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10 January 2023

Dumbarton Castle set to reopen to the public

Visitors will soon be able to visit the 800-year-old stronghold that sheltered Mary Queen of Scots in 1548

Dumbarton Castle is set to reopen by early spring following the completion of high level masonry inspections, Historic Environment Scotland (HES) announced today (Tuesday 10 January).

Access restrictions were put in place at the start of last year, as a safety precaution while HES, who manages the site, introduced new measures to manage the impact of climate change on its heritage assets, an issue which is affecting heritage owners globally.

The High Level Masonry Programme, which is the result of ongoing risk assessment and sample surveys, assesses the impact of climate change on sites as well as the scale of deterioration caused by a number of other factors, including the materials used in the building’s construction, its age and physical location. Whilst this is not an issue unique to Scotland, HES is believed to be amongst the first heritage managers to approach it in this way, with the results shared with peer organisations.

Work is taking place at a number of sites across Scotland as HES has completed detailed, tactile inspections at 25 sites across the country since May, with a further 13 due for completion by Spring 2023.

Work at sites can take over a month, due to the scope of the task and the different characteristics of the buildings, many of which date back several hundred years, and were constructed according to the conventions and materials of the time. The tactile inspection of Dumbarton Castle, which took 20 working days, was completed late last year.

Some necessary repairs and checks will now be carried out before the site reopens by March. Once it has reopened, visitors will be able to explore the majority of the 800-year-old site including The Governor’s House, the Guard House and Portcullis Arch, the remains of the White Tower which are on top of the highest point of the site, the French Prison, Wallace Tower, the Magazine and Crane Bastion.

One minor access restriction will remain in place at the Spur Battery which will exclude access to the Spanish and Bower Batteries. Ground level restrictions also remain in areas around the base of the Rock, however, this is managed as part of routine rock risk and is not part of the High Level Masonry Programme.

Dumbarton Castle will be the latest site to reopen as part of the prioritised programme of inspections, following sites such as Doune Castle, Burleigh Castle, Dundonald Castle and St Andrews Castle which reopened after their surveys were carried out. More than 30 sites currently have increased access since inspections began in May last year.

Whilst access restrictions have been in place at sites, HES has looked at additional ways to tell their story, including through the return of its events programme and the use of digital technology.

Craig Mearns, Director of Operations at HES, said: “I am delighted to announce that we will soon be reopening Dumbarton Castle to visitors. We are working as quickly as we can to reopen our historic sites, and we appreciate the public’s patience while we undertake these necessary inspections and subsequent repairs.

“Dumbarton Castle is one of Scotland’s most important strongholds and climate change is another part of its long and varied history. We look forward to welcoming visitors back to the iconic site as soon as we have carried out the final checks and implemented any additional safety measures. For more details on when tickets will be on sale, please check our website and social media channels where further information will be released soon.”

Find out more about the inspection programme

About Historic Environment Scotland (HES) 

  • We are the lead public body charged with caring for, protecting and promoting the historic environment. We will lead on delivering Scotland’s first strategy for the historic environment, Our Place in Time.
  • Historic Scotland, Scran, Canmore, The National Collection of Aerial Photography (NCAP), The Engine Shed, Stirling Castle and Edinburgh Castle are sub-brands of HES.
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For further information, please contact:

Stacey Shaw
Historic Environment Scotland Media Office
Mobile: 07221 959 962