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COVID-19: Scottish island ‘brought back to life’ as restrictions eased and visitors from mainland allowed again

People on the Isle of Arran, off the west coast of Scotland, have been telling Sky News of their excitement as visitors from the mainland are now allowed for the first time in six months.

During what was a long, dark winter on the island, many small businesses had been unsure if they would be able to survive long enough for the tourists to return.

But on Monday, some COVID lockdown restrictions were finally lifted, meaning travel to Arran can begin again.

Watching the first ferry dock in Brodick harbour was executive director of Visit Arran, Sheila Gilmore.

She said: “There’s a real buzz. It’s really exciting. The island community as a whole is so ready to welcome people back.

“This means more to us than just having businesses open again, it’s really bringing the island back to life.”

And everywhere you look, you can see evidence of the careful planning and preparation that has gone on in order to welcome visitors back to the island that has a population of 4,000.

New furniture has been assembled to offer outdoor eating, windows have been cleaned and shop fronts painted.

Outside the Little Rock cafe, owner Chris Park has even gone to the trouble of putting up bunting.

And for those arriving in the harbour, the thrill of being allowed back is felt just as strongly.

Golfers David Patterson and Robert Lynch arrived with a group of friends desperate to make up for the days on the green they missed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“We booked last week as soon as we knew it was going to be open,” Mr Lynch said.

“We couldn’t wait. It’s something that really brings us all together and we need that.”

Away from the coast, owners of Arran Alpacas, Emma and Tom Jessop, are also delighted to be back in business.

They quit their jobs on the mainland and moved to Arran to launch their Alpaca trekking business at the end of 2019, little did they know what was just around the corner.

“You plan for a lot eventualities when you’re setting a new business up but a global pandemic that shuts everything down was something I don’t think anyone had in their plans,” said Mr Jessop.

“It does knock you a bit and it has been difficult at times but we’re still extremely pleased with the decision we made [to move to Arran] and really excited to welcome some guests and show them what we’ve done here.”

In a normal year, Arran welcomes nearly half a million visitors coming to enjoy its foodie venues, water sports and spectacular scenery.

So far nothing about 2021 has looked or felt “normal” but for those that call the island home, Monday was the first step towards recovery.

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