1 Inspections Programme
In April 2022, we announced that we had started our nationwide programme to inspect around 70 of the historic properties we care for. Our specialist teams have been out and about at the affected sites all over Scotland, surveying the high areas of these monuments and checking the stonework by hand.
By the end of the first year of inspections, we had been able to restore access at more than 30 of the 70 sites involved in this programme.
We care for over 300 historic properties across Scotland, each with their own unique characteristics and distinct set of conservation needs and pressures.
Our climate is changing, and with it bringing new challenges for the conservation of these landmarks we hold dear. We’ve seen an increase in deterioration of stonework and falling masonry at some of our sites, presenting potential risks for our visitors, staff, and the sites themselves.
While climate change isn’t the only reason for this, it has been a key factor in reassessing how we manage our properties. That’s why we’ve taken the proactive step to address this accelerated decay and manage the consequences of deterioration.
To do this, we’ve had to put safety restrictions in place at affected sites and limit visitor access. The restrictions that are in place our sites are precautionary in nature. They’re in place for the safety of our staff and visitors while we establish the condition of the sites.
Inspections are progressing well and on schedule. Some sites that we have inspected have needed relatively little work to make them accessible again, however, others will require a lot more work before we can restore access.
Take a look behind the scenes at the biggest challenge facing Scotland's historic buildingsFind out more
2 Our Progress
Our high level masonry project has progressed well, and we have now completed the first phase of prioritised inspections. As a result, we’ve been able to reopen a number of sites including Dundonald Castle, Doune Castle and Inchcolm Abbey, and increase visitor access at others, such as St Andrews Cathedral. Across our estate, there is full or partial access to nearly 80 per cent of our year round properties.
We’re now inspecting the next group of prioritised sites. To ensure we are undertaking this work as quickly as possible, we scheduled inspections throughout the winter months in a change to our initial programme. Instead of anticipating poor weather and building in a break from the outdoor inspections, our team continued to work where they could and only stopped in the event of weather that made it unsafe to work.
While we continue to carry out inspections, we have looked at how we can find new and different ways of telling the stories of the sites where we’ve had to keep access restrictions in place for now. This includes creating more interpretative signage at sites, as well as exploring the use of innovative technology like 3D modelling and new audio tours, videos and trails to offer alternative visitor experiences.
Take a behind-the-scenes look at our work to add interpretation to sites affected by our high level masonry inspectionsFind out more
What happens next
Some inspections and associated repairs, for example repairs to slates and lightening conductors, de-vegetation to remove invasive weeds and bedding of high-level stones, have been completed where possible to enable sites to at least partially reopen.
Once we’ve carried out inspections at each of the affected sites, we’ll have a better idea of the extent of the challenge facing us and will be able to make informed decisions about which works to prioritise and the resources required to carry out more involved conservation works.
It’s important to remember that Scotland isn’t alone in facing these threats to nationally important historic buildings – this is a global issue. We want our proactive response to the challenges of maintaining our historic monuments to be a source of learning and inspiration for heritage organisations worldwide.
On the next page, you will find a list of all sites involved with our inspections programme. If you'd like to learn more about about the inspections you can read our blog explaining the project linked below, along with our History Awaits! page, which has more information about what's open and what's on.
Our Director of Operations, Craig Mearns, gives us an update on the progress of our high-level masonry inspectionsFind out more
3 Sites involved
The following is a list of sites undergoing inspections and where full access restrictions are in place:Find out more about our inspection programme
Last updated: 8 August 2023
Which sites can I visit?
Many of Scotland’s most-loved visitor attractions remain open, including Edinburgh Castle, Skara Brae, Stirling Castle, Fort George, Urquhart Castle and more.Find out more
4 Sites with access restored
The following is a list of sites where access has been restored, either fully or partially, since undergoing inspections* and repairs where necessary. Work at these sites may also be ongoing. Please visit the site pages for more information on any restrictions that might remain in place.
|Aberdour Castle||Minor restrictions to west ruinous wall and bed chamber|
|Arbroath Abbey||Grounds and visitor centre (including exhibition) open only|
|Blackfriars Chapel||Full access|
|Bonawe Historic Iron Furnace||Grounds accessible|
|Burleigh Castle||Interior access 1 Apr to 30 Sept only, minor restriction in North Tower|
|Caerlaverock Castle||Some access restrictions still in place|
|Carsluith Castle||Grounds accessible|
|Castle Campbell||Full access|
|Castle Sween||Full access|
|Craigmillar Castle||Some access restrictions still in place|
|Crichton Castle||Grounds accessible|
|Cross Kirk, Peebles||Some access restrictions still in place|
|Crossraguel Abbey||Grounds accessible|
|Cubbie Roo's Castle & St Mary's Chapel, Wyre||Cubbie Roo's Castle and some parts of the chapel graveyard are accessible|
|Dirleton Castle||Some access restrictions still in place|
|Doune Castle||Some access restrictions still in place|
|Dryburgh Abbey||Full access|
|Dumbarton Castle||Some restrictions in place, which excludes access to the main rock peaks - the White Tower Crag and The Beak|
|Dundonald Castle||Some minor restrictions still in place|
|Dundrennan Abbey||Some restrictions accessing the stone store|
|Dunfermline Abbey||Abbey nave and shop are open only|
|Glenluce Abbey||Museum and part of grounds opened only|
|Greenknowe Tower||Grounds accessible|
|Hailes Castle||Grounds accessible|
|Holyrood Abbey||Full access|
|Inchcolm Abbey||Some access restrictions still in place|
|Jedburgh Abbey||Grounds, visitor centre and shop are open|
|Linlithgow Palace||Some access restrictions still in place|
|Lochleven Castle||Full access|
|Lochranza Castle||Castle exterior accessible|
|MacLellan's Castle||Grounds and shop opened only|
|Melrose Abbey||Abbey grounds, cloister and museum are open|
|Midhowe Chambered Cairn||Visitors can view the tomb via the raised walkways. Access restrictions for much of the ground level of the cairn|
|Pierowall Church||Graveyard accessible only|
|St Andrews Castle||No access to foretower|
|St Andrews Cathedral||Access to museum, St Rules Tower and partial external access|
|St Anthony's Chapel (Holyrood Park)||Full access|
|St Bridget's Kirk||Inglis Aisle opened on weekends by Keykeeper|
|St Magnus Church, Egilsay||Graveyard accessible only|
|St Ninian's Chapel||Full access|
|St Serf's Church||Access restored|
|Stirling Old Bridge||Some access restrictions still in place|
|Sweetheart Abbey||Cloister open only|
|Tantallon Castle||Some minor restrictions in place at the doocot and the east tower.|
|Trinity House||Open for special events only|
|Westside Church, Tuquoy||Graveyard accessible only|
|Whithorn Priory||Temporary restrictions in place to the internal crypt and Lady Chapel areas|
* If you would like to know more about work already undertaken, we have published our high level masonry inspection reports that have been completed so far.
Last Updated: 8 August 2023