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Following the Scottish Government's announcement that restrictions are expected to relax, some of our staffed sites will reopen on Friday 30 April. Tickets available now.

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29 March 2021

Plans set out to reopen properties as COVID-19 restrictions ease

Scotland’s historic sites get ready to lower their drawbridges once more following the Scottish Government's route map to lift restrictions across mainland Scotland

General view of Edinburgh Castle from the esplanade

Scotland’s biggest operator of visitor attractions, Historic Environment Scotland (HES), has set out its plans for the reopening of its sites as Covid restrictions ease.

HES is adopting a phased approach to reopen its properties, with over 70% of its free to access and ticketed properties reopening on Friday 30 April following the Scottish Government’s proposed dates for the reopening of the tourism sector and mainland Scotland moving to covid protection level 3.

This will see some of Scotland’s most iconic heritage sites, including Edinburgh Castle, Stirling Castle, Fort George and Caerlaverock Castle, reopen to the public in line with Scottish Government guidelines.

This will also include access to over 200 unstaffed and key-keeper sites across Scotland where HES can provide free and safe access and where physical distancing can be readily maintained. *

HES also plans to re-open further sites across Scotland as part of a rolling programme of re-opening over the coming months.

The approach to re-opening has taken into consideration the requirements of each site as well as the regional picture to ensure that, as much as possible, HES’ reopening plans appropriately consider the circumstances in each local area, whilst providing a diverse range of experiences for visitors to enjoy.

As part of the reopening, 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. Visitor numbers will also be limited for safety reasons.

Technology is also being used to tell the sites’ stories in innovative ways, with QR codes being adopted at a number of different sites.

Alex Paterson, Chief Executive of HES, said:

“Scotland’s heritage attractions are a key part of our tourism sector both nationally and at a local community level, and contribute to our individual wellbeing, so we’re delighted to once again be opening sites up across the country.

“This will see us reopen all of the sites we reopened last year on the 30 April as well as further sites across the country on a phased based over the upcoming months.

“As always, the safety of our staff and visitors has been at the forefront of our planning, enabling safe access to our properties in line with Scottish Government guidance and our minimum operating standards which underpin our approach.

“We’re also pleased to tell the story of the sites through technology so visitors have the opportunity to experience the old and the new when they are exploring some of our most iconic sites and enjoying a piece of 5,000 years of history.”

All sites will follow the HES minimum operating standards, which were developed to set a benchmark for the safe reopening of historic sites and resumption of operational activities.

Tickets for all sites reopening on the 30 April will be available on a pre-booked basis next month. 

* This includes Jarlshof in the Shetland Islands which will reopen initially on an unstaffed basis.

The full list of ticketed sites reopening on Friday 30 April are:

  • Aberdour Castle
  • Arbroath Abbey **
  • Caerlaverock Castle
  • Craigmillar Castle
  • Dirleton Castle
  • Doune Castle
  • Dryburgh Abbey
  • Dunblane Cathedral
  • Dundonald Castle
  • Dunfermline Abbey
  • Edinburgh Castle
  • Elgin Cathedral
  • Fort George
  • Glasgow Cathedral
  • Huntly Castle
  • Jedburgh Abbey
  • Linlithgow Palace
  • Melrose Abbey
  • St Andrews Castle
  • St Andrews Cathedral
  • Skara Brae *
  • Stirling Castle
  • Tantallon Castle
  • Urquhart Castle

* Nb. Of all of its ticketed sites, Skara Brae in Orkney has been kept open to local visitors only, whilst in level 3, whilst the rest of mainland Scotland has been closed for covid protection measures since 26 December. ** Arbroath Abbey’s grounds will be accessible for free ahead of the opening of a new visitor offer at the centre due to open in the summer.

About Year of Coasts and Waters 2021

The Year of Coasts and Waters (#YCW2021), led by VisitScotland, will be showcased throughout 2021. Activities and ideas will shine a spotlight on the impact our waters have had on Scotland, from the formation of beautiful natural features to the creation of our national drink - whisky.

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.
  • View our press pack and keep up to date by registering for media release email alerts. If you wish to unsubscribe, please contact us.

Follow Historic Environment Scotland

Twitter: @HistEnvScot | @welovehistory

Facebook: @HistoricEnvScotland | @VisitHistoricScotland

Instagram: @HistEnvScot | @historicscotland

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For further information, please contact:

Iona Matheson
Historic Environment Scotland Media Office
Mobile: 07221 959 962
communications@hes.scot

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