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Guidance for hill walkers and climbers in Scotland

**Please note that the information below is the Scottish Government guidance and measures may differ between Scotland and the rest of the UK. **

Update 26/04/2021

The First Minister has outlined upcoming changes and indicative dates for further easing of Covid restrictions in Scotland. The current guidelines for Scotland (from 26 April) for what you can and cannot do (relevant to hill walking and climbing) are as follows:

  • Travel for outdoor recreation and exercise is allowed at within all level 3 areas of Scotland and between Scotland and the rest of the UK. More details here.
  • To help protect island communities, anyone travelling to one of the Scottish Islands is asked to take two lateral flow Covid tests before travelling (the last one within 24 hrs of travelling) - more details on how to get tests here.

  • Informal outdoor exercise/recreation – Up to 6 people from 6 households can meet outdoors for information sport, recreation or exercise. This applies to anyone over 12. Under 12s do not count towards the total number of people or households meeting outside. 

  • Organised sport/exercise – At level 3, groups of up to 30 people may meet (with COVID officer and other measures, physical distancing etc) for organised outdoor sport and exercise (ie formal club meets), which can take place anywhere in Scotland (in another level 3 area) – see our guidance for clubs and groups for more information. This is a maximum number that can take part, and smaller group sizes are preferable and more manageable.

  • Camping – Wild camping is permissible at Level 3 within another Level 3 area. If you are considering wild camping please do it responsibly and with consideration for others. Avoid busy areas, follow the current travel guidance and rules on meeting others outdoors, and always adhere to the Scottish Outdoor Access Code. Campsites are expected to open from 26 April 2021 however if you are planning to camp at a formal site we would advise contacting them in advance to check they are open and that pitches are available for tents.

  • Club huts – Club huts allowed to reopen (following relevant sector guidance and only single household bookings until 17 May). See the guidance for clubs for more information.

  • Car sharing – You should not share a vehicle with anyone from another household, unless you absolutely have to. For further information visit the Transport Scotland website.

  • Bothies remain closed - for more information and further updates visit the Mountain Bothies Association webpage www.mountainbothies.org.uk or Facebook group.

Please read our full guidance for hill walkers, climbers and mountaineers below for full details.

Timetable for further changes:

17 May - all of Scotland expected to move to level 2

  • Club huts/indoor gatherings - up to 4 adults from 2 households expected to be able to meet indoors

Reopening of Club Huts

Hostels and club huts can re-open from the 26th of April 2021 under the guidance for self catering accommodation. We understand many clubs will be keen to re-open access to their huts and occupancy should be limited to single households until the intended move to Level 2 on 17th May where more than one household may be able to meet indoors.

At this point there has been no further update to the BMC guidance document “Reopening Club Huts During COVID-19” however we are working with the BMC to ensure consistent messaging to clubs across the UK to reflect any changes in the national and sector specific guidance whilst recognising the different approaches being taken by the UK and Scottish governments.   

Guidance and downloads 

Guidance for hill walkers & climbers (updated 16/04/2021)

Guidance for affiliated clubs and huts (updated 16/04/21)

ABC Guidance for indoor climbing wall operators

The guidance for hill walkers, climbers and clubs in Scotland have been developed in collaboration with the Mountain Safety Group which includes Scottish Mountain Rescue, Mountain Training Scotland, Glenmore Lodge, and the Association for Mountaineering Instructors. The purpose of the guidance is to provide a framework for hill walkers and climbers within the current Scottish Government public health advice and phase of exit from lockdown, and to highlight additional considerations to be aware of in the presence of COVID-19 when taking part in these activities. 

We urge everyone heading out to enjoy the outdoors to be mindful of how their individual actions reflect on the whole outdoor community. The key will be for individuals to take a sensible approach to their activities, use your judgement to manage the risks, and to consider the social responsibility we all have to each other, to protecting our emergency services and to minimise the transmission of COVID-19.

This guidance applies to all visitors to Scotland as well as residents.

Visitor information

COVID guidance for other parts of the UK

Under current Scottish regulations, unless you have a reasonable excuse (see exceptions) you must not travel between Scotland and the rest of the UK. Please check for updates on the Scottish Government website.

Restrictions and advice on what you can do and where you can travel are also in place within England, Wales and Northern Ireland and in the other territories in the Common Travel area, the Republic of Ireland, Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man.

  • Mountaineering in England and Wales: For full details of the current COVID guidance for England and Wales, please visit the BMC website.
  • Northern Ireland: For details of COVID restrictions in Northern Island click here.

To keep yourself and other safe you should:

  • wear a face covering
  • avoid crowded places
  • clean hands and surfaces regularly
  • stay 2m away from other people
  • self-isolate and book a test if you have COVID-19 symptoms (new continuous cough, fever or loss of, or change in, sense of smell or taste)

Local protection measures are now in place in Scotland - find out more on the Scottish Government website.

Please note that advice from the Scottish Government may differ from that for England and Wales. 

Mountaineering Scotland and ClimbScotland events

We are delivering as many courses and events as we can within the current Scottish Government COVID guidelines, and assessing the viability of each course on a rolling basis. For a list of courses, including winter skills and avalanche awareness, check our events page. See individual event pages for any special arrangements.

