Punters in Inverness have been relishing in their new found freedom as hospitality restrictions relaxed on Monday.
Customers and tourists flocked to their local bars and restaurants in Inverness as doors opened for the first time since Christmas.
From Monday, areas of the north and north-east moved from level three restrictions to level two, allowing hospitality vendors to welcome customers indoors for the first time this year.
The move brought a welcome boost to hospitality vendors in Inverness, eager to soak up the bustling trade.
Among the popular hot spots of the day was The Keg.
“I am loving being back in hospitality”
Delighted general manager Moira Ewen, said it was a joy to be back in the bar trade once again.
She said: “I am absolutely delighted to be back in the bar trade again.
“I was working in Sterling Furniture all through lockdown but I have now come back into the bar trade since December. I am loving being back in hospitality.
“It’s been a long period but it’s looking positive. We have got a full bar, we are only allowed 28 in at the moment but just having folk in the bar again, it makes a big difference to a place like Inverness.”
The pub, situated on Baron Taylor’s Street, was abuzz with activity as groups of friends hugged and made up for lost time over a sociable drink.
Regular Jeff Carr, a 53-year-old offshore worker said: “It’s great to be back. The Keg has been our local bar for around 15 years.”
His friend, Tracy Brown, a 42-year-old housewife in Inverness added: “I’ve really enjoyed just being with friends again and getting to chat to other people.”
Punters travel far and wide
The latest easing of restrictions just weeks after the nationwide travel ban was lifted following a reduction in positive covid cases.
A five-strong group of men from Nottingham were among those embracing the new measures, travelling 426miles north to revisit the Highlands as part of a week-long holiday.
Stopping off for a meal at Johnny Foxes pub in the Highland Capital, the group said the venture was long overdue.
Luke Northbrooke, 25, said: “It’s so nice. It’s just nice to sit inside and not be freezing for once. We are all in the early lockdown areas as well so it’s been a long time.”
His friend Jacob Hawkins, 22, added: “We’ve come for a week’s holiday. We thought we would come to Scotland; it turned out well.
“We came two years ago, we did the west coast and Ben Nevis so we thought we would make a week’s holiday out of it and explore more of the north.”
Marketing director Sam Gillingham, 26, said he was delighted to mark the “big moment” surrounded by friends.
He said: “I was trying to count back and I think it’s been over six months, something crazy.
“We have made the most of it [going to beer gardens] a few times but the weather has been so rubbish.”
Fellow customer, Donna Young, 52, a pharmacy worker from Perth travelled north with her mum, auntie and sister.
She said she hopes the latest easing of lockdown is a major step forward in being able to return to normality.
“We are absolutely delighted,” she said.
“I do think it’s been a long time coming. I’m hoping the way they have done it there is no step backward again because that’s what they said. If we go really, really slowly we won’t go back so fingers crossed. “