Eigg’s community response to COVID-19
Update 16 July 2020
We know many people want to come to Eigg this summer, but sadly, for the moment, we ask you not to come.
We are a remote and geographically isolated community with both elderly and vulnerable residents. We have worked hard to ensure the health and wellbeing of all our residents since the beginning of this pandemic.
Now we are in Phase 3 of the Scottish Government’s Route Map, travel and tourism across the rest of Scotland is opening up. The Eigg community has been working hard to put all the physical distancing and hygiene guidance in place. However, after looking at how to balance the large number of people who want to come to Eigg against what we are able to do within government guidance, the community has decided we are not able to welcome any day or overnight tourists (including campers) to Eigg at the moment.
At present all self-catering, hostel and guest house accommodation, Galmisdale Bay Café, and Lageorna restaurant have taken the decision to STAY CLOSED UNTIL 31 AUGUST. We will be reviewing this decision regularly and will post updates here.
As our public toilets, showers, and visitor attractions are closed, and our shop open to residents only we also ask day trip visitors, campers, kayakers, yachts and other vessels not to come to Eigg for the time being too. Again, we’ll let you know if this changes by posting updates here.
We realise for many people our decision is hard on you. It wasn’t an easy decision to take and we’ve all agonised over it collectively, as well as individually. So here’s just a little of our thinking.
As a result of physical distancing, the CalMac ferry to Eigg has a very limited capacity, with only 40 bookable places instead of the usual 190. We have to share those places with residents on the other Small Isles who, like us, haven’t left their island or seen anyone from the mainland since the end of March.
Now that travel restrictions are lifted, islanders need to go the mainland for hospital and other appointments, or to travel and see their loved ones again. Business or tradespeople need to come and fix things that have been broken for months. Friends and family want to be reunited, and visitors like you, and many others from around the world, want to come.
Normally the CalMac summer ferry from Mallaig runs six days a week and has a capacity of 190. In addition, there’s usually a passenger ferry that comes five days a week from Arisaig, with a capacity of 80. In total, there are normally just over 1,500 passenger places to Eigg a week. At the moment with just four ferries from Mallaig a week, with space for 40 people, there are a total of just 160 passenger places a week, shared between Eigg, Muck, and Rum.
Eigg has around 110 people living here. Between self-catering and guesthouse accommodation, there are something like 120 beds, all of which were fully booked for July and August. Many more people have been in contact to say they want to come to Eigg to camp. With only four ferries a week, how should we use those 40 places fairly? Prioritise one islander’s return visit to their elderly parents in Glasgow over another’s need to have their boiler fixed? A visitor coming to stay for a week in a cottage, over one in a tent for a fortnight, or a day tripper?
As the island with the biggest population and most accommodation in the Small Isles, we also have to think how those 40 spaces might be used by those travelling to and from Rum and Muck as well as Eigg (Canna ferry runs are on a different day to ours). And if we’d managed to get a guest here, we had no sure means of knowing we could get them off the island on the day they needed to leave. Not easy.
Sadly, for our visitors, the ferry conundrum means it seems much fairer to you and to our Eigg and Small Isles communities to say “please don’t come to Eigg for now”.
Our limited ferry service has been the main factor in our decision, but the number of non-vulnerable residents available to work in our businesses, the size and layout of our public facilities, and the lack of suitable on-island transport also affect our capacity to fully implement all of the protocols designed to protect your and our health.
As a community a gradual re-opening of Eigg felt like the only fair and responsible thing to do; for those who live on Eigg and the other Small Isles, as well as those who want to visit. As lockdown restrictions are lifted further and our ferry capacity changes, then so too will we. But none of us know when that might happen. To help both us and you make plans, for the moment we are saying don’t expect us to be open again until the end of August.
We continue to follow Scottish Government guidelines and advice and are working closely with CalMac and everyone here on Eigg to regularly review the situation. We want to ensure both Eigg residents and visitors remain healthy but are also treated with kindness and respect.
We will keep you updated with Eigg’s tourism business’ plans for the remainder of this year and into next, so visitors know what will and will not be open and when. If you have any questions, please contact us.
Thank you from everyone on Eigg.
Visitors to Eigg bring many benefits to Eigg and we’re very grateful for your support. We look forward to welcoming everyone back to Eigg when all this has passed. Until then, follow advice, stay well and look after each other.
Online in the meantime!
There are lots of opportunities to support Eigg online in the meantime
Use EasyFundraising to give a donation to Eigg through your other online purchases to some of the big retailers, at NO cost to you!
Buy from our local creative and other businesses through the rather wonderful Isle20.com
Want some music from Eigg? Check out Lost Map , Gabe McVarish, Metta Music, Massacre Cave or Gaelic supergroup Daimh‘s online shops for music, subscriptions and other stylish merchandise (including hats and bandanas for all occasions!).