With over 300 properties in its care across Scotland, HES is planning to reopen 70 per cent of its free to access and ticketed sites by mid-September.
On Wednesday, July 15, the organisation will provide access to over 200 unstaffed and key-keeper sites across the country where physical distancing can be readily maintained and where HES can provide free and safe access.
In addition, this will include the opening of free access to the grounds of Doune Castle, Caerlaverock Castle and Dundonald Castle.
These properties, although normally staffed, have external green spaces which can be opened in line with continuing restrictions to offer health and well being benefits to the local communities.
A total of 26 ticketed sites will then reopen on a rolling basis, with Edinburgh, Stirling and Urquhart castles scheduled to reopen on Saturday, August 1.
From that date, the external space at these castles will be open, and HES will prioritise access to interior spaces where social distancing can be easily maintained.
It is anticipated that by the end of August further internal spaces will open at all three sites, however this will be assessed in line with Scottish Government guidance.
From August through to mid-September, HES plans to re-open a further 23 key sites across Scotland on a rolling programme, including Blackness Castle and Linlithgow Palace.
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; and some areas of sites, such as enclosed spaces, will be closed off to visitors. Visitor numbers will also be limited for safety reasons.
Due to the phased reopening, with the exception of Inchcolm Abbey, seasonal sites will not be opening for the 2020 season in order for HES to focus on access for properties which are open year-round.
Alex Paterson, chief executive of HES, 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.
“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.”
For further information on the re-opening visit www.historicenvironment.scot
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