A multi award-winning Wester Ross business has been forced to cut its opening days because it is unable to recruit or house enough staff.
Judith Fish, proprietor of the Applecross Inn, said it was the first time in 30 years that she had had to close the doors during the summer season.
The inn, which comprises a dining pub and seven letting bedrooms, is now closed on Tuesdays and until 3pm on Wednesdays to allow staff their time off. Normally it would provide hospitality seven days a week.
Mrs Fish said: “We have taken the decision to close for one and a half days each week to let staff have their days off, and even with this week’s easing of restrictions we won’t be extending our opening hours.
“This is the first year ever that this has happened. We are just struggling to get staff. Because of Covid, staff can’t share rooms but even so there’s still not many applications coming in. I don’t know where all these unemployed people are.
“Accommodation for the staff is also a problem. We are 60 per cent holiday homes here in Applecross now. Nobody lives here any more.”
Mrs Fish said she would normally have a mix of overseas and local staff.
“I think there is a bit of a Brexit factor but we don’t have the Australians or New Zealanders either,” she said.
“People are not travelling because of the pandemic. From talking to others in the industry, they are all struggling to get staff. Perhaps when the students come home things might improve.”
Applecross Inn is a highly popular destination which lies on the NC500 tourist route overlooking the scenic Inner Sound. Pre-Covid, people would queue to get in.
Mrs Fish, who was awarded an MBE in 2019 for her services to tourism over three decades, said although the inn’s rooms were fully booked it was quieter than normal.
She said: “We’re nowhere near as busy as normal and we are not as swamped as we had expected to be after the lifting of travel restrictions.”
And in the pub, which is acclaimed for its fresh local seafood, it is reservations only for tables.
“We can only do so many tables because of the Covid social distancing rules and we’re advising people that they can’t just drop in,” she said.
“It really is restricted to booking and unfortunately we are having to turn people away.”