Scottish island votes to keep visitors away

Residents of a Scottish island have voted to keep visitors away as lockdown eases with holiday accommodation to remain closed for now.

Residents of the Isle of Eigg have voted to remain locked down against visitors until the end of August. PIC: Creative Commons/Graeme Churchyard.
Residents of the Isle of Eigg have voted to remain locked down against visitors until the end of August. PIC: Creative Commons/Graeme Churchyard.

The community of Eigg in the Inner Hebrides said it did not yet want to open up to tourists given the high number of vulnerable people living on the island as well as limited ferry capacity and difficulties putting social distancing restrictions in place.

All self-catering, hostel and guest house accommodation, Galmisdale Bay Café, and Lageorna restaurant will stay closed until August 31 at least, with the date then due to be reviewed.

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Campers, kayakers and sailing vessels have also been asked to stay away.

A statement from the Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust, which manages the island on behalf of its residents, said a vote of islanders had resulted in the majority backing the position.

The statement aded: “We know many people want to come to Eigg this summer, but sadly, for the moment, we ask you not to come.

"We are a remote and geographically isolated community with both elderly and vulnerable residents. We have worked hard to ensure the health and wellbeing of all our residents

since the beginning of this pandemic.

“As our public toilets, showers, and visitor attractions are closed, and our shop open to residents only we also ask day trip visitors, campers, kayakers, yachts and other vessels not to come to Eigg for the time being too.”

Residents had been “working hard” to put social distancing and hygiene measures in place on the island but found it could not balance the number of people wanting to come to the island with the restrictions that now had to be in place.

Around 100 people live on Eigg with most of the houses occupied all-year round. It is owned by residents who bought the island from its absent landlord in 1997.

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As Covid restrictions remain in place, capacity on the CalMac ferry to Eigg has been cut from 190 places to 90 with the spaces shared with those living on the other Small Isles, which including Rum and Canna.

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Keeping the spaces for islanders to go to the mainland to see loved ones and keep hospital appointments had to remain the priority, with tradesmen also needing to get to the Small Isles, the trust said.

The statement added: “Now that travel restrictions are lifted, islanders need to go the mainland for hospital and other appointments, or to travel and see their loved ones again. Business or tradespeople need to come and fix things that have been broken for months. Friends and family want to be reunited, and visitors like you, and many others from around the world, want to come.

"Normally the CalMac summer ferry from Mallaig runs six days a week and has a capacity of 190. In addition, there’s usually a passenger ferry that comes five days a week from Arisaig, with a capacity of 80. In total, there are normally just over 1,500 passenger places to Eigg a week. At the moment with just four ferries from Mallaig a week, with space for 40 people, there are a total of just 160 passenger places a week, shared between Eigg, Muck, and Rum.

"Eigg has around 110 people living here. Between self-catering and guesthouse accommodation, there are something like 120 beds, all of which were fully booked for July and August. Many more people have been in contact to say they want to come to Eigg to camp. With only four ferries a week, how should we use those 40 places fairly? Prioritise one islander’s return visit to their elderly parents in Glasgow over another’s need to have their boiler fixed? A visitor coming to stay for a week in a cottage, over one in a tent for a fortnight, or a day tripper?”

"Sadly, for our visitors, the ferry conundrum means it seems much fairer to you and to our Eigg and Small Isles communities to say “please don’t come to Eigg for now”.

On the other Small Isles, visitors remain limited given that many facilites are closed.

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One Rum, the campsite, bunkhouse, visitor centre, village hall, Kinloch Castle, and bothies remain closed.

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