Can I visit Scotland? A guide to travel rules north of the border

Scotland
British holidaymakers have been enjoying trips to Scotland – but some restrictions remain Credit: getty

Coronavirus measures continue to dictate daily life in Britain and the four nations have set out different rules and timelines for relaxing – or reintroducing – restrictions, which can be difficult to unpick.

Scotland remains in the third phase of its coronavirus approach, which offers significant freedoms, although there are still local lockdowns to contend with. On September 10, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced a "tightening and extension" of current measures, meaning more face masks and more limitations on social gatherings.

Here we detail what the new rules mean for trips north of the border. 

What are the current restrictions in Scotland, and can I visit?

Yes, although some Scots are urging visitors to be considerate and cautious. After Scotland moved to ‘Phase Three’ of its coronavirus approach, a spokesperson for Visit Scotland told Telegraph Travel: “We understand that many people wish to visit our beautiful country, and we will always welcome those who choose to do so.

“However, as coronavirus has not yet gone away, visitors may wish to consider whether they should travel at this time, and whether it is safe from them to do so.”

Before you visit, note that some restrictions have been reintroduced in Glasgow, East and West Dunbartonshire, Renfrewshire and East Renfrewshire, where people have been urged not to visit other households indoors.

Some restrictions have returned to Glasgow Credit: Getty

Fears have previously been raised that travel from England could be restricted after a key Scottish Government advisor suggested that quarantine measures should be explored, citing US states employing similar tactics with their neighbours.

At the time, Nicola Sturgeon stated that, while there are currently no plans to introduce the standard 14-day quarantine rule for English travellers, “I’m not ruling anything out, if it’s required from a public health perspective.”

In response, Marc Crothall, Chief Executive of the Scottish Tourism Alliance, said: “Clearly given that over 70 per cent of Scottish tourism comes from the UK market, any restrictions on domestic travel will have a significantly negative impact on the sector”.

There has been some evidence of a stay-away sentiment over the summer, with pictures emerging of locals at the Scottish border holding signs warning off visitors from England. Marc Crothall is keen for tourism to continue safely but understands concerns: “The industry fully appreciates that people will be hesitant, and we must proceed with caution to ensure that our communities do not feel under threat and are comfortable in welcoming visitors in the spirit that we are so well known for.”

What can I do on a trip to Scotland?

As long as you book ahead and adhere to social distancing, there is plenty to do on a trip to Scotland. Since July 15 museums, galleries, cinemas, libraries and other attractions have been allowed  to open.

However, as in England, from Monday September 14 it is only possible to meet in groups of up to six. This applies to restaurants, pubs and people’s homes – both indoors and outdoors. 

Remember to pack your face mask Credit: getty

On September 10, Nicola Sturgeon also announced that face mask rules would be extended. She said: “First, We intend to make it mandatory for customers in hospitality premises to wear face coverings when they are moving around and not eating or drinking – for example when entering and going to a table, or to the bathroom.

“And second, subject to some exemptions, we will also make it mandatory – rather than simply guidance – for staff working in hospitality premises to also wear face coverings."

Face masks are already required in shops and must be worn on public transport and in taxis. 

Otherwise, hospitality businesses are subject to similar rules to establishments in England and should maintain a two-metre distance between customers. Where this is not possible, there must be a warning to visitors that they are entering a one-metre zone and there should be increased ventilation.

Tourist attractions are working hard to ensure safe visits. Gordon Morrison, CEO of the Association of Scottish Visitor Attractions, told the Telegraph: “We are working closely with the Scottish Government and local communities to reassure the public that visitor attractions will be opening with all the necessary safety protocols in place to ensure that the virus will not be spread at our sites.”

Morrison highlighted initiatives such as the We’re Good to Go scheme, essentially a badge which demonstrates that “an attraction has put necessary measures in place to limit the possibility of transmission, while also providing a warm and friendly welcome to all, be they from Scotland, England or indeed anywhere else in the world.”

There are still a number of other activities that remain off-limits and will not resume until at least October 5. These include indoor entertainment venues such as nightclubs, theatres, and concert halls. 

Can I stay overnight in Scotland?

Self-catering accommodation was allowed to reopen on July 3 and holiday letting companies, such as Sawday’s, saw bookings soar as holidaymakers sought remote Highland escapes. 

Hotels were able to reopen from July 15, providing they follow certain guidelines and hygiene practices. Gleneagles, one of Scotland’s most luxurious hotels, reopened its doors on this date, as it was well-positioned to ensure social distancing with its 850-acre grounds. 

Gleneagles, one of Scotland's finest hotels, will reopen on July 15

Glenapp Castle, a grand hotel in Ayrshire, has implemented a number of hygiene measures since reopening. A spokesperson for the hotel said: “We have introduced additional measures with our ‘Stay Safe’ policy. These include hygiene packs (which include sanitiser, masks, temperature strips and sanitising wipes) being available in all bedrooms and staff having their temperature taken upon arrival on every shift.

“We have also brought in the important electrostatic fogger machine which disinfects all surfaces and spaces and ensures any contagions are removed from the air. We will be using this now in our new cleaning protocols.”

More remote island hotels such as The Machrie, set on a beach on the Isle of Islay, and the Three Chimneys on Skye have also now reopened.