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Old Man of Storr, Isle of Syke
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Are holidays in Scotland allowed?

Here’s everything you need to know about Scotland’s tier system and travel restrictions – and what it means for holidays

Alexandra Sims

All over the world, travel rules and border restrictions have been in constant flux for the past year. That means many people may well be deciding to swerve overseas trips altogether in 2021. 

Even within the UK, travel anywhere has been of the cards since the beginning of the year. Soon, however (and we’re whispering it), that could well change. The UK’s rollout of the vaccines is well underway, and it’s going pretty smoothly. Now, as the country’s third national lockdown gradually lifts, domestic holidays are set to be phased in again.

Eyeing up a trip to the Highlands? Here’s everything you need to know about when travel to Scotland may restart.

Can I travel from England to Scotland?

Travel within the UK is currently banned, with non-essential journeys and overnight stays illegal under the third national lockdown. However, under the UK government’s latest lockdown exit strategy, the nationwide ‘stay-at-home’ order is due to be lifted on March 29. That means overnight stays in self-catered accommodation (including Airbnbs and campsites) will be allowed from April 12.

But w
hile these provisional dates apply in England, Scotland’s roadmap out of lockdown will play out a little differently.

The Scottish government has made no firm plans as to when it will reopen to the rest of the UK yet. However, according to its guidance on travel and transport, it’s hoped that it will be possible to travel into Scotland from elsewhere in the UK from April 26 (or shortly after).

Unlike England, when Scotland lifts its ‘stay-at-home’ order, it will re-enter a tiered system, with each area placed into a certain level depending on factors including local infection rates. The level an area is in will determine if you can travel in and out of it, book an overnight stay there or visit from outside of Scotland. 

When people are able to visit Scotland again, they will only be able to visit areas placed in Level 2 or below. Most businesses should be open again in those bottom two levels – so there’ll also be plenty to do while you're there. 

As things stand, people travelling to Scotland from the rest of the UK shouldn’t need to quarantine on arrival.

Edinburgh Castle
Photograph: Alessandro Storniolo/

Can I go on holiday within Scotland?

In Scotland, the reopening date to put in your diary is April 26. This is the day when most businesses will be able to throw open their doors and people can travel around mainland Scotland again. Decisions about Scottish islands are yet to be made.

However, since Scotland will be going back into its tiered system again from this date, Scots will only be able to travel in and out of areas in Level 2 or lower. You won’t be able to visit areas in Level 3 or 4. If you live within a Level 3 zone, you will be allowed to book an overnight stay in the same area – as long as you don’t use public transport to get there.  

Can I travel to Scotland from outside the UK?

It’s looking like overseas visitors won’t be able to visit Scotland until at least May 17 – the earliest date the British government could allow international travel again.

Once a date is set in stone, travellers visiting Scotland from abroad will be required to show proof of a negative test taken no more than 72 hours before arrival. If you’re travelling from outside the Common Travel Area, you may still need to self-isolate in a quarantine hotel for ten days at a cost of £1,750 per person (though this may change if the UK agrees mutual ‘vaccine passport’ arrangements with other countries). Overseas visitors will also need to provide their journey and contact details, even if they’ve landed in another part of the UK and travelled to Scotland from there.

So, while a lot is yet to be fully confirmed, it’s safe to say we can be cautiously optimistic about holidaying in the Highlands this year. One big question still remains, though: will we be flocking to the Edinburgh Fringe this year? We’ll have to watch this space.

More news on the UK’s reopening:

When will shops reopen?

When will pubs and bars reopen?

When will restaurants reopen?

When will gyms reopen?

When will hairdressers reopen?

When can I take a day trip?

When will cinemas reopen?

When will hotels reopen?

When will campsites reopen?

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