THE introduction of European-style Aires is being hailed as a potential solution to the scourge of so-called "dirty camping" that has blighted Scotland in recent times.

A series of Aires – small-scale campsites with basic facilities such as overnight parking, waste disposal and water – have been popping up across the Highlands to help tackle a lack of amenities for touring motorhomes and campervans.

How do Aires work?

The designated stopover spaces are cheaper than traditional caravan sites and popular across Europe, particularly in France. Many Aires in Scotland are being set up on farms or crofting land.

What is "dirty camping"?

With more people from around the UK holidaying on home turf due to restrictions and curbs on foreign travel, this has led to soaring interest in camping and motorhomes.

The downside has been an unprecedented rise in littering and waste – both human and animal – being dumped across Scotland, hence the name "dirty camping".

There has also been growing concern over reports of visitors emptying waste in car parks and on beaches, as well as blocking access to beauty spots with their vehicles.

READ MORE: Issue of the day: End of the road for the North Coast 500?

Earlier this year, ditches were dug around the village of Applecross in Wester Ross to stop parking in environmentally sensitive places, with signs erected warning against littering and dirty camping.

Where do Aires come in?

Last month, Highland Council became what is believed to be the first UK local authority to temporarily relax licensing regulations and enable landowners with suitable sites to facilitate simple and low-cost motorhome stopovers.

This means there is no formal planning permission required for Aires, where it is considered safe and reasonable. 

HeraldScotland: A motorhome passes a welcome sign as it crosses the border into Scotland near Berwick-upon-Tweed. Picture: Oli Scarff/AFP via Getty ImagesA motorhome passes a welcome sign as it crosses the border into Scotland near Berwick-upon-Tweed. Picture: Oli Scarff/AFP via Getty Images

The temporary relaxation of planning control will be kept under continual review and remain in place until December 31 or until the requirements for physical distancing have been removed.

Any interest in Aires?

Absolutely. Ruaridh Ormiston opened the Croila Croft Kingussie Motorhome Aire a fortnight ago and has already seen high demand.

"Most of the permanent caravan sites up here are either closed for Covid, illness or completely full," he told The Herald. "We had nine [motorhomes] and a tent one night. Last night was quieter with two campervans and two tents, but that is midweek. I am surprised by how popular it has been."

READ MORE: Issue of the day: End of the road for the North Coast 500?

Mr Ormiston added that he has been contacted by more than a dozen people as far afield as Shetland and Musselburgh in East Lothian seeking advice about setting up their own Aires.

What's next?

The challenge will be finding a long-term solution. Many hope that Aires could become a permanent fixture in Scotland.