Travel advice flouted as sunshine draws people to Lochaber beauty spots

Glencoe, pictured, which saw an upsurge in numbers of people at the weekend.

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First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has threatened to tighten coronavirus lockdown travel restrictions if there are repeats of the behaviour that saw people flock to sun-soaked Scottish beauty spots at the weekend, including Arisaig’s beaches and Glencoe.

Giving her regular briefing on Monday, Ms Sturgeon singled out Glencoe as an example of somewhere that caused her particular concern.

She said: ‘On Saturday, on the A82 by Loch Lomond, traffic was around three times higher than the previous Saturday. We saw a similar picture around Glencoe.

‘I’m going to be blunt here – it is very hard to see how all of that can have been caused by local residents, or by people travelling a reasonable distance to meet loved ones.

‘So we will be considering all of this as we continue to assess the impact of the Phase 1 changes.’

Guidelines issued last week made clear that trips for leisure or exercise should not exceed five miles.

In a joint statement, the chairpersons of community councils for Arisaig and District (Iain Macniven), Morar (David Newnham) and Mallaig (Sandra McLean), told us: ‘Over the past few weeks a lot of local people have raised concerns about visitors ignoring the five-mile rule to visit our villages and beaches and, while the majority of local businesses are almost totally reliant on tourism, we would respectfully request people to comply with the five-mile rule for their sake and the benefit of our community.

‘We also ask that visitors treat our community land as they would treat their own property: put rubbish in the correct designated bins or take it away with them if there are no available bins.’

Local Mallaig police constable Hugo Martin said the numbers of people on beaches in the Arisaig area was nowhere near as many as would be seen on a normal summer weekend.

‘But there were certainly  more over the weekend than there had been in the weeks prior to the changes in the lockdown rules announced at the end of last week,’ he told us on Tuesday.

Councillor Denis Rixson (Caol and Mallaig) said it was perhaps inevitable that as the lockdown was slightly relaxed, a number of people ‘escaped’ to the countryside.

‘Living here I can’t imagine the frustrations of being cooped up in a city flat with lively children desperate for some fresh air and a chance to play in the sand,’ he told us.

Praising local police for the ‘sensitive’ way officers had handled things so far, Mr Rixson added: ‘I would take this opportunity to urge restraint and self-discipline on all who are thinking of visiting.

‘We want you back, please – but slowly, cautiously, in line with Scottish Government advice.’

Councillor Denis Rixson.