COULD the North Coast 500 have reached the end of the road? According to reports, residents of Applecross in Wester Ross are considering “withdrawing” their village (and the peninsula which shares the same name) from the route of the popular tourist trail.

Remind me of the geography?

The North Coast 500 (NC500), which starts and finishes at Inverness Castle, takes in swathes of Wester Ross, Sutherland, Caithness, Easter Ross, the Black Isle and Inverness-shire.

Billed as Scotland’s answer to Route 66, the scenic 516-mile (830km) circuit was developed as a way of increasing visitor numbers to lesser-trodden corners of the Highlands and helping boost the economies of remote communities.

It was launched to great fanfare in 2015 and has since attracted tens of thousands of visitors each year, drawn by the lure of mountains, lochs, winding passes and beaches. The NC500 is estimated to be worth more than £22 million annually to the Scottish economy.

What’s the problem?

In a word: traffic. Also, the double-edged sword of tourism. Earlier this year, ditches were dug around the village to stop motorhomes parking in environmentally sensitive places, with signs erected warning against littering and dirty camping.

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While many living in Applecross are supportive of the NC500 and the economic benefits it brings, others feel it is having a negative impact on the infrastructure, not least upon the famed Bealach na Ba.

This challenging road, which climbs to 2,053ft (626m) above sea level with steep gradients and hairpin bends, regularly sees motorhomes and campervans – a common mode of transport on the NC500 route – get into difficulty.

Are things really that bad?

According to Applecross Community Council chairman John Glover, the NC500 is proving “very divisive” and there are concerns about the high volume of people who use Bealach na Ba and block this stretch daily due to accidents.

Mr Glover told The Press and Journal: “Businesses quite rightly argue that they depend on the business the NC500 brings. But when you are waiting for medical attention or even deliveries to the area, the traffic can be at the very least frustrating.”

Aren’t the locals being a tad ungrateful?

Anyone who has ever tried to traverse Bealach na Ba when every man, woman, dog, sheep, bicycle, car, motorcycle, campervan and delivery vehicle is attempting to do likewise, may have some sympathy for what those who live and work on the peninsula are saying.

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And the upshot?

The Applecross community is considering a public consultation. According to Mr Glover: “If we do have a poll, it will be to put constructive pressure on the NC500 organisers to improve infrastructure.”