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4 March 2024

Scotland’s only circular castle, Rothesay Castle re-opens to visitors

Scotland’s only circular castle, Rothesay Castle, has reopened to visitors after essential conservation work.

A castle with a moat

The castle, which is managed by Historic Environment Scotland (HES), had temporary access restrictions in place as part of its high-level masonry programme, which looks at the effect of climate change on historic sites in combination with other factors. 

Visitors can now once again enjoy the castle’s history, which dates from the 11th century, when the Hebrides, including Bute, were given to Norway by Edgar of Scotland. However, the king’s descendants were determined to recover the islands, and by 1200 they had succeeded. Rothesay Castle, with its formidable defences and unique design, was built soon after to protect Rothesay against further sieges by the Norwegians. 

Further works took place in the grounds in the later 1400s, with the addition of an impressive gatehouse and St Michael’s Chapel in the courtyard. Having then fallen into ruins, the castle was restored in the 1800s. 

Rothesay Castle is also famous for its ties to the Stewarts, as it was a royal castle from 1371. To this day, the heir to the throne still has the title Duke of Rothesay. 

The castle is the latest site to re-open following inspections and necessary repairs to the masonry, as part of HES’ high-level masonry project and also repairs to the bridge that provides access. 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. 

Craig Mearns, Director of Operations at HES, said: 

Rothesay Castle is a wonderful site and I am delighted that we are now in a position to re-open. I know how much this means to the local community and economy” 

Find out more about visiting the castle, including opening times, prices and booking.  

In celebration of the re-opening, Rothesay Castle will also play host to a community-led “Return to the Ramparts” event on Sunday 17 March. The event will be run in partnership with Bute BID, Achievement Bute, Bute Museum and VisitScotland (Bute), with participation from Friends of Rothesay Castle. 

The event will be open to all and will feature fun and creative family activities, such as crown making and soap carving.   

The event will run within normal opening hours of 10am to 4pm, with last entry at 3.30pm, and will be free for all visitors.  

About Historic Environment Scotland (HES) 

  • We are the lead body for Scotland’s historic environment, a charity dedicated to the advancement of heritage, culture, education and environmental protection. It is at the forefront of researching and understanding the historic environment and addressing the impacts of climate change on its future, investigating and recording architectural and archaeological sites and landscapes across Scotland and caring for more than 300 properties of national importance. We are also the lead on delivering Scotland's strategy for the historic environment, Our Past, Our Future.
  • 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 to receive our media releases. Already registered? You can unsubscribe at any time by following the unsubscribe link, included in every email.

Follow HES

X: @HistEnvScot | @welovehistory
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For further information, please contact:

Ashley Liddle
Historic Environment Scotland Media Office
07721 959 962