Scotland’s most famous historic heritage sites are getting set to lower their drawbridges.
Online booking opens today (Wednesday 14 April) for Urquhart Castle, Fort George and Elgin Cathedral as Historic Environment Scotland (HES) prepares to open the gates to more than 20 ticketed sites this month.
Tickets are now available for sites across the country allowing visitors to enjoy over 5,000 years of history.
The historic sites will reopen on Friday 30 April following the Scottish Government’s proposed dates for the reopening of the tourism sector and mainland Scotland moving to COVID protection level three.
New technology is also being implemented as part of HES’s new visitor offering.
Visitors will be able to explore the stories of many of the sites in innovative ways through downloadable maps, family trails, quizzes and quests, music, poetry and personal accounts to tell stories throughout the centuries, videos exploring Gaelic culture and words, and digital fly throughs to areas of sites usually restricted to visitors.
Visitors to Fort George will also be able to access an audio tour on their mobile phones during their visit as a new web app audio tour is being rolled out this spring.
At Urquhart Castle (pictured), most outdoor spaces will be accessible and there will be partial access to Grant Tower.
At Fort George, visitors will be able to access the fort site and ramparts, Grand Magazine, historic barracks, Points Battery Magazine, Chapel, the Highlanders’ Museum, exhibition and visitor centre.
Meanwhile, visitors to Elgin Cathedral, can enjoy all outdoor spaces as well as the towers which will be open to the first level.
All visitors, including members, will be required to pre-book tickets online and to use contactless payment where possible; one-way systems will be implemented in some locations; visitors must wear face coverings in any indoor/enclosed spaces including retail and catering areas; and visitor numbers will be limited for safety reasons.
Alex Paterson, Chief Executive of HES, said:
“We know how keen our Historic Scotland members and visitors are to get back to our sites, so we’re delighted to reopen over 70% of our properties on Friday 30 April.
“Scotland’s heritage sector is a key part of our tourism offer – from providing jobs to increasing our wellbeing – and, in addition to reopening the sites that reopened last year, we will also reopen further sites across the country on a phased basis over the upcoming months.
“We hope visitors will also enjoy learning about the fascinating stories of our sites through our new technology – including QR codes, online videos and digital audio guides for an innovative insight into Scotland’s past.
“In line with Scottish Government guidance, safety measures have been implemented at our sites, and we look forward to welcoming visitors and members back for a safe and enjoyable visit.”
HES is Scotland’s biggest operator of visitor attractions, with over 300 properties in its care.
Earlier this month, HES announced a phased approach to reopen its properties, with over 70% of its free to access and ticketed properties reopening on Friday 30 April.
This date will also allow members of the public 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.
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.
From Friday 30 April, Urquhart Castle will be open daily from 9.30am – 5pm while Fort George and Elgin Cathedral be open daily from 10am – 4pm.
Tickets must be booked online in advance and can be purchased from the HES website.