SCOTLAND’S answer to America’s Route 66 is being ruined by littering and vandalism, locals claim.

Wild campers, litter louts and moronic motorhome drivers are being shamed by hundreds of angry residents who have turned dirt detectives on the North Coast 500 (NC500).

So far more than 1900 people have joined the group in just days documenting the abuse of their stunning area around the NC500.

Kinlochbervie comunnity councillor Margaret Meek set up the NC500 The Land Weeps Facebook group after locals complained of the “desecration” of their villages.

They have photographed the indiscriminate camping, wild toileting, littering and other problems and plan to hand the evidence over to various bodies calling for a change in the right to roam legislation and route rangers to police the culprits.

Among the abuses are hordes of campers pitching at a cemetery, human excrement by a children’s playpark and even a brass “we woz here” type plaque screwed on to a memorial bench.

“We want people to post photos or describe incidents of irresponsible behaviour,” said Mrs Meek.

“This is a short term project to gauge what is happening in our area and to use the evidence gathered to take forward to campaign for some kind of legislation / bylaws which will help our communities cope with the influx of visitors which grows each year.

“This is not about being anti-tourist, this is about finding a way to protect our home while being able to welcome people in to enjoy it.

“The official NC500 site deletes any anti comments, but people are frustrated and angry because its being going on for a while and has just exploded after the easing of lockdown.

“The feeling is the powers-that-be don’t listen. Tourists are being sold the myth of “come to the wilds of Scotland” and park anywhere - its irresponsibly selling the dream of the open road.

“Things have got completely out of hand. It is shocking. We want to initiate a conversation about this. People coming to the Highlands think we are some kind of Disneyland.”

Mrs Meek said locals wanted polices to manage campervans, deal with litter and human waste and rangers to police the abuses.

And she warned:”If a camper brings coronavirus to the area how are going to contact trace them?”

One Ullapool resident said he was threatened by an angry motor home driver after it was pointed out that they were starting camp fires in the countryside.

“They said they had something in the back of the van that they would put through me,” said the shocked local.

Sutherland Highland councillor Hugh Morrison said that on Tuesday night there were 48 vehicles and 28 tents at one beach beauty spot in Durness.

“It is just out of hand,” he said.

Some visitors have used the group’s page to insist there are many responsible travellers who boost the local economy and use sites properly.

One wrote: “You are not giving a fair case here when you clump everyone in the bracket of freeloaders, free campers... I think it’s sad to see some of the comments on here, I understand the grief as the whole UK is suffering the same but to be so vigilante is really sad.”

Another said: “I completely disagree with demonising folk in campervans and motorhomes, most of whom are extremely responsible and tidy up after themselves.”

The North Highland Initiative (NHI) developed the NC500 route five years ago and was launched by Prince Charles.

Chairman David Whiteford said:“NHI will continue working to help deliver a responsible balance between economic recovery and public safety.

“We believe the next essential step is for the Scottish Government to adopt more nuanced messaging to ease anxieties across the country – especially in the Highlands.

“We’re now looking to the Scottish Government and VisitScotland to implement national and local campaigns to allay anxiety among local Highland communities and deliver a positive, uplifting message as we take safe, measured steps to emerge from lockdown.”

VisitScotland’s regional leadership director Chris Taylor deplored the anti-social incidents, saying: “There is no place for this type of behaviour in Scottish tourism.

“We are proud of our beautiful country and for anyone to behave in this way... does nothing to help with our reputation of being a warm and welcoming nation with a fantastic environment for everyone to enjoy.”

Fifteen drivers were charged at the weekend with speeding in the first major crackdown on the NC500 since lockdown.

Another 22 motorists received warnings for other road traffic offences.

The NC500 is a 516 mile route in and out of Inverness following Highland coastal roads.

Thousands of people travelled the route before the coronavirus pandemic and the introduction of restrictions on travel and tourism.

In April, signs appeared along the route telling tourists to stay away to protect local communities from the virus.

But traffic has since increased on the NC500 following the lifting of the five mile restriction on travel for leisure and last week’s reopening of Scotland’s tourism industry.

Inspector Donnie Mackinnon, of Police Scotland’s road policing unit, said:”I urge all road users to think carefully about your actions and behaviour, don’t take risks and be respectful to others, particularly those who live in our communities.”

The route has been described as both a highway to hell and a road paved with gold - boosting tourism but with complaints from residents of speeding motorists and, conversely, also of slow moving convoys of motor homes and long tailbacks of bikers.

It is estimated to be worth more than £22m a year to the local economy.