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Guidance for hill walkers and climbers in Scotland

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

Update 07/01/2021

From Tuesday 5 January 2021, mainland Scotland moved to a temporary lockdown, with new guidance to stay at home except for essential purposes. Some islands will remain at Level 3. More information on the temporary lockdown and local authority boundary maps is available on the Scottish Government website.

Mountaineering Scotland welcomes the inclusion of outdoor recreation as one of the exemptions for travel, recognising the low risk of transmission outdoors and the benefits to health and wellbeing.  However, given new variant of virus, we all need to be extra careful to avoid transmission.

We encourage everyone to continue to act responsibly particularly in areas where access and car parking may be busy, and to respect the feelings of rural and remote communities and those living and working in the countryside.  When planning your activity stay well within your limits and minimise the risks to yourselves and others, continue to follow the Scottish Government FACTS advice to minimise the risk of transmitting COVID-19, and seek a test and self-isolate if you are experiencing symptoms.

For the indoor climbing community and all our young athletes, unfortunately Level 4 restrictions mean that our climbing walls must close again, and our best wishes go out to all those venues affected and  we hope to see you back open again very soon. 

Key points for level 4:

  • You should not leave your home or travel outside your local authority area unless for an essential reason, and should avoid any unnecessary travel.
  • There are exemptions for sport, exercise and outdoor recreation allowing travel within and up to 5 miles from the boundary your local authority area as long as you start and finish at the same place, and abide by the rules on meeting other households (see below). The Scottish Government recommend that you travel no further than you need to reach to a safe, non-crowded place to exercise in a socially distanced way. 
  • Household rules now apply to all outdoor recreation and physical activity in level 4 areas (including organised club/group activities), allowing a maximum of 2 people from 2 separate households to meet outdoors for sport or exercise, with 2m physical distancing maintained at all times. Children under 12 do not count towards households or numbers when meeting outside.
  • 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).

 Key points for level 3:

  • Informal outdoor recreation and exercise is permitted in accordance with the Scottish Government guidance on how many households you can meet with outdoors (maximum number of 6 people from up to 2 separate households), with 2m physical distancing maintained at all times. Children under the age of 12 from these households do not count towards the total number of people counted in a gathering. 
  • You can leave your local authority area during the course of outdoor recreation if it starts and ends within the area or around 5 miles of your local authority boundary (please note the 5 mile limit does not apply to organised sport/outdoor activity, which must start/finish in the local authority area).
  • Organised club/group activity under the Mountaineering Scotland guidance is allowed but only within the local authority area.
  • Indoor climbing walls remain open and operating under ABC guidance.

Guidance downloads

Guidance for hill walkers & climbers (updated 07/01/2021)

Guidance for affiliated clubs and huts (updated 07/01/21)

ABC Guidance for indoor climbing wall operators


Our 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 this 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.

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 07/01/2021:

From Tuesday 5 January, mainland Scotland will move from Level 4 to a temporary lockdown, with new guidance to stay at home except for essential purposes. 

Level 4:

  • Household rules now apply to all outdoor recreation and physical activity in level 4 areas (including organised group activities), allowing a maximum of 2 people from 2 separate households to meet outdoors for sport or exercise. Children under 12 do not count towards households or numbers when meeting outside.
  • 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).

Level 3:

  • Organised club/group activity under the Mountaineering Scotland guidance is allowed but only within the local authority area.
  • Informal outdoor recreation and exercise is permitted in accordance with the Scottish Government guidance on how many households you can meet with outdoors (maximum number of 6 people from up to 2 separate households). Children under the age of 12 from these households do not count towards the total number of people counted in a gathering. 
  • You can leave your local authority area during the course of outdoor recreation if it starts and ends within the area or around 5 miles of your local authority boundary (please note the 5 mile limit does not apply to organised sport/outdoor activity, which must start/finish in the local authority area).

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