As you are likely to have seen yourselves, we are almost, perhaps, just, gradually, edging towards the end of another Covid-19 lockdown. After so many false dawns, I don’t want to tempt fate by being too definitive about this, but it does look like April 26th 2021 is the date that self-catering accommodation and other tourism-related businesses should be allowed to reopen. The Scottish Government Timetable is being widely promoted and the Minister who covers tourism issues, Fergus Ewing, has provided positive messages about planning to reopen.
Community Confidence in Reopening
However, although there is no doubt we have missed our guests throughout this extended lockdown, we should be in no rush to open until the local community is 100% ready for it too. It was so uplifting last summer that all the guests that were allowed to stay at the cottage, most from well beyond the Highlands, were sensitive to the feelings of the local community. Almost all asked questions about whether it was OK that they were coming to the Highlands, an area of very low covid incidence, from an area of significantly higher incidence.
So, for any regular or potential guests reading this, what can I tell you to assure you that the local community is ready to welcome you again?
Well, much work has gone into learning from the previous lockdown, but the key facts that should reassure guests and local people alike are that:
- Transmission (“Test + Protect”) statistics after 1st lockdown lifted (July 2020) demonstrated the effectiveness of measures put in place. Throughout the whole period in 2020 when tourism and associated venues were allowed to be open, the government contact tracing system did not identify a single incidence of transmission that could be attributed to tourist accommodation, activities or hospitality venues in the area.
- The Cairngorms National Park Authority and the Cairngorms Business Partnership have already undertaken a recent wide consultation exercise with many communities around the Park, listening to concerns and allaying any fears.
Zero transmission is the most powerful evidence that the measures the sector put in place were really effective. It has been hard work for everyone across Scottish tourism to implement all the many extra measures, but whatever was done last time worked brilliantly. So, I hope everyone can be reassured by that. However, zero complacency is important too! If you need any reassurance about the measures that we have in place at Glencoldon Cottage please feel free to have a look at our covid guidance. However, we feel it’s also important to say that we all need to remember that we all have a part to play in keeping everyone safe from the virus too.
Again, the wider Cairngorms community has taken a lead, bringing everyone together under #CairngormsTogether. Always a great source of information on everything visitors need to know about what’s going on is Visit Cairngorms; but, it also now has:
- A What’s Open section which provides the status of areas, attractions and activities (Green / Amber / Red – Open / Closed / Restricted), and is aimed to help visitors plan ahead, book ahead if necessary, to avoid risks or disappointment that an attraction or activity is not accessible
- A Test and Protect App which allows easy sign in at many venues around the Park. This has been tried-and-tested after restrictions lifted last July and was very successful for visitors and locals alike.
Wild Garden Wildlife!
I know I’m jumping the gun and it’s not quite spring yet, especially perhaps not in the Highlands, but we’re so excited about getting out there after the tedium of the last few months that we’re getting a wee bit restless – I’m sure in common with many people, we’re determined to make the most of this spring and summer! We did have some improvements planned for the cottage this year, just to add a wee bit to the experience of our guests. However, given the long extended lockdown we’ve all been enduring, the cottage tweaks will have to wait. We now see this year as an opportunity to innovate and to make improvements which don’t cost ££s, but will make a difference to the wildlife in and around the garden, and in the wider Park.
- Wildflowers – you’ll see below from a blog last summer that our attempts to encourage the native wildflowers to recapture some space in the garden have been going pretty well. But we’ve also been given some “bee bombs” which we hope will lead to a creative explosion in the garden!
- The Bat colony expansion – The bat “family” has done so well over the past 2-3 years that there are signs they are starting to outgrow the limited space they have (for any guests with any sort of bat phobia, they live OUTside the cottage! They have found a perfect roost behind the new external cladding up at the apex of the cottage roof). So, we are going to put up some bat boxes around the garden to allow them to expand nearby – and I’m sure keep the local midgie population at bay (they can apparently eat 3000 midgies a night each, so definitely our pals!)
- Wildlife camera – now that the tech has become more idiot-proof (why am I still struggling with this!?) and since there are some really elusive characters around, like Pine Martens, we plan to provide guests with an easy to use wildlife camera trap – serious prizes for the first person who captures (on film!) a Marten in the garden!
- “Bug Hotel” – having been donated a 5-star hotel, we’re really interested to see the diversity of guests prepared to check-in for a few nights of luxury!?!
Of course, it will be very interesting to see if we’re all welcoming back the wee Roe Deer which has become a feature the last 2 years. Can it resist the enticing green shoots? Watch this space! If it returns again this year, I think we might have to come up with a name. After all, it is now part of the team, having literally been the welcome party for a number of guests to the cottage last year!
Percent for Park + Planet
Now that we’re hopefully out of one emergency situation, we can now get back to some ongoing action to do our bit to help tackle the climate and ecological emergencies too. Just as important, if not quite so acutely urgent as covid action!
We blogged a wee bit below on a fantastic development in that direction that happened in early 2020. However, it was ultimately derailed by the pandemic. Basically, we became an official fund raiser for the Cairngorms Trust. The charity is involved in enhancing the whole Cairngorms area by funding environmental, cultural, heritage and infrastructure (path, bridge maintenance etc.) projects (#lovethecairngorms).
I know we said there are no hidden costs to staying at Glencoldon Cottage, and indeed there aren’t any extra cash costs, but we trust nobody will be offended if we offer them the opportunity to be part of an initiative to safeguard the Cairngorms. We are committed to match funding any contribution you are able to make!
So, if you enjoy the amazing natural beauty of the Cairngorms area, and believe we have to do everything necessary to protect these special places and the species that depend on them, we hope this opportunity to leave something of real value behind, will be of interest. We’re really excited to be involved!