Complaint made after luxury hotel locks gates to island

Padlocked gates at the Isle of Eriska Hotel & Spa are now open again.

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A luxury island resort accused of blocking rights to roam by locking its gates in lockdown, says it was to keep staff safe from coronavirus

The complaint about the Isle of Eriska Hotel & Spa, part of a collection run by Inverlochy Castle Management International, was made to Argyll and Bute Council when metal gates to a bridge connecting the mainland to the 300 acre island, with views overlooking Loch Linnhe and the Morvern mountains, were padlocked.

While the island’s wildlife, known to include badgers, grey seals, otters and eagles were able to enjoy the land during the COVID-19 outbreak, access to walkers and nature seekers via the bridge was shut off.

However when The Oban Times contacted the hotel, we were told the gates have now been reopened and were only locked as a way of keeping staff isolating on the site safe.

Isle of Eriska Hotel & Spa’s general manager Lewis Scrimgeour said: ‘We took the decision to restrict access to Eriska since we closed the hotel in March in order to protect the health of those staff members living in isolation on the site. Following the Scottish Government’s decision to ease restrictions the gates are now open for all to access and enjoy the island. We ask that people continue to follow social distancing guidelines at all times.’

The hotel, which has a golf course and other leisure facilities as well as cottages, spa suites and hilltop reserves, is getting ready to reopen when restrictions allow.

A spokesperson for Argyll and Bute Council said it was aware a complaint had been made but could not comment on it ‘at this time’.

But the council spokesperson did say: ‘National guidance throughout the COVID-19 pandemic has been clear: people should stay local when exercising.

‘The responsibilities of the public and land managers at this difficult time have been outlined in the Scottish Outdoor Access Code.’

The Scottish Outdoor Access Code advises land managers that during the coronavirus crisis there can be particular concerns about public access but says rights of responsible access continue to apply to most land and inland water, subject to responsible behaviour.

‘If circumstances permit, it may be better to fasten some gates open,’ says the advice that goes on to suggest temporary signs can be used to make reasonable requests to the public.

Advice also says it is important to ensure that local opportunities for outdoor recreation are widely available and that land managers can contribute to this ‘by continuing to welcome public access and by minimising requests to avoid particular places, rather than seeking to restrict access to extensive areas.’

Access along core paths and other well-used routes should also be maintained if at all possible, as these may be particularly important for local outdoor recreation.

Information on outdoor access in Argyll and Bute, including how to report a blocked path, can be found on the council website at www.argyll-bute.gov.uk/planning-and-environment/outdoor-access-argyll-and-bute