Tiny island community votes to let tourists back

A tiny island community has voted to welcome tourists back as lockdown eases.

The Isle of Muck, as viewed from Eigg. Muck has voted to let tourists back as lockdown eases while the community on Eigg has agreed to keep visitors away until the end of next month at least. PIC: Jim Barton/Geograph.org.

Residents of Muck in the Inner Hebrides have approved the re-opening of self-catering accommodation and small businesses, with around two-thirds of the population supporting the move.

It comes as neighbouring Eigg voted to keep tourists away until at least August 31 given concern over pressure on an already reduced ferry service and difficulties in introducing Covid-related restrictions.

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Scottish island votes to keep tourists away
Bruce Boyd, owner of Isle of Muck Tearoom and Choc-Ness confectioners, said that easing of lockdown had "brought home" the realities of coronavirus to the island.

Meanwhile on Muck, yachts have started to arrive at the pontoon, the latest sailor coming from Somerset, with tourists also appearing on the ferry from Mallaig.

Wild campers, however, cannot be accommodated on Muck for now given the community hall, which is home to the island’s public toilets, remains closed.

Bruce Boyd, owner of the Isle of Muck Tea room and Choc-Ness confectioners, said that easing lockdown had “brought home” the realities of the pandemic, which is home to 30 people.

He relocated to the island from the Highlands just before lockdown to take on the tea room, which was open for just five days before having to close to seated customers.

He said: “At the very beginning of lockdown, we were in a little bubble and we felt at a very safe distance that everything that was happening on the mainland.

“Now were are trying to re-open we are being very cautious as we are not used to masks and so forth.

“When the ferry comes in people are coming off the boat with a mask on, with gloves on and all their luggage is separated out.

“Some of the residents were nervous when it was announced that the cottages were opening up. A lot of them didn’t understand why. Some people said they were just going to

stay in their houses.”

A notice is now pinned up at the pontoon advising the ‘yachties’ to be mindful of the local population if stepping on to the island. At the tea room, customers are required to use hand sanitiser with a track and trace system now in place.

Mr Boyd said around half a dozen yachts had come to the island so far since lockdown eased with a few day trippers coming from Coll. Seal-watching cruises from Arisaig are expected to start again early next month.

Each of the Small Isles, which include Eigg, Rum, Muck and Canna, had their own votes on how to manage re-opening after lockdown.

Eigg voted to keep tourists away and while Rum has limited overnight accommodation and facilities available. On Canna, no overnight accommodation is on offer.

Mr Boyd, a pastry chef of 30 years experience, said: “Eigg is a much bigger population than ours and I don’t know how reliant they are on tourism. We are a much smaller community and the few businesses we do have are very much reliant on tourism.”

The Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust said keeping the island closed to tourists had been an “agonising” decision to reach.

Around 120 bed and breakfast and self-catering beds had been ‘fully booked’ for July and August with many more people indicating they wanted to visit. Meanwhile, it was decided that reduced ferry services should be prioritised for islanders visiting the mainland and also for trades people needed for jobs on Eigg.

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