BEAUTY spots like Skye’s Fairy Pools are increasingly being used as sites for memorials to the dead, with one near Forres becoming so packed with tributes it prompted an intervention from the local council.

An appeal was made by Moray Council for people to refrain from installing plaques and planting trees when the number of memorials at Califer viewpoint reached around 40.

Elsewhere, memorials range from benches erected without permission, posies of plastic flowers or real flowers wrapped in cellophane, plaques nailed to rocks or mementos left at special spots.

The National: The Califer memorial gardenThe Califer memorial garden (Image: Geograph)

The trend has led organisations like Mountaineering Scotland to urge people to consider other ways of remembering the dead such as donating to an environmental charity like the John Muir Trust.

The practice is also discouraged by Forestry and Land Scotland and NatureScot. The National Trust for Scotland told the Sunday National it was no longer offering plaques or engravings alongside benches or plantings at its properties and landscapes in order to keep them as “natural and beautiful” as possible.

“We understand people’s wish to celebrate the lives of loved ones, especially at the places that meant most to them,” said a spokesperson.

“But we find that many people take great comfort from sponsoring a tree, knowing that they have helped to enrich a special place, or from making a donation to a place where their loved one had good memories.

“This helps us to continue our care for places special to families in memory of loved ones and it also creates a lasting legacy to the place, to Scotland and to future generations.”

A spokesperson for Forestry and Land Scotland has also asked people to refrain from leaving memorials.

“We are fortunate enough to manage many special places and wild landscapes that mean a great deal to many people,” he said.

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“Unfortunately, because they are so well-loved, bereaved families sometimes do leave memorials, which if they were not managed would result in many locations soon losing their special appeal to other visitors. For this reason, we ask people not to leave memorials at the destinations and forests in our care.”

A spokesperson for NatureScot said the organisation did not usually allow permanent memorials like plaques, benches or cairns in its National Nature Reserves.

“We would encourage those wishing to create a memorial for a relative or friend to consider a tribute that supports nature, such as planting a native tree, which can be organised through schemes run by environmental organisations,” said the spokesperson.

Moray Council said it was not aware of any more memorials being placed at Califer viewpoint after it issued its plea for restraint.

“While we sympathised with residents who wanted to use this special place to remember loved ones, this popular location for memorial trees, flowers and plaques was becoming over-populated by these tributes and they risked harming the beauty spot,” said a spokesperson.

The issue is not confined to Scotland, with one National Trust chief on Jersey warning that too many beauty spots were being “ruined” by memorials after 16 benches were installed without permission on the Jersey coastline.

Charles Alluto said one of his favourite spots had been “blighted” by the seats and called for restrictions on memorials to avoid turning beauty spots into “graveyards”.

“It’s having an adverse impact on an area of natural beauty,” he said. “The benches are put in places where people enjoyed that natural beauty — but you’re undermining the place they actually enjoyed.”

Mountaineering Scotland said that while it sympathised with the grief and loss that friends and relatives felt, it did not believe permanent memorial artefacts should be a feature of the mountain landscape.

“Due to the inherent risks in mountaineering, fatal accidents do occur on mountains and crags, and when a person is killed in a mountaineering accident, there can be calls to erect a memorial on that mountain’s summit or at the site of the accident,” the organisation said.

“While such a memorial may be seen as part of the grieving process for the mountaineer’s family, the memorial will be regarded by the majority of mountaineers that see it as an intrusion on the mountain.

“We believe that the majority of people who seek their recreation in the mountains go there to enjoy the natural qualities of the area and do not wish to see plaques and other memorials on mountainsides and summits. Mountaineering Scotland believes mountains should be protected from man-made intrusion and remain in as wild and natural a state as possible.”

Along with pressure to commemorate mountaineers who have died, there is also “a great deal” of pressure from non-mountaineers to place memorials on mountains, which Mountaineering Scotland said was a “difficult issue”.

“The non-mountaineer is likely to perceive the mountaineers’ attitude against memorials as elitist and unwelcoming, but if our cultural approach to memorials is that they do not belong on mountains, then there should be a presumption against mountain memorials, whether they are to a mountaineer who died on that mountain or some other individual who may have had only a symbolic connection with the mountain,” the organisation said.

It added that more and more mountaineers were requesting in their wills that they wanted their ashes scattered on the summit of their favourite mountain when they died but this also could cause issues.

“On a number of very popular mountain summits that are used repeatedly for the scattering of ashes, one of the significant effects that has been observed is stimulation of plant growth that can be attributed to both phosphate enrichment and changes in pH [acidity/alkalinity],” Mountaineering Scotland said.

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Instead, the organisation advises the avoidance of really iconic mountain tops, suggesting instead that ashes could be buried or scattered in a corrie or beside a particular tree on the lower slopes of a mountain.

Rather than leaving memorials, the organisation said people could instead “give something back” by supporting footpath repair work or donating to a charity that plants trees.

It added that memorial gardens at the base of popular mountains are also being considered which would be easier for grieving friends and relatives to access than the top of a mountain.