The North Coast 500 (NC500) is one of world’s most iconic coastal touring routes, it has opened the North Highlands and its beautiful, but fragile, landscapes to billions of visitors to explore and enjoy every year. Since it opened in 2015, the NC500 achieved a 3.3 billion global audience reach, but with such huge visitor numbers, it is now on the verge of becoming a victim of its own success.
Several critically endangered plants are found on the North Coast that are currently under threat. Similarly, the Great yellow bumblebee nests and breeds near the NC500 but is also at risk of extinction, and there are other pollinating insects which rely on the wildflower-rich habitats found along roadside verges and in the local area. The popularity of the NC500 has also created many other visitor management impacts for Highland communities. New landscape viewing areas, stopping points and carparks are needed to maintain the visitor experience and to create space for increased car and motorhome use. If managed with nature in mind, this new infrastructure could also provide opportunities to make space for pollinating insects around the NC500. We present an opportunity to enhance the visitor experience and support nature’s recovery.
Much of the Highland NC500 is on Buglife’s ’B-Line‘. To identify areas which would most benefit from improved management for both increasing visitor numbers and to increase habitat for pollinators, this report has been produced with input from project partners (Highland Council, Plantlife Scotland and the Bumblebee Conservation Trust) and provides recommendations for managing greenspaces and visitor infrastructure in a pollinator friendly way.
We have provided detailed mapping via GIS to enable Highland Council to maximize these opportunities. We hope this report is seen as an exemplar model for auditing road verges and laybys along tourist trails and provides some best practice case studies where infrastructure improvements can have maximum benefits for pollinators and people. We also provide advice on managing roadside verges for pollinators and on reducing pesticide use, which can be used to improve the long-term sustainability and environmental performance of the route.