About Us

Managing the estate

Find out about how we manage the properties in our care and ensure a high standard of visitor experience.

Urquhart Castle and Loch Ness on a foggy day.

1 Overview

Our vision is to make Scotland’s heritage accessible to all. We want everyone to feel welcome at the 300+ Properties in Care (PiCs) that we manage on behalf of Scottish Ministers.

The majority of the PiCs are free to everyone and accessible throughout the year. Around 75 PiCs are managed through opening hours and admissions charges.

Our role is to understand, protect, and provide access to these historic sites. This includes a national portfolio of prehistoric and historic monuments, as well as associated collections representing around 5,000 years of Scotland’s past. 

These historic sites and associated collections are a precious national asset and we look to protect them for current and future generations. 

2 Access to Properties in Care

Heritage for all

At Historic Environment Scotland (HES), we’re working hard to make Scotland’s historic environment accessible to visitors no matter their background, lifestyle or needs.

We believe that Scotland’s history belongs to everyone and our equality, diversity and inclusivity activities looks to make the sites in our care accessible, understood, shared and enjoyed by all.

Protected by law

The Schemes of Delegation outlines the functions delegated to HES by Scottish Ministers regarding how we care for the historic environment and the management of access to Properties in Care (PiCs). When we refer to 'access', in the context of PiCs, we mean:

the ability of anyone to engage with Properties in Care and their Associated Collections

The way we manage access to PiCs is largely governed by legislation, which determines how we govern access to the sites in our care.

The Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 gives us legal powers to:

  • set opening hours and admission charges for the PiCs
  • exclude access to any PIC for safety reasons, and/or to help maintain or preserve the PiC; and/or
  • refuse access to any PIC to anyone we think is likely to do something which would damage the PiC, or its amenities, and/or disturb the public in their enjoyment of the PiC

There is site specific legislation in place, such as Holyrood Park and Linlithgow Peel and Loch, and we have additional legal powers to manage access to - and use of - those PiCs. Therefore, some activities are prohibited and some activities require our consent. Any questions regarding scheduled monuments in Scotland can be directed to: HMEnquiries@hes.scot

Access rights set out in the Scottish Outdoor Access Code do not apply to the PiCs. 

Our Managing Access to Properties in Care [PDF, 515KB] outlines our policy regarding: 

  • opening hours
  • terms of admission
  • events
  • activities that are not permitted

Holding events at PiCs

We welcome applications for events to take place at a number of the PiCs we look after. Guidance for each type of event is published on our website:

Each type of event has a separate application process.  We consider all applications in the context of our legislative responsibilities.

Additional types of activity which require our consent in advance include:

Access exceptions

We care for a number of sites where operations are managed by third party organisations such as museums and churches. As a result, there may be variations to our standard admissions policy at those sites. Examples where this may be the case are sites hosting religious services and access to the National War Museum. 

Edinburgh Castle and Fort George are used by the British Army and Stirling Castle is an official flag flying station. The British Army has a role in the management of these sites and may use them for official events.

Although we do facilitate royal, military or ministerial activities at particular sites, as a public body, we are unable to accommodate requests for activities of a political nature. Download our Managing Access to Properties in Care [PDF, 515KB] document for further details. 

3 Visitor experience and quality standards

We aim to offer a quality experience and a high standard of customer service at our sites.

All our staffed properties are included in the VisitScotland Quality Assurance scheme, which assesses facilities and services at our sites. A mystery visitor scheme measures our standards of customer service.

We’ve also received the Taste Our Best accreditation for our high quality, locally sourced catering at the sites where we have a catering outlet.

Our customer service standards

Visitor experience

We undertake extensive research to understand our sites and their significance. We aim to bring their stories to life using:

  • guided tours
  • audio-visual presentations
  • audio guides
  • guidebooks
  • information panels

Our programme of living history runs across our sites, and includes storytelling, re-enactments, music and dance. We actively encourage education groups to visit our sites, and we promote lifelong learning.

Business development

We encourage visitors to our sites through targeted sales and marketing activity, in line with GDPR.

We have a range of commercial products, from membership and admissions passes to catering and retail outlets, which enhance the visitor experience. The income generated from this is crucial to supporting our conservation role to maintain and protect Scotland’s built heritage.

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