Will the Route Map Out of Lockdown Fly?

It is now a little over a week since the people of Scotland were given a wee bit of freedom from the Covid-19 lockdown, with Phase 1 on the Route Map back to some sort of “new normal” starting on 29/5/20.  This is great news for everyone, as it signals that the spread of the virus is under much better control.  Obviously, far fewer people catching the virus and becoming seriously ill has to be positive; but, nobody will want to rush the process and then see the numbers rise again – it has taken more than enough of a toll already!

For the tourism sector, lifting restrictions on accommodation looks like it would happen in Phase 3, at the moment.  However, there are ongoing discussions that self-catering businesses may be able to open sooner, as there is considered less risk of spreading infection through social contacts than in a hotel.  The accommodation can also be thoroughly cleaned and sanitised between groups of guests.  Certainly, at Glencoldon cottage, our great turnaround team has ensured we are well prepared for extra cleaning and sanitising.

But, in the Highlands and other remote areas, where there is a relatively low rate of infection, it would seem that the largest concern about lifting the restrictions is that many visitors would be travelling from areas with much higher rates.  And some areas can get very busy in the summer months.  So we need to wait to see what the science and experts say, although Malcolm Roughead, the Chief of Visit Scotland, did sound hopeful that July would see a restart.

We will maybe get a bit more of a guide on when visitors can return, when the Scottish Govt brings out its sector guidance soon – this should be by 18/6/20.  We would like everyone to understand, though, that whatever may be decided at a national level, Glencoldon Cottage will not reopen until the local community is happy to have visitors moving freely through the village again.

Here’s hoping that the ospreys won’t have been and gone back to Africa before we can all enjoy seeing them again, and all the many other natural wonders of Strathspey and the Cairngorms National Park!

Coronavirus – Where Are We Now?

Our first thoughts are, of course, with anyone who has lost family, friends, colleagues, or any other personal connections, from the disease.  They are also with others who are currently fighting off the infection or struggling in the lockdown.  Our heart-felt best wishes to them all over the next difficult few weeks and months!

      But Is There An End In Sight?

Everybody has taken a financial “hit” one way or another, albeit some very much more than others.  The tourism sector has been particularly badly affected, and Boat of Garten businesses will be no exception.  So, our best wishes also go out to everyone in the local area who make Strathspey the amazing place it is.  Our hope is that everyone will successfully make it through to the day when we can all look forward to starting to put Covid-19 behind us, and the local community is happy to have visitors moving freely through the villages again.

But, when might that be?  Malcolm Roughead, the Chief Executive of Visit Scotland recently provided some insight into this when he said:

It’s hard to put timescales on any of it – but we hope to have a domestic market remerging in the autumn if we follow the patterns of other countries, which are further ahead in the crisis than us. Strategies, however, will need to be adaptable and in these times, we should expect the unexpected. People will want to have a holiday – but we must ensure that everyone feels welcomed and that communities feel ready to welcome those visitors back.

 The view of the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) is tourism may have been brought to a near-standstill by COVID-19, but the industry – which accounts for 10% of global GDP – finds itself in a unique position to help put the global economy back on its feet, once the pandemic has passed.  Given how crucial tourism is to Scotland’s economy I can see it leading economic, social and health benefits we will all be needing after this lockdown.

So, all is still very uncertain, although it does indicate that anyone thinking they could still be able to visit the Highlands in July or August might have to rethink their plans.

Community Action, Despite the Difficulties

On a more positive note, the amazing community energy of the Boat of Garten people has been evident as always, with progress being made in a number of initiatives before and despite the lockdown.

For the Wildlife Group, events at Milton Loch woodland have had to be put on hold.  However, a group of volunteers did manage to clear the area around the dam and on the island, partly in preparation for the osprey nest for the Osprey Village we mentioned in the previous BloG.  The badger hide has also been brought out of its usual winter hibernation to be ready to reopen as soon as restrictions allow.  Nature and wildlife aren’t in lockdown, and I’m sure it’s a comfort to many to see everything bursting into life, as it does with inspiring urgency in the Highlands!

