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Visit Outer Hebrides has published new guidance for visitors to the islands, in an immediate response to the First Minister’s confirmation that tourism in Scotland will recommence from Wednesday 15 July.

In a dedicated page published on their website on Thursday 9 July, the official tourism information website offered advice explaining how things stand in the islands, and what changes tourists may see.

Promising to post a full list of businesses which will be open in the near future, yesterday’s statement said: “Most business on the islands are planning on opening, but some may not be ready for 15 July and some B&Bs, hostels and other businesses are choosing to remain closed for the season.

“However, as we move into the "new normal" things will be different - in particular restaurants are having to adapt to new ways of working and some visitor experiences, where social distancing is not possible will not operate (this includes some boat tours, gyms/swimming pools, attractions and the like).

“Given the situation it is essential that you book ahead, be that for a campervan space or a bed - we are keen to make sure you get on the ferry and avoid spending a night in the car.”

Visit Outer Hebrides chief executive Rob McKinnon said: “We have produced this information just to have something more practical out there for the benefit of visitors who are coming to the islands.
“We have tried to get the messaging right throughout this crisis, and I hope we have put across a clear picture of what visitors can expect.”
The handout is also being made available on social media and via links with Loganair and CalMac as an advisory note to prospective travellers.

Stupendous…the Atlantic cliffs of Mingulay

The page links to an advisory leaflet at which pulls no punches in underlining the differences mainland visitors should expect.

The advice includes “Some things will inevitably be out of stock, but that is part of island life” and “Restaurants may not have all their regular staff, so please be patient as they adjust to a new way of working.”

The leaflet explains: “Compared to other parts of Scotland, where lockdown has been relaxing gradually, we are only now cautiously re-opening.

“For many, this means adjusting quickly to changing circumstances. We ask for your understanding as we get things rolling.

“This year, more than any other, you have a part to play in helping everything run smoothly by respecting local customs, the islands’ environment and the latest Scottish Government guidance while out and about.”