Relaxation of lockdown rules opens up Scotland to hillgoers. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Relaxation of lockdown rules opens up Scotland to hillgoers. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Mountaineering Scotland has welcomed the easing of travel restrictions from Friday, allowing people to travel outside their local area.

But the organisation, which represents hillwalkers, mountaineers, ski tourers and climbers north of the border, pleaded with hill-goers to act responsibly.

The Scottish Government announced it was lifting stay-local orders earlier than planned.

The mountaineering organisation said it expected many mountain areas to be busy, and warned winter conditions still prevail in some areas. People heading for the hills should plan ahead and be prepared, it added.

Chief executive Stuart Younie said: “We are delighted with the unexpected news this week and particularly for those living in the cities and smaller local authority areas who have had limited access to the outdoors during this lockdown, as they can now get back to doing what they love.

“The last 12 months have demonstrated how important outdoor recreation is for our physical and mental wellbeing and as things start to ease it will play an important role in our economic recovery, particularly in rural areas.”

Mountaineering Scotland said popular destinations are expected to be very busy, meaning walkers and climbers travelling by car may have to set off early or consider going somewhere less busy.

It also advised that, to get the most out of their day, people should think carefully about the conditions they are likely to meet on the hill.

“Snow still lies extensively on the higher hills, and fluctuating temperatures have meant much of it is likely to be very icy, and the consequences of a slip more likely to be serious,” it said. “That caution is particularly relevant in the mornings on north or north-east-facing slopes.”

Heather Morning, the organisation’s mountain safety advisor, said: “An ice-axe and crampons to cope with any icy stretches really are still essential items of kit at this time of year.

“People should also be conscious that, with limited opportunity to climb in the hills over the last few months, they may have lost some hill-fitness and may well prefer to take on easier walks to begin with so they can ease themselves back into the swing of things.”

Mountaineering Scotland added it is also important to act in a responsible manner while enjoying access to the hills, especially with the extra pressures due to higher visitor numbers.

“We’ve all been through a stressful few months,” Mr Younie said. “So we should be considerate of local residents and our fellow visitors, whether that’s by parking considerately, making sure we leave no litter or damage, or just in interacting with others.

“The forecast is good for the weekend and if we all take care and look out for each other we can make sure our long-awaited return to the hills is memorable for all the right reasons.”

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