Before lockdown, Woodland Wheels, an exciting community company project with the aim of developing Strathspey’s first “pump track” (a cycle circuit with banked turns and other exciting features to negotiate – had to look that up!?) successfully raised enough for the first phases of the project through crowd funding.  Not just an amazing effort to raise the funds, but how did they get the legendary Danny MacAskill up to the old curling rinks to star in the wee promotional video!?!  Wishing that all success in gaining further support, planning permission, etc.

One success already delivered for the village in 2020 has been the completion of an all-abilities path, the Capercaillie Trail, which allows access for wheelchairs, babies in buggies and toddlers on bikes+trikes, through the thriving local woods, which were previously inaccessible.  This is already being enjoyed by many, and, once people are free to move again, will also be a great contribution to accessible tourism opportunities in the Strathspey area – accessible and inclusive tourism is currently receiving a lot of deserved focus, being promoted at every level, global to national.   So, what a great project for the village to have taken on.

As a final grounding thought, also perhaps being enjoyed at the moment by some is the total peace in Glencoldon Cottage’s wild garden due to the absence of guests over the past few weeks…… thoughts go back to last spring when the baby Roe Deer stayed in the garden for several weeks, seemingly visited by its mother every night, mostly unperturbed by visitors, gorging itself on the abundant new buds and growth in the garden!  If it’s even the slightest of silver linings, some may be enjoying the peace of the lockdown!  The wild garden, not just a peaceful sanctuary for we humans!

Until next time, when we will surely be closer to being able to do many things we used to take for granted, good health to all and all the best!

Blog Post 2 – Finally…….

Some Glencoldon Cottage Plans for 2020

Perhaps not the fast start to our 2020s blogging as we had planned!!  But, we’ve been busy sorting out a few things for the year ahead.  Now that we’ve started, there should be regular updates here (every 2-3 weeks?) about exciting things going on around Strathspey, the National Park and Boat of Garten; and interesting news from some of our friends, partner businesses, local community groups and wildlife initiatives.

One exciting development this month is that we’ve become an official fund raiser for the Cairngorms Trust.  The charity is helping the Cairngorms area by funding environmental, cultural, heritage and infrastructure (path, bridge maintenance etc.) projects (#lovethecairngorms).

Although the Cairngorms Trust is set up to provide benefit all across the Cairngorms National Park, for Glencoldon Cottage, and our visitors, it is especially relevant at the moment because any funds raised are being funnelled towards the audacious attempt to entice a passing Osprey (or pair even better!) to become resident in Boat of Garten!  There are hundreds of good reasons for the village to already be known as the “Osprey Village” (many possibly in flight, as I blog, somewhere between Africa and Scotland!  I think I’m right in saying all UK Ospreys [more than 250 pairs] are descendants of the original pair at Loch Garten [1959]!).  However, it would obviously be fantastic if the village again actually had some resident Ospreys down at Milton Loch!

BoGWiG

That’s the plan anyway!  All pulled together by the enthusiastic and innovative Boat of Garten Wildlife Group (BoGWiG), and Community Company.  So, any donations our guests make will be going towards this inspiring community project (and we’ll match fund all the kind donations made, to help get this off the ground as soon as possible!).  We’ll certainly need to post some photos of that on here when the funds are raised, and the nest is lifted into the trees some time in the next few months!

Go Wild!

However, photography is definitely not something we’re claiming any prowess in (as you can perhaps tell from some of the shots on here!).  But, we are getting inspired to improve after starting to host a couple of wildlife photography courses at the cottage.  Andrew Marshall, author of Photographing Wildlife in the UK, contracted contributor to the RSPB image library, and owner of Go Wild, has been running a couple of courses annually in the snowbound Cairngorms  for a few years now.  Check out (here) some of the amazing wildlife photos taken not just in the snowy Cairngorms but all over the world!

After being forced to find a new base for his courses in the Highlands, we’re so pleased to have been able to provide Andrew with what he and his guests (the budding nature photographers!) were looking for – a base immersed in the wild Strathspey landscape with a wild garden to help inspire the flow of creative juices!  We hope this is a long fruitful relationship with a few top local wildlife photos to view, and hopefully share, now and again!

Haring through the snow