ClimbScotland events are still currently cancelled, but the situation is being kept under review and outdoor and indoor events will be resumed as soon as is safely possible.

Information for Coaches/Leaders

Mountain Training Scotland has also produced guidance for those involved in formally led mountain related activities. This document will also include indoor climbing activities and this is currently in the process of being written and reviewed.

Read the Mountain Training Scotland guidance

Outdoor access during COVID-19

The current guidance in relation to the Scottish Outdoor Access Code for COVID-19 is:

  • Maintain your distance – please stay at least 2 metres away from other people and if possible, try to avoid busy times on popular paths or places.
  • Respect the health and safety of farmers and others working the land – please follow all reasonable requests and signs to avoid particular areas, such as farmyards, fields with pregnant or young livestock, and other busy working areas.
  • Keep your dog under control – please put them on a lead or keep them close at heel and do not let them approach other people or livestock.
  • Avoid contact – try to avoid touching surfaces and if possible, plan a route that does not require you to open gates.

For full details read the Scottish Outdoor Access Code for COVID-19 here.

Reporting access issues

If you have any concerns or questions regarding access issue please contact access@mountaineering.scot

Mountain Bothies

All Mountain Bothy Assocation -maintained bothies remain closed to visitors. At present, it seems unlikely that they will be able to re-open until such time as Government guidance permits public gatherings in enclosed spaces without the need for social distancing. The MBA is keeping the situation under close review and if there is any change or indeed any further information that becomes available they will provide further advice on their website and Facebook page.

Update 15/04/2021:

From the 16th of April some of the rules on what you can and cannot do change to allow travel anywhere in Scotland for recreation and also to meet in groups of up to 6 adults from 6 households outdoors. 

Level 4 (from 16/04/21):

  • Informal outdoor exercise/recreation – you may travel anywhere within Scotland for outdoor exercise/recreation following the Scottish Government rules for meeting others outdoors (up to 6 adults from 6 households). Under 12s do not count towards the total number of people or households meeting outside. 
  • Organised sport/exercise - Groups of up to 15 people may meet (with COVID officer and other measures, physical distancing etc) for organised outdoor sport and exercise (ie formal club meets), which must take place within the local authority area – see our guidance for clubs and groups for more information
  • The members of an individual household or extended household can meet outdoors for sport or exercise.
  • Indoor facilities are to remain closed at Level 4 (includes climbing walls, outdoor centres, huts, bothies).

Useful links:

Sportscotland/Harper McLeod club resources: Sportscotland and Harper McLeod have put together further guidance and information for sports clubs in Scotland which seeks to address some of the most common questions that clubs may have during this time. The club hub contains new documents covering a range of topics relevant to clubs including financial support, data protection, general meetings and events. Access the club hub here

Maintaining contact with club members: At this time, maintaining contact with club members at a distance is vital to keep up relationships and support positive mental health. Regular communication with club members via email or social media is important for maintaining a sense of community. Skype, Zoom, WhatsApp, House Pary and Facebook groups are just a few ways you can keep in contact and may provide an opportunity for some of your members to learn to use some of these digital tools. It’s also a good opportunity to ask your members to contribute to the conversation with photos, videos and stories of their adventures, and to share fun and happy memories as well as plans and ideas for future meets.

Governance: The COVID-19 pandemic is likely to have an impact on a number of events over the coming months, including your club’s AGM. To comply with the current social distancing requirements, holding a face to face meeting may not be possible at this time, therefore Mountaineering Scotland is fully supportive of the need for exceptional measures and accept that clubs may need to postpone their AGM or use digital solutions to hold a ‘virtual’ AGM, even if this contravenes their constitution. In either case, it is important that clubs communicate plans with members at the earliest opportunity and ensure that if a digital solution is used, it is freely available to all members who wish to participate. 

Club huts: Whether or not you open your hut is a matter for clubs to decide based on the current guidance (see the guidance for clubs and huts above for more details and specific guidance for hut managers).

Public liability and club insurance:

Following enquiries from clubs and members re insurance, and have received this advice from Howden:

"At the present time we at Howden can only advise you and your clubs to follow the Government advice. Within any insurance policy there is a reasonable precautions condition and if the club or members are deliberately ignoring advice or acting recklessly this may impact on the liability indemnity being available. All clubs and members should record their decisions and reasons to proceed or not with their activities, and ensure that risk assessment and risk management is considered through their process. The health and wellbeing of everyone being of primary importance as per the Government's guidance."

Mountaineering Scotland was formed 50 years ago to represent the interests of Scotland's hill walkers, climbers and mountaineers, and we continue that work today. With over 14,500 members and 160 affiliated clubs, we are open to anyone who loves to walk, climb or ski in Scotland's mountains.

Membership of Mountaineering Scotland offers excellent value and includes insurance for your mountaineering activities, member discounts and offers, access to great value mountain skills and climbing courses, events and competitions, quarterly Scottish Mountaineer magazine and more: Find out more about our member benefits here

In return you add your voice to our campaigns to protect Scotland's mountain landscapes, safeguard access rights, promote skills and safety,  and encourage people from all walks of life to enjoy the hills, mountains and climbing walls of Scotland responsibly.

Join Mountaineering Scotland