Tourists are being urged to stay at home and not visit some of the remote communities in the Scottish Highlands in the midst of the coronavirus crisis.
Scotland’s tourism secretary, Fiona Hyslop, was clear, saying: “My advice to everybody is stay where you are. Do not travel to the Highlands and Islands.”
Meanwhile, Judy Murray, mother of tennis stars Andy and Jamie Murray, tweeted a simple message to “those relocating to the countryside” – a picture of a car and trailer with “go home idiots” and “Covid-19” painted on the side.
The pleas came as the organisation that represents tourism businesses along the A830 road, which connects Fort William with Mallaig, also urged potential visitors to stay away.
The Road To The Isles group includes 100 accommodation and visitor-based businesses on the scenic route, which takes in Glenfinnan, Lochailort, Roshven, Arisaig, Morar, Mallaig and the Small Isles of Eigg, Muck, Rum, Canna and the Knoydart peninsula.
The area already has an ageing population, with just one doctor and ambulance to cover it, and the nearest hospital is 100 miles away.
As Covid-19 affects communities across the country, the organisation said the “vital services” still open there are “struggling to cope with demand”.
Sine MacKellaig-Davis, chairwoman of Road To The Isles Marketing Group, said: “Road To The Isles at this time would normally be marking the opening of the season, coming out of hibernation and preparing to welcome valued visitors from around the country.
“However, Covid-19 has changed all our lives as we know it. We now face a difficult road ahead and have a social responsibility to protect our communities.”.
She added: “For now, we ask you to stay home, care for loved ones and, as soon as it’s safe to do so, the Road to the Isles and its communities and businesses will welcome you.
“Right now, we need to protect all the people that make the Road to the Isles such a unique and special place.”
Gordon Watson, chief executive of Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park Authority, is also urging people to stay away following a surge in visitors on Saturday.
He said: “Yesterday, like many areas of Scotland, Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park saw a huge volume of visitors, particularly in towns and villages.
“This included shops and cafes being overwhelmed and people clearly disregarding the national guidance on social distancing and essential travel.
“The risks of spreading the virus in the countryside are the same as in cities and towns. In addition, local food supplies and health services needed for residents cannot cope with these extra pressures.
“We are urging people not to travel to the National Park unnecessarily. Please stay home and help stop the spread of Covid-19.”
He said moves are now being made to close all visitor facilities, including car parks, toilets, and camping and motorhome sites.
He added: “We know that the weather is good and this is an extremely difficult time but we have to do what is best for everyone.
“The National Park will still be here when all this is over and in the meantime we will find ways for those who can’t get outside into the National Park to still feel connected to this special place.
“If you do need a breath of fresh air please stay close to home.”
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