Am I allowed to visit, are hotels and restaurants open and what rules are in place?


With its dramatic landscapes and natural beauty, it’s no surprise that Scotland remains a popular destination for visitors.

In 2018 alone, 12 million overnight tourist trips were made by residents from the rest of the UK, comprising around 70 per cent of the country’s tourist revenue. And, in 2016, around one in every 12 people employed in the country worked within the tourism industry, which represented about five per cent of GDP. The country’s measured approach to the pandemic has meant that the easing of lockdown restrictions has been slower than England’s, but things are starting to change. So, where can you go and when?

Here’s everything you need to know.

Am I allowed to travel to Scotland from the rest of the UK?

Yes. However, while quarantine measures for travellers from England, Wales and Northern Ireland are no longer in place, first minister Nicola Sturgeon has suggested that this could change should infection rates spike with the return of tourism: “I’m not ruling anything out, if it’s required from a public health perspective,” she said.

In response, the chief executive of the Scottish Tourism Alliance, Marc Crothall, said: “Clearly given that over 70 per cent of Scottish tourism comes from the UK market, any restrictions on domestic travel will have a significantly negative impact on the sector”.

Can I travel within Scotland?

Sort of. Transport Scotland states that there is no restriction on travel within Scotland providing people are “acting in line with all other guidance”, but both it and the Scottish government are advising people to “stay local as much as possible for goods, services and activities.” It also advises people to avoid crowded places where physical distancing may be difficult. It continues: “Use your judgement. If somewhere is likely to be busy you should avoid going there. If you arrive somewhere and it is busy, change your plans and go somewhere quieter.”

Are hotels and campsites open?

Yes. Hotels, B&Bs and campsites are allowed to reopen as of 15 July, while self-contained accommodation has been open since 3 July. Wild camping is also now permitted.

Are restaurants, shops and attractions open?

Restaurants, cafes and pubs are permitted to reopen from 15 July, while beer gardens and outdoor cafes reopened on 6 July. Outdoor markets and many shops are now open, along with “non-essential” shops in shopping centres.

Museums, galleries, libraries, parks and selected visitor attractions and cinemas are also allowed to reopen from 15 July, but not all of them will. The Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh is now open, while Edinburgh Castle is due to reopen on 1 August. The National Museum of Scotland remains closed with no information for reopening published. The Scottish National Gallery is also closed, but is preparing for a phased reopening from August. Kelingrove Art Gallery and Museum is expected to reopen with reduced capacity the week commencing 17 August. Glasgow’s Gallery of Modern Art is not expected to reopen until October. In Ayrshire, the Culzean Castle and Country Park is partially open – the country park is open, but the castle remains closed.

Similarly to elsewhere in the UK, nightclubs, theatres and concert halls remain closed.

What rules are in place?

Scotland is currently in phase three of the lockdown easing process.

By law, people must wear a face covering in shops and on public transport, such as trains, buses, taxis, ferry services and airports. Children under five years old and those with specific health conditions are exempt from this rule.

Social distancing restrictions of two metres remain in place. Where this is not possible, visitors must be warned that they are entering a one-metre zone where face coverings are recommended.

Government guidance states that individuals should meet in groups of no more than 15 people outdoors, and you should not meet people from more than four other households each day.

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