Edinburgh Castle reopens its doors to visitors

Edinburgh CastleImage copyright
Historic Environment Scotland

Edinburgh Castle is to reopen to visitors – although only 1,000 people a day will be able to go rather than the usual 10,000.

Visitors will also only be able to see the castle’s external spaces, with a one-way system being put in place.

Tickets are only available to buy online, and the first weekend has already completely sold out.

The castle’s executive manager, Nick Finnigan, said it had been a huge effort to get the castle ready.

But he said he hoped it would send a message that Edinburgh is open for business again, and bring people back to the city centre.

The castle reopens seven days a week from Saturday.

It has been closed since March because of the coronavirus lockdown, which Mr Finnigan said had left the grass knee high and the water, plumbing and electrical systems all needing to be tested.

He said: “This is the longest Edinburgh Castle has been closed since World War Two and I hope it never happens again.

“I didn’t reckon it would be closed for this long.

“It is the biggest challenge I’ve had in my almost 10 years in my role.

“I am excited we are open as it sends a message that Edinburgh is open for business again.”

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Historic Environment Scotland

Image caption

Nick Finnigan said he was excited to welcome visitors back

Mr Finnigan said entrance prices have been cut because visitors would only be able to visit the castle’s external spaces.

However, The Great Hall, Laich Hall, St Margaret’s Chapel and the Scottish National War Memorial will be open to visitors.

He said: “We have had a lot of planning to get this right. I think everybody will be looking at the castle as the exemplar of how to run things.

“We are under the microscope as the number one iconic landmark and visitor attraction.

“We are under immense pressure to get it right as we have the responsibility as a big attraction and to play our part in the city’s recovery.”

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Historic Environment Scotland

Image caption

Laich Hall will be open to visitors

There will be a one way system throughout the castle but visitors can spend as much time as they want.

There will be a traffic light system and only online ticket sales.

Audio tour machines will only be used once a day and will be cleaned and there will be a system where visitors can scan QR codes with their mobile phones to learn about the history inside the castle.

Mr Finnigan said visitors would also be spread out.

He said: “We are only allowing 1,000 people a day compared with the 10,000 to 11,000 people a day who attend normally during the summer months.

“This will be reviewed on a daily basis. We want to raise the numbers as quickly as we can.

“In July we normally receive 300,000 visitors. We are opening up to 1,000 people, which you would think we would be disappointed in that, but we have to make sure it succeeds, we have to be see how it goes.”

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Historic Environment Scotland

Image caption

The castle has been closed since March

He added that fewer people would also result in a more relaxed time for visitors.

A specialist company was brought in to work out a series of circles around the One O’Clock Gun for social distancing. Now 250 people will be able to view the firing of the gun. More than 1,000 usually view the ceremony.

Mr Finnigan said the vault with the Crown Jewels would remain closed because there was no proper ventilation.

He said: “I am desperate to get it open but it is the most challenging space in the castle. If we can crack the ventilation then we can possibly start letting a few people in there.

“My priority is welcoming visitors back to Edinburgh Castle and then I will see what other apartments can open.”

The castle has had to cancel concerts and the annual fireworks display, which marks the end of the Edinburgh International Festival, too.

Mr Finnigan said: “I am gutted that the concerts will not be taking place and devastated the Tattoo and fireworks will not be here this summer.

“So to see people coming back to Edinburgh Castle is really great.

“I did my final walk through this morning and have received a series of texts hoping all goes well on Saturday including one from my mother who said my late father would be so proud of me on Saturday.”

BBC News