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Guidance for hill walkers and climbers in Scotland

Advice for groups and clubs - Mountaineering Scotland Update, 17th Sep 2020


Following recent changes to the advice and guidance issued by the Scottish Government and the introduction of the rule of 6 restricting the numbers that can meet indoors and outdoors we can confirm this does apply to informal exercise including walking. The Scottish Government Guidance states:

“You may meet outdoors with members of one other household, up to a maximum group size of 6, for informal exercise or activity.”

 Clubs may continue to organise activities for groups of up to 30 from multiple households if they follow the steps detailed in the Mountaineering Scotland guidance for clubs.

If club members wish to head outdoors in Scotland in an informal way (i.e. not as a club meet) the 'rule of 6' people in a group from no more than 2 households will apply.

Update 15/09/20

ABC GUIDELINES: COVID-19 (Scotland) Guidelines for the reopening of Scottish indoor climbing gyms during physical distancing: Guidance for indoor climbing wall operators.

We have clarified with SportScotland who have advised that indoor climbing following the ABC guidelines for Scotland has not been affected by this recent announcement regarding the 6X2 regulations.

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.

Updated 24/8/20

Guidance for hill walkers and climbers

Guidance for affiliated clubs and club huts

The Scottish Government announced an update to the progression of Phase 3 of the COVID-19 routemap on 20/08/2020. 

Changes from 24 August:

  • Organised club walks for a maximum of 30 people can take place, with no restriction on the number of households. This is subject to physical distancing and other measures being in place to ensure this is done safely and within the guidelines for clubs (above). Scroll down to the clubs section for more background to the guidance.

From 31 August:

  • Indoor climbing walls can start to re-open. Guidance for climbing walls is being finalised by the Association of British Climbing Walls with support from our ClimbScotland team to help walls ensure they meet the requirements.

Local lockdowns: For information on local lockdown measures please check the Scottish Government website:

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. 

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

Please read the guidance in full and remember to:

  • Be prepared: Check the status of car parks and other facilities before you go - click here for useful links
  • Be safe: Plan ahead and stay well within your limits - whatever your activity - to avoid the need for rescue and emergency services
  • Be considerate: Think about how your actions might impact on others and follow the Scottish Outdoor Access Code at all times.
  • Be COVID aware: Keep physical distancing and hand/cough hygiene in mind at all times, and avoid sharing food, drink or equipment with others.

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.

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

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

Travel, car park and facilities updates

Useful links - car parks, toilets & other facilities 

Mountain Bothies

Although some COVID-19 restrictions have been eased, the Mountain Bothies Association has reiterated that all MBA-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.

Mountaineering Scotland courses have restarted from 25 July 2020. 

For a list of courses, including navigation and scrambling, 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.

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

Update to guidance 24/8/2020:

We have been working with sportscotland to ensure our guidance reflects the most recent announcements made by the Scottish Government on 20/08/2020. Whilst the limits to the number of households meeting informally outside still apply, flexibility has now been introduced to allow organised outdoor activities to take place under the supervision of a designated 'leader' with the provision that physical distancing of 2m is maintained and details of all participants are recorded for test and trace purposes. This advice is also reflected in the latest advice for coaches, instructors and leaders produced by Mountain Training Scotland (see below).

The activity 'leader' can be a volunteer who has organised the activity/meet and is acting as the COVID Officer as outlined in the guidance. Clubs and their members may wish to keep to smaller, informal group activity at this time, in which case the limit of max 5 households and 15 people (with physical distancing) still applies.

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. It may be a difficult decision at the moment with continued restrictions on physical distancing and limits on the number of households that can meet indoors, and clubs may wish to defer reopening until restrictions are eased further. See the guidance for clubs and huts above for more details and specific guidance for hut managers.

Mill Cottage: From 3rd July 2020 Mill Cottage is planning to reopen for single household groups only, in line with the latest Coronavirus advice. See the Mill Cottage page for further details

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."