Pay-to-Play - New Car Park for Beinn a' Ghlo

© Dan Bailey

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.

It's a busy hill for good reason, but that comes with a big cost in terms of path upkeep  © Dan Bailey
It's a busy hill for good reason, but that comes with a big cost in terms of path upkeep
© Dan Bailey

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:

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7 Jun, 2023

'A share of', 'a proportion of'? Just how much is going to go towards paths repair?

7 Jun, 2023

How much is the parking fee? This is a key piece of info and the piece doesn't seem to say what the "modest sum" actually is. And can people pay by cash? I don't have a smartphone (neither do I have one of Dougie Baird's £30k cars).

I've been to Loch Moraig once or twice a year for a long time - am fond of Beinn a' Ghlo, 25+ ascents. This is a big change however - I can see me stopping going or at least opting for the long(er) walk in from somewhere back down the road, assuming they don't do the common thing of now blocking off all the other viable parking places too.

Both are good questions. I've asked them, but I gather there was an actual opening do today so the relevant folk might not be in the office til later.

7 Jun, 2023

Thanks Dan. Answering part of my own question, I've found this:

So it's a fiver for cars, but again no indication of whether paying by cash is feasible. Also "This car park is patrolled daily by an attendant" and "There are no toilets". Not sure what the attendant does if they need the loo.

The other issue that rarely seems to get discussed with new payment car parks is whether there's a discount for locals who might go there frequently. I'm in Stirling so it's quite far away, but as someone who often revisits various local hills, and knowing other people of similar mind, I can well imagine there are folk based in Blair Atholl, Pitlochry or even Perth who habitually visit Beinn a' Ghlo from that side 20-30 times a year (eg runners, or older walkers who don't like driving far). Do they now have to pay a fiver each time too?

7 Jun, 2023

It says this at the bottom of the page - "Season tickets for all of our car parks are £15 for 12 months from their issue date. Local residents can get free permits but must prove their residency status."

I'm in Dunkeld, wonder if that makes me a local.

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