A large new car park has been officially opened today, serving the standard Loch Moraig start point on Beinn a' Ghlo. A share of the fees from the 60-place facility, which replaces the previous informal arrangement at the trailhead, will go towards path maintenance on the hill, and elsewhere across the Cairngorms National Park.
The £172,000 building project was led by the Outdoor Access Trust for Scotland (OATS), an environmental charity promoting sustainable public access, and funded by both the Cairngorms National Park Authority and OATS.
A proportion of visitor income from walkers using the car park, and treading the well-worn trails on Beinn a' Ghlo's three Munros, will be re-invested into the Volunteer Path Maintenance Programme run by OATS, making this an example, to an extent, of a user-pays model of path upkeep.
The car park opening at Beinn a' Ghlo follows the recent launch of It's Up to Us, a three-year partnership campaign between OATS and Mountaineering Scotland, which aims to raise £300,000 for path repairs on An Teallach, whilst also raising awareness of the need for investment in the repair and maintenance of informal mountain paths elsewhere in Scotland, many of which are in an increasingly dilapidated state.
Dougie Baird, Chief Executive of OATS, said: "More people are taking to the hills. There is a lack of basic access infrastructure at popular remote destinations throughout Scotland. The effects can be far reaching with disruption to landowners, communities and businesses and damage to the very special locations that people love.
"Charging a modest sum for car-parking at trailheads, including Beinn a' Ghlo, which is then ploughed directly back into path maintenance projects, actively protects important and fragile assets and ensures visitors enjoy a positive experience. Every vehicle and their passengers make a direct contribution both to the facilities that enable the activities they love, and to the long-term conservation of Scotland's mountains. The legacy will be huge."
The cost of the car park is £5 for a car, £3 for motorbikes, and £8 for a minibus. There are no toilets.
Any surplus left after operating costs are met will go directly to the path maintenance programme. However OATS cannot yet tell us what this figure will end up being.
Planning to walk the hill? See our Route Card: