Edinburgh Castle, Stirling Castle and Dumbarton Castle will reopen to the public next month
By Democrat reporter
Dumbarton Castle, Edinburgh Castle, Stirling Castle and Urquhart Castle will reopen to the public on August 1 as key heritage sites across the country begin to welcome visitors back.
Historic Environment Scotland (HES), which is responsible for over 300 heritage sites, is adopting a phased approach to reopen 70% of its free to access and ticketed properties by mid-September.
Starting from Wednesday, July 15, access will be granted to over 200 unstaffed and key-keeper sites where physical distancing can be maintained.
This will include free access to the grounds of Doune Castle, Caerlaverock Castle and Dundonald Castle as the properties have large areas of green space.
Then on Saturday, August 1, 26 ticketed sites across Scotland will begin to reopen on a rolling basis.
From the start of August, HES will open up the external space at Edinburgh Castle, Dumbarton Castle, Stirling Castle and Urquhart Castle, as well as prioritising access to interior spaces where social distancing can be easily maintained.
The heritage site operator anticipates that by the end of August further internal spaces will open at all three sites.
From August through to mid-September, HES plans to reopen a further 23 key sites across the country on a rolling programme, including Glasgow Cathedral, Fort George, St Andrews Castle and Cathedral and Skara Brae.
As well as limiting visitor numbers, a range of social distancing and hygiene measures are being put in place at the sites.
Visitors, including members, will be required to pre-book tickets online and to use contactless payment where possible; one-way systems will be implemented in some locations; and some areas of sites, such as enclosed spaces, will be closed off to visitors.
More than 40 seasonal sites which usually open in April and close in October are to remain closed for the 2020 season, with the exception of Incholm Abbey.
Alex Paterson, chief executive of HES, said: “At the forefront of our planning is the safety of our staff and visitors, whilst being able to reopen for the tourist season by gradually enabling safe access to our properties and facilities in line with Scottish Government guidance.
“We’ve been working exceptionally hard to ensure our properties will be accessible and ready to welcome visitors, however, it’s important that we implement our resumption plans at the right time given the different requirements for each site.
“This also includes looking at the varying local and regional requirements throughout the country and we have considered this when setting out our phased approach to welcoming visitors back and supporting Scotland’s tourism and economic recovery.”