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Over 28 of our staffed sites have now reopened and we are delighted to welcome you back. Booking in advance is recommended to guarantee entry. Find out more and book now

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Free learning visits

Explore 5,000 years of history with our free learning visits.

Image of group standing in the distance outside Craigmillar Castle

1 Where can we visit?

We’re delighted to welcome learning groups back to our sites.
Free learning visits make Scotland’s heritage accessible to learners of all ages - visits to historic sites give them the chance to experience history where it really happened.
There are over 300 historic sites to choose from that bring to life more than 5,000 years of history. From Edinburgh Castle to Orkney’s Skara Brae these special places tell Scotland’s story and provide excellent settings for exploration, discovery, inspiring creativity, outdoor learning and and play-based learning.
 
Skip to the next sections of this guide to discover:

2 Is our group eligible?

Free Learning Visits are open to UK-based nurseries, schools, colleges, universities, out of school clubs, and uniformed organisations like Scouts and Girl Guides. They are also open to groups from third sector and charitable organisations delivering educational or wellbeing programmes - including those supporting adult learners, youth work, employability or groups with additional support needs.
We can welcome groups of up to 50 per booking dependent on site capacity and required staffing ratios (see below). Some sites may require you to split into smaller groups when visiting.
Please note:
  • we are currently unable to accept bookings from overseas groups.
  • the free learning visits scheme does not cover commercial or leisure activity including residential language schools 

Staffing ratios

Due to current capacities at our sites we require the following adult to child ratios:
  • Early Years - Nursery and P1/2 (or aged 7 and under) 1:6
  • Primary P3-7 and Secondary S1-S4 (or aged 8-15) 1:10
  • Senior Phase (or aged 16-18 but still in school) 1:15

Groups with participants aged 16+ (excluding school groups) must be accompanied by a named representative from the visiting organisation.  

Contact

Please get in touch with us at learning@hes.scot if you'd like to check whether your group is eligible.

3 How can we book?

To book your free learning group visit:

  • For Edinburgh Castle and Stirling Castle, please fill in our booking enquiry form 
  • For all other sites a provisional booking should be made by calling the site directly
  • We’ll then email you a booking confirmation with a voucher to bring along on the day (please note a booking is not guaranteed until receipt of confirmation email and voucher)
  • After your booking is confirmed, group leaders can arrange a free planning visit to help with preparation of a risk assessment by emailing learning@hes.scot

Please note:

  • A member of the visiting educational organisation must make the booking.
  • All our sites operate with daily visitor capacities. Early booking and some flexibility on date and time of the visit is highly recommended to avoid disappointment.
  • Due to current capacities at our sites we are currently only able to take bookings up to two months in advance.
  • At least 10 days’ notice of the visit date is required.

Contact

Learning Services
Historic Environment Scotland
Email: learning@hes.scot

4 School Visits Travel Subsidy

Scottish schools can apply for help towards the travel costs of visiting heritage sites of national importance. The Scottish Government Heritage Travel Subsidy for Schools can cover up to 75% of transport costs (up to £250) to visit the chosen site.

You can apply for a School Visits Travel Subsidy if visiting:

Eligibility for the Travel Subsidy

Any Scottish school can apply. Funding is limited and priority will be given to schools in areas with high indicators of multiple deprivation (see Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation).

Application criteria:

  • the visit must be booked in advance and for a genuine educational purpose
  • subsidy applications should be made before the visit
  • all claims must be made by submitting invoices for travel costs within one month of the visit date

The subsidy is available all year round for the sites listed above. Travel costs will be reimbursed within 30 days of receipt of a valid claim.

How to apply

1. Make a provisional booking by contacting the site you wish to visit.
2. Get a quote for the travel costs (e.g. from a coach company).
3. Complete the travel subsidy application form and return it to us by email.

Download the application form:
Travel Subsidy application form [PDF, 208KB]
Travel Subsidy application form [MS Word, 1MB]

How will I hear back about my application?

The Historic Environment Scotland Learning & Inclusion team will reply to you by email to let you know whether your application was successful.

How will I receive the subsidy?

After your visit, please send a copy of the paid bus company invoice to learning@hes.scot.

75% of the total cost of travel (up to a maximum of £250) will be reimbursed to the school within 30 days of receipt of the invoice.

Contact

Email: learning@hes.scot

5 FAQs

Here are answers to some of our frequently asked questions (FAQs):

Is it safe to visit?

All our sites are managed with visitor safety as priority and in line with applicable COVID-19 guidance. Find more about what to expect from your visit by visiting the webpages for the site you plan to visit.

Can I book a tour or activity?

Currently, we are only offering self-guided visits. We have an exciting range of online resources available to support your visit. 

Can I book a lunch space?

Not at this time but, while not guaranteed, you can check on the availability of a covered space with site staff on arrival. 

Do you provide risk assessments?

It is the group leader’s responsibility to complete a risk assessment. Free planning visits are available to help leaders of booked groups prepare – contact learning@hes.scot to book.  

How should we dress?

All sites are primarily outdoors so please bring clothing for Scottish weather – and footwear for uneven ground! 
 
If you have any other queries please contact learning@hes.scot.

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