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Small islands around Oban are bracing themselves for the return of tourism.
Day trippers to Luing are being told they are welcome back but to think carefully and sensibly first because there are no public toilets, nowhere to wash hands and no where to leave litter – next season would be better.
Posters up at Cuan Ferry carry the message: ‘While we normally welcome everyone who wants to visit our island, just now with the continued threat of Covid, we would prefer it if you came next season.’
Mike Barlow, who is Luing Community Council convenor, said: ‘We’re not saying don’t come, we just want them to be aware there are no facilities for day visitors. If they do come, we want them to be sensible – to stay away from any locals if they do meet them, wipe clean anything they touch and take any rubbish home. Covid is not over, the island is still vulnerable. There’s no reason for any locals to come into contact with tourists. We don’t know what they’ve been touching or where they’ve come from.’
There is no bike hire on the island but Sunnybrae Caravan Park at South Cuan, run by Mr Barlow, is aiming to be open for guests this Saturday, July 3, with all the necessary protocols in place. Bookings have been taken for July and August is expected to be busy.
Over on neighbouring Seil and Easdale, the community council is also putting up posters to go on Clachan Bridge and up at other visitor hot spots welcoming tourists back but urging them to ‘do their bit’ keeping a social distance and hand sanitising often.
Community council chairperson Julie Ferris said: ‘It’s a tricky balancing act. We will be welcoming people back but asking them to help us stay safe. We’re pretty much Covid- free here at the moment and we want to keep it that way. There’s an understandable tension between people concerned about infection being brought in and then those whose livelihoods depend on business and tourism. We’ve got to come out of lockdown at some point it can’t go on for ever more.’
However, Seil’s play park will not be reopening yet and neither will the Slate Islands Heritage Trust Museum in Ellenabeich, it has delayed its opening until next Spring.
Easdale-based wildlife tour specialist Seafari Adventures is getting ready for tourists to return, working out social distancing options on the RIB, sticking to Scottish Government guidelines and recognising community’s concerns, says co-owner Jess Hill.
Lismore has stayed Covid free so far. Families and relatives of residents are being allowed to make the ferry crossing to visit. The community website says it is ‘very much looking forward to welcoming you again in future!’
Clare Haworth who runs the Lismore Bunkhouse & Campsite said she was ‘caught on the hop’ when Scottish tourism businesses were told to prepare for reopening on July 15.
‘I thought the islands were going to be reopening slower than the mainland so I was caught on the hop. I won’t be opening in the next three weeks, I just don’t feel ready for it myself yet but we are making plans. When we do reopen it won’t be in the normal way. There won’t be people just turning up to stay, it’s likely to be sole use for families or groups already together. Tent wise, it’ll probably be just one or two at a time but kept at a safe distance, it’s about logistics, there’s lots to still work out.
‘We have stayed Covid-free on Lismore and with a high elderly population here I want to do my best to help keep everyone safe,’ said Clare.