Travel and Coronavirus

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Hillwalking and the plan to ease lockdown

Nicola Sturgeon yesterday announced the four stage route map for Scotland to ease its Covid-19 lockdown restrictions. Today Scottish Mountain Rescue have issued new guidance to hillwalkers.

None of the changes are yet in place, but it is expected that we may move to ‘Phase One’ of lifting the lockdown on next Thursday 28th May – although this will depend on continued progress in reducing infection numbers.

Phase One – from 28th May if supported by evidence

The new advice allows unrestricted outdoors exercise, whilst adhering to distancing measures and non-contact outdoor activities in the local area – such as golf, hiking, canoeing, outdoor swimming and angling. People are also permitted to meet with members of one other household at a time outdoors, whilst observing social distancing.

However, whilst people will be permitted to travel short distances for outdoor leisure and exercise, the advice is to “stay within a short distance of your local community (broadly within 5 miles)” and “travel by foot, wheel and cycle where possible”. For most people, this means hillwalking will not be possible; it will only be an option for those living within 5 miles of a hill.

Scottish Mountain Rescue have stated that, for those who are lucky enough to live within the 5 mile range, people are now welcome to head up their local mountain.

They have confirmed they will be responding to call-outs, and have basic PPE supplies in place with teams, but warn that any rescues will be slower, with fewer people, less helicopter support, and in some cases they may only assist by phone.

Their request is that you should “plan your day carefully, stick to the type of days that you know you have done safely for several years already.” They added “We are here to help, not judge. Remember in an emergency in the outdoors call 999, ask for Police, then Mountain Rescue.”

Phase Two – date not yet known

Under the second phase of the plan, people will still remain restricted to driving only locally for leisure trips such as walking. The most significant change for walking may be that it will be possible to meet up with more friends, as long as social distancing is observed.

Phase Three – date not yet known

It is only in this phase that people will be permitted to travel outside their own local area for leisure activities. For most people, this is when hillwalking trips will become possible once more. This phase will also see the reopening of some accommodation facilities, and indoor seating in pubs and restaurants.

Phase Four – date not yet known

The changes in this phase are less relevant for walkers, permitting public events.

For people lucky enough to live within 5 miles of a hill then, they are likely to be welcome to climb it from next Thursday. For the rest, the distance restrictions mean they will be still only able to tackle their local walks.

Scottish Government route map
Scottish Mountain Rescue Q&A guidance

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Walking can be dangerous and is done entirely at your own risk. Information is provided free of charge; it is each walker's responsibility to check it and navigate using a map and compass.