spectacular landscapes and habitats in the world, and it is not surprising that RET has led to a large increase in the number of campervans travelling to the islands to experience this,” says Alasdair Allan, MSP. 

“Tourism has taken on an increasing importance to the economy of the islands in recent years,” says MSP Alasdair Allan. “For it to be sustainable, it is vitally important we have the right infrastructure in place and that the effects of tourism are not felt to be in conflict with island communities.”

 “That means making sure there are sufficient waste disposal units, enough parking berths and available advice for driving on island roads. 

“It also means finding ways to ensure islanders don’t suffer as a result of the large demand for deck spaces on ferries.” 

“To this end, I very much welcome the recent moves by the Scottish Government in looking to pilot a scheme that would keep some car space held back for islanders who need to travel at short notice.”