Now after being hit by almost a year of closure, Doune Castle, near Stirling, has officially reopened, as the country’s chief heritage body grapples with restoring some of Scotland’s most treasured buildings amid the impact of climate change.
Access restrictions had been put in place temporarily at the castle in June last year by Historic Environment Scotland, which was carried out a full survey of the site to assess the building for high level masonry problems.
But the iconic visitor attraction, which fdoubles as Castle Leoch in Outlander, the TV hit starring Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan, has now reopened as of Monday.
A special access corridor has now been put in place at the building.
Visitors can once again see the interior of the castle, including the courtyard, basement, and many of the smaller chambers.
Stephen Duncan, marketing and engagement director at HES, said: “We are delighted to be able to reopen the interior of the castle once more after access restrictions were put in place for essential high masonry work.
“We know how keen visitors are to enjoy the castle, which is an iconic site and has featured in a wealth of productions, including most recently in Outlander.
“The castle and the surrounding village are a hugely popular destination, and we look forward to welcoming visitors back through the castle doors so they can enjoy this much-loved heritage attraction once again.”
HES said some minor access restrictions will remain in place for ongoing conservation work.
Visitor numbers to locations such as Doune Castle had soared due to the “Outlander effect”, raising fears about the sustainability of a host of historic sites.
Tourists flocking to the 14th-century stronghold in Perthshire soared from 38,081 in 2013 – the year before it first appeared as fictional Castle Leoch – to 142,091 in 2018.
More than 50 other HES properties across Scotland remain closed off to the public while emergency surveys are carried out to assess the state and safety of the structures and the effects of climate change on their deterioration.
Affected properties include some of Scotland’s most scenic buildings, such as Linlithgow Palace, Aberdour Castle and Melrose Abbey.
It comes as HES is faced with major budget pressures, with the Scottish Government announcing last month that funding for the heritage body was being slashed by £13 million over the period over the next four years.
The annual allocation for HES will drop from £61 million this financial year to £48m in 2026/27 in what has been described as a “hammer blow”.
The reopening of Doune Castle comes as an organisation representing Scotland’s visitor attractions launched a campaign to boost recruitment as a survey revealed more than half are having trouble finding new staff.
The Association of Scottish Visitor Attractions (ASVA) said 55 per cent of the 850-plus tourist destinations in Scotland experienced challenges recruiting staff last month.
As part of the recruitment drive, the ASVA has produced a short film which features footage from a range of its member organisations and attractions including Historic Environment Scotland, The National Trust for Scotland, and Belhaven Brewery.