Online booking opens today (Wednesday 22 July) for three of Scotland’s most iconic castles as Historic Environment Scotland (HES) prepares to open the gates to Edinburgh Castle, Stirling Castle and Urquhart Castle (pictured).
The historic sites, which have been closed since 18 March following the outbreak of COVID-19, will reopen on Saturday 1 August, and will be the first Historic Scotland ticketed sites to reopen.
A further 23 ticketed attractions will then reopen on a rolling basis during August through to mid-September.
Visitors will be able to enjoy access to outdoor spaces, including the grounds at all three sites opening on Saturday 1 August and the Queen Anne Gardens at Stirling Castle, as well as exploring historic locations such as the Great Hall, War Memorial and St Margaret’s Chapel at Edinburgh Castle, the Great Hall and Chapel Royal at Stirling Castle, and part of Grant Tower at Urquhart Castle.
Used by Mary Queen of Scots to host lavish banquets, the Great Hall at Edinburgh Castle was completed in 1511, while the Great Hall at Stirling Castle is the largest of its kind in Scotland and was completed in 1503.
Visitors to Edinburgh Castle can also enjoy seeing the firing of the One O’clock Gun.
It is anticipated that by the end of August further indoor spaces will open at all three sites, however, this will be assessed in line with Scottish Government guidance.
New safety measures have been put in place on site, with cash payments no longer being accepted for the foreseeable future, and visitors being asked to use contactless payment where possible.
One-way systems will be in place in some locations, and access will be restricted to small enclosed spaces where physical distancing is not possible.
Visitors will be required to wear face coverings when entering the retail shops, in line with Scottish Government guidance.
The cafés on site will be open to visitors, providing a take-away offer.
Visitors to Edinburgh Castle can also enjoy tea, coffee and snacks from the Red Food Truck on the esplanade, and the ice cream van at Edinburgh Castle and Stirling Castle will be open.
Visitor numbers will be limited for safety reasons with timed ticketing slots, and all visitors must book tickets online in advance.
Contact information will also be collected from visitors when booking tickets to assist contact tracing as part of NHS Scotland’s Test and Protect system.
Alex Paterson, Chief Executive of HES, said:
“We very much look forward to welcoming Historic Scotland members, and members of the public back to Edinburgh Castle, Stirling Castle and Urquhart Castle.
“Since lockdown began – which is the first time since the Second World War that all of our visitor attractions have been closed – we have been working hard to implement new safety measures at our sites in line with Scottish Government guidance.
“We want our visitors to not only be safe, but feel safe too, whilst experiencing Scotland’s heritage sites with all they have to offer again.
“I’m sure that many of our visitors will be eager to cross the drawbridge of three of Scotland’s most iconic sites now that lockdown restrictions are easing as well as our other sites across the country which will be re-opening on a rolling basis.
“We’ve worked hard to get our sites ready to welcome visitors, and as before, a fun and enjoyable experience awaits to explore and discover the fascinating history within these world-renowned castles.”
HES is Scotland’s biggest operator of visitor attractions, with over 300 properties in its care.
Edinburgh Castle is Scotland’s top paid-for visitor attraction, and Stirling Castle and Urquhart Castle the second and third most visited HES sites.
All three sites have also been approved by Visit Scotland as part of the UK-wide ‘We’re Good To Go’ scheme to provide confidence for visitors, communities and tourism businesses alike as the tourism sector works towards reopening.
Ticket prices have been reduced while some indoor access is restricted and must be booked in advance.
Tickets cost £15.50 for an adult, £12.40 for concession and £9.30 for a child for Edinburgh Castle; £14 for an adult, £11.20 for concession and £8.40 for a child for Stirling Castle; and £9.60 for an adult, £7.70 for concession and £5.80 for a child for Urquhart Castle.
Tickets must be purchased online from the HES, Edinburgh Castle and Stirling Castle websites.