Scotland heritage sites to reopen throughout summer

Scotland heritage sites reopening
Scotland heritage sites reopening

Historic Environment Scotland, operators of over 300 heritage sites, has announced a phased plan to reopen 70% of its free-to-access and ticketed properties by mid-September.

Over 200 unstaffed and key-keeper sites across Scotland where physical distancing can be easily maintained were opened to the public on 15 July. Free access was also opened up to the grounds of Doune Castle, Caerlaverock Castle and Dundonald Castle, which all have external green spaces.

26 ticketed sites across Scotland are set to reopen on from 1 August. This includes the external spaces at Edinburgh Castle, Stirling Castle and Urquhart Castle, with some access to the interior spaces that allow easy maintenance of social distancing. Further internal spaces are expected to be open by the end of August at all three sites, however this will be assessed in line with Scottish Government guidance.

Scotland heritage sites stirling castle

From August to mid-September a further 23 key sites will reopen on a phased programme including Glasgow Cathedral, Fort George, St Andrews Castle and Cathedral, and Skara Brae. As much as possible, reopening plans will appropriately take into account circumstances in each local area.

Visitors, including members, will be required to pre-book tickets online and use contactless payment wherever possible. One-way systems will be implemented in some locations, and some areas such as enclosed spaces will remain closed. Visitor numbers will also be limited for safety reasons.

With the exception of Inchcolm Abbey, seasonal sites – which usually open from April to October – will remain closed for 2020.

Urquhart Castle Scotland heritage sites reopen

Alex Paterson, Chief Executive of Historic Environment Scotland said, “At the forefront of our planning is the safety of our staff and visitors, whilst being able to reopen for the tourist season by gradually enabling safe access to our properties and facilities in line with Scottish Government guidance.

“We’ve been working exceptionally hard to ensure our properties will be accessible and ready to welcome visitors, however it’s important that we implement our resumption plans at the right time given the different requirements for each site.

“This also includes looking at the varying local and regional requirements throughout the country and we have considered this when setting out our phased approach to welcoming visitors back and supporting Scotland’s tourism and economic recovery.”

Alex continued, “We’re very much looking forward to welcoming visitors back to our sites. There will of course be some initial changes including managing visitor numbers at certain sites, as well as restricting access to specific locations, but we can assure visitors of a warm welcome as always. We want to ask our visitors to help create a safe environment by behaving responsibly and following our guidance at properties, and we will be providing further information on our website for visitors to help them prepare for their visit.”

Historic Environment Scotland has published an operating standards policy for the reopening of its properties, developed from a wide range of sector and industry advice, guidance and best practice.

The 23 key sites proposed for reopening during August and September are:

  • Aberdour Castle
  • Arbroath Abbey
  • Blackness Castle
  • Caerlaverock Castle
  • Craigmillar Castle
  • Dirleton Castle
  • Doune Castle
  • Dryburgh Abbey
  • Dumbarton Castle
  • Dunstaffnage Castle
  • Elgin Cathedral
  • Fort George
  • Glasgow Cathedral
  • Huntly Castle
  • Inchcolm Abbey
  • Jedburgh Abbey
  • Linlithgow Palace & peel
  • Melrose Abbey
  • Skara Brae
  • St Andrews Castle
  • St Andrews Cathedral
  • Tantallon Castle

For more information please visit