Scotland’s Historic Sites Prepare for Phased Re-Opening

Historic Environment Scotland, HES, has announced its phasing in of re-opening for its ticketed sites in Scotland. Skara Brae, Orkney remained open to local visitors as the islands were in Level 3 restrictions. Now ,as the rest of Scotland emerges from its lockdown , people will once again be able to visit top historic sites.

Skara Brae Neolithic Village

Over 70% of sites managed by HES which are free to access and ticketed will be reopening on Friday 30 April as mainland Scotland moves to Level 3.

This will see some of Scotland’s most iconic heritage sites, including Edinburgh Castle, Stirling Castle, Fort George and Caerlaverock Castle, reopen to the public in line with Scottish Government guidelines.

This will also include access to over 200 unstaffed and key-keeper sites across Scotland where HES can provide free and safe access and where physical distancing can be readily maintained.

HES also plans to re-open further sites across Scotland as part of a rolling programme of re-opening over the coming months.

Visitors will be required to pre-book tickets online and to use contactless payment where possible; one-way systems will be implemented in some locations; and some areas of sites, such as enclosed spaces, will be closed off to visitors.

Visitor numbers will also be limited for safety reasons.

Technology is also being used to tell the sites’ stories in innovative ways, with QR codes being adopted at a number of different sites.

Alex Paterson, Chief Executive of HES, said:

“Scotland’s heritage attractions are a key part of our tourism sector both nationally and at a local community level, and contribute to our individual wellbeing, so we’re delighted to once again be opening sites up across the country.

“As always, the safety of our staff and visitors has been at the forefront of our planning, enabling safe access to our properties in line with Scottish Government guidance and our minimum operating standards which underpin our approach.

“We’re also pleased to tell the story of the sites through technology so visitors have the opportunity to experience the old and the new when they are exploring some of our most iconic sites and enjoying a piece of 5,000 years of history.”

All sites will follow the HES minimum operating standards, which were developed to set a benchmark for the safe reopening of historic sites and resumption of operational activities.

Tickets for all sites reopening on the 30 April will be available on a pre-booked basis next month. 

Jarlshof in Shetland will reopen initially on an unstaffed basis.


The full list of ticketed sites reopening on Friday 30 April are:

  • Aberdour Castle
  • Arbroath Abbey (Arbroath Abbey’s grounds will be accessible for free ahead of the opening of a new visitor offer at the centre due to open in the summer.)
  • Blackness Castle
  • Caerlaverock Castle
  • Craigmillar Castle
  • Dirleton Castle
  • Doune Castle
  • Dryburgh Abbey
  • Dumbarton Castle
  • Dunblane Cathedral
  • Dundonald Castle
  • Dunfermline Abbey
  • Edinburgh Castle
  • Elgin Cathedral
  • Fort George
  • Glasgow Cathedral
  • Huntly Castle
  • Inchcolm Abbey
  • Jedburgh Abbey
  • Linlithgow Palace
  • Melrose Abbey
  • St Andrews Castle
  • St Andrews Cathedral
  • Skara Brae
  • Stirling Castle
  • Tantallon Castle
  • Urquhart Castle
Linlithgow Palace credit: Noel Donaldson

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