Scotland’s Mountain Areas Open Up

Scotland is open, with a further easing of Covid-19 restrictions coming into force on Monday 26th April. The nation is an option for spring and summer holidays, but it’s come too late for the Scottish ski industry.

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Non-essential travel is allowed between Scotland and the rest of UK for the first time this year.

The mainland of Scotland moves from Level 4 to Level 3.

Pubs and restaurants are able to open indoors until 8pm but with alcohol only available outdoors.

Shops and indoor sports facilities also re-open.

The Scottish Government says it is hoping to ease restrictions further from 17th May, again on 7th June, and to return to near normality by July.

It means a mountain fix is possible for those of us who have been stuck in the rest  of the UK all winter and people in Scotland living away from the Highlands.

However it is too late for much in the way of skiing or snowboarding.

“Unfortunately, whilst we have seen some unusual spring weather these past few weeks, there remains insufficient snow cover on the lower mountain to permit access for general snow sports,” Susan Smith, Interim Chief Executive of Cairngorm Mountain (Scotland) Ltd, said earlier this month.

On 26th April, the Mountain Shop reopened for retail, along with a pop-up catering facility outside the Day Lodge.

From Saturday 1 May 2021, the Tubing slide will reopen, initially only at weekends.

The mountain garden is also open.

Work to repair the Funicular mountain railway at Cairngorm is re-starting so visitors are warned to follow diversions and observe all warning signs and barriers.

“This has been an incredibly challenging winter for all, and we are thankful to everyone who has supported us during this time,” Susan Smith said.

The pandemic coincided with the best winter for snow cover in Scotland in a decade, but few have been able to enjoy it.


Travel bans restricted access to Scotland’s ski slopes to locals and, with lifts closed, to only those prepared to hike or ski tour up the hill to earn their turns.

Then rain and mild temperatures in late March looked to have put paid to any chance of late-season snowsports:

However, winter returned for a final hurrah and PlanetSKI had a reporter on the slopes:

Glenshee, Scotland, 7th April – photo c/o Graeme Wallace

Now, it seems the ski and snowboard season is officially over just as Scotland is preparing to open up.

On Saturday 17th April, the Scottish Avalanche Information Service, based at Lochaber, published its final bulletin of the winter.

“Today is the last day of forecasting from the SAIS until next winter,” it announced.

“And looking at the weather forecast, there is also a good chance that it’s also the last day of winter anyway! The summit temperatures have gone above zero this afternoon and it looks like it’s going to stay that way or the foreseeable future!!”

At Glencoe there’s still some snow around if you’re prepared to hike to find it.

Glencoe, 17th April – photo Winterhighland Ltd

On Monday 26th, the Access Chairlift re-opened for ski tourers, sledgers and sightseers with pre-booked tickets.

The Base station cafe is open from 8am to 8pm with hot food until 7.30pm.

But the main focus there is now on summer activities.

Accommodation at Glencoe Mountain Resort – 16 microlodges, 4 campervan hook-ups and space for 15 tents – has also re-opened from today.

“Our accommodation was very busy last summer and we expect the same again this summer so please book soon to avoid disappointment,” the resort says.

Summer tubing is scheduled to begin at weekends and holidays from the 1st May.

The downhill bike tracks will open on 15th May – at least for those with their own equipment.

“Bike hire won’t be available until mid June, unfortunately Brexit is having a major impact on managing to get bikes into the country,” the resort says.

Nevis Range near Fort William has announced that it will open on Wednesday 28th April and is looking to recruit full and part-time staff for a variety of roles.

Its bike school will open on 1st May.

The Lecht has not yet publicly announced its plans.

Glenshee has said it will open its Cairnwell chairlift on Friday 30th April until the end of September for summer operations.

It’s all good news for those of us anxious to access the mountains close to home for some hiking and biking this summer.

However, the Scottish Government is warning that travel restrictions between parts of Scotland and other parts of the UK could be re-introduced if there are local outbreaks of Covid-19.

“We must remember that the virus we are dealing with now is much more infectious than it was when bars and cafes were last open so it is really important that as we enjoy these new restored freedoms we continue to be really careful and take all of the required precautions,” Nicola Sturgeon said.

The BBC has put together this summary of the changes in Scotland from 26th April:

  • up to six people from two households can socialise indoors in a public place such as a café or restaurant
  • unrestricted travel within Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland (subject to local restrictions)
  • all shops, stores and close contact services like nail bars to open
  • hospitality venues like cafes, pubs and restaurants to open until 20:00 indoors, but without alcohol
  • alcohol to be served outdoors under local licensing restrictions
  • tourist accommodation to reopen (self-catering accommodation restricted in line with rules on indoor gathering)
  • funerals and weddings, including receptions, to take place with up to 50 people (alcohol permitted)
  • gyms and swimming pools to reopen for individual exercise
  • indoor attractions and public buildings such as galleries, museums and libraries to open
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