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Skara Brae to reopen — but Maeshowe and Palaces to remain shut

Skara Brae is world-renowned, and is usually enjoyed by thousands each year. It will be the first ticketed HES site in Orkney to reopen.

Skara Brae is one of 23 Historic Environment Scotland (HES) ticketed sites set to reopen to the public during August and September.

But other ticketed sites such as Maeshowe and the Bishop’s and Earl’s Palaces have not been included in the list. The Palaces are set to remain closed until Spring 2021, and no date has been given, so far, for the reopening of Maeshowe.

Meanwhile, unticketed and unstaffed HES sites will be open to visitors from this Wednesday.

HES has set out its approach to the reopening of its heritage sites across Scotland as COVID-19 restrictions are eased.

With over 300 properties in its care, HES is adopting a phased approach to reopen 70 per cent of its free to access and ticketed properties by mid-September, during Phase Three of the Scottish Government’s route map.

On Wednesday July 15, HES will provide access to over 200 unstaffed and key-keeper sites across Scotland where physical distancing can be readily maintained and where HES can provide free and safe access.

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.

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.”

HES has also published policy and guidance for the reopening of the properties in its care.

The standards have been developed from a wide range of sector and industry advice, guidance and best practice, and set the benchmark for the safe reopening of sites and resumption of operational activities. The Operating Standards have been published to provide a resource for the wider heritage sector, and to support and assist other organisations with their own resumption planning.

For further information on the re-opening please visit www.historicenvironment.scot

To view the COVID-19 Policy and minimum operating standards, visit: historicenvironment.scot/covid-19-operating-standards

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