Skiers and sledgers caused traffic problems at the weekend as they flocked to the Cairngorm winter sports resort despite it being shut.
Scores of people took to the slopes as families made the most of the snow to get some lockdown exercise. However, it also raised concerns among local residents that many may have travelled from outside the area against Covid restrictions.
Cairngorm Mountain closed until further notice on Christmas Eve following the announcement that mainland Scotland was being placed into Level 4 from Boxing Day. This stipulates essential travel only to and from Level 3 or 4 areas in Scotland and to and from the rest of the UK.
However, on Saturday many people parked their cars at the closed snow gates and hiked two miles to the ski centre.
Around 150 sledgers and walkers also parked on the road near the Hayfield public area at Glenmore.
Glenmore resident Duncan Ferguson said: “It was carnage at Hayfield on Saturday afternoon. It’s a busy place considering the restrictions we should be abiding to.
“I can understand that people want to get out, but why come here all the time? I had someone knock on my door asking where the sledging field was. Anyone who is local knows where the Hayfield is.
“They park on both sides of the road and get stuck on the verges and it just ends up a mess. If the snow gates were not shut it would just draw more people to the area.
“We have 1ft of snow here so I understand the lure, but people are being selfish.”
Local councillor Bill Lobban said; “The question you have to ask is where do all these people come from? I don’t know the individuals but I would very much doubt that they are all local, although a proportion will be.
“But the advice not to travel means just that, it doesn’t mean you should be driving half way across the country just to visit Glenmore or anywhere else. There are plenty of places you can exercise without getting in your car.”
He added: “Infection rates in the Highlands appear to be going through the roof, like everywhere else. Stay home and stay safe is the best advice.”
Police said they did not receive any calls or complaints.
Susan Smith, Cairngorm Mountain (Scotland) Ltd’s interim chief executive, previously issued a warning to Covid rule-breakers.
In her final statement before closing she said: “We want to make it very clear – we are closing for no other reason than the safety of our staff, customers and the local community. It has been evident in the past few weeks that, regardless of the travel restrictions, people are insistent on breaking the law and coming into the Highlands from Tier 3 and 4 areas and other parts of the UK.”
She said in consultation with Highland Council and Police Scotland it was decided to close the snow gates at Glenmore and restrict access to essential maintenance staff, Cairngorm Mountain Rescue and the Scottish Avalanche Information Service.
“We understand the desire of locals to use the access road during winter. However, the first minister informed parliament yesterday that she fully expected to announce further restrictions in the coming days in order to do all that is possible to attempt to contain the transmission of the new strain of the Covid virus as it is seeded all over Scotland. She advocated that only essential travel should be undertaken and within a very small local radius.”