Leading Visitor Attractions 2019: Historic Environment Scotland

Iona © David Gill

The visitor numbers for Leading Visitor Attractions in 2019 are now available. Properties managed by Historic Environment Scotland attracted over 5 million visitors in 2019. Top of the list is Edinburgh Castle with 2.2 million visitors, followed by Stirling Castle (609,000), Urquhart Castle (547,000) and Glasgow Cathedral (537,000). Skara Brae on Orkney received over 115,000 visitors, no doubt reflecting the presence of cruise ships.

The top six sites attract over 4 million visitors in 2019.

Heritage sites in Scotland reopening

Doune Castle © David Gill

Historic Environment Scotland has released details of its plans to re-open the heritage sites in its care during August and September. From 15 July this includes the grounds of Caerlaverock, Doune and Dundonald Castles.

Caerlaverock Castle © David Gill

Melrose Abbey: commendator’s house

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Melrose Abbey © David Gill

The Commendator’s House at Melrose Abbey was constructed in the 15th century although its original function is not clear. It became the Commendator’s House in 1590 (recorded above the lintel of the house) after the Reformation.

It now house the site museum that includes finds from the nearby Roman fort at Newstead.

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Melrose Abbey, Commendator’s House © David Gill

Alan Sorrell: creating visions of the past

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2018

How do you interpret archaeological sites to make them understood by the public? This book looks at the influential work of Alan Sorrell: the subtitle, ‘The man who created Roman Britain’, perhaps indicates the impact of his work.

Roman Britain features prominently: Hadrian’s Wall (fig. 99; Cover), the Carrawburgh mithraeum (fig. 102a–b), Housesteads fort (fig. 110), Caerleon legionary fortress (figs. 1), 80, the forum at Leicester (fig. 25), London (figs. 87, 104a–c, 106), Caerwent (figs. 28, 84a–b, 86a–b), Wroxeter (fig. 118), Bath (fig. 119a–b), Llantwit Major villa (fig. 85), and Lullingstone villa (fig. 98c). Medieval structures in state guardianship appear: Harlech and Conwy Castles (fig. 54a–b), the Bishop’s Palace at St Davids (fig. 69), Tintern Abbey (fig. 65a) and Jedbergh Abbey (fig. 65b).

Looking to Greece there are reconstructions of the Palace of Nestor at Pylos (figs. 17, 105), excavated by Carl Blegen, and the Palace at Knossos on Crete (fig. 41a).

The section on his work for the National Museum of Wales was particularly helpful. The reconstruction of Maen Madoc in the Brecon Beacons was instructive (fig. 89). Sorrell’s work with William Francis Grimes was given prominence.

The commissioning of reconstructions for sites in state guardianship is presented in some detail. We are presented with the views of P.K. Baillie Reynolds, Chief Inspector of Ancient Monuments: ‘They should have a good public appeal’. Yet at the same time Baillie Reynolds opposed the use of such reconstructions. This was in contrast with A.J. Taylor: ‘I should, personally, very much like to see in due course Sorrell drawings of all our North Wales Edwardian castles’. The use of Sorrell reconstructions in the Ministry’s ‘Blue Guides’ is itself constructive.

Sorrell, Julia, and Mark Sorrell. 2018. Alan Sorrell: the man who created Roman Britain. Oxford: Oxbow.

Outlander and heritage tourism

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Doune Castle © David Gill

The Outlander series of books and TV series is having an impact on visitor numbers at heritage sites in Scotland (“Outlander tourism effect a ‘double edged sword’“, BBC News 15 February 2020). Doune Castle is reported to have a 200 per cent increase, rising from 38,000 in 2013 to 142,000 in 2008. It is now the fifth most popular Historic Environment Scotland site.

Culloden, managed by the National Trust for Scotland, has also seen a large increase in visitor numbers to over 213,000 in 2018.

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Source for Data: ALVA

MacLellan’s Castle: the ‘Laird’s Lug’

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MacLellan’s Castle © David Gill

The Laird’s Lug in MacLellan’s Castle is located behind the fireplace in the main hall and would allow conversations to be overheard.

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MacLellan’s Castle © David Gill

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MacLellan’s Castle, Great Hall © David Gill

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MacLellan’s Castle © David Gill

Cardoness and Carsluith Castles: guidebooks

Cardoness_Carsluith_HS
1996 (repr. 2009)

The combined guidebook for Cardoness and Carsluith Castles was published in 1996. It was prepared by Doreen Grove. Cardoness has sections on the story, short tour, and architecture of the castle; Carsluith just has two sections, the story and the architecture.

The revised guide was by Adrian Cox and Doreen Grove. There is some overlap, e.g. ‘The story of Cardoness Castle’ and ‘The Lordship of Cardoness’; the McCullochs of Cardoness. Some of the themes are continued, e.g. ‘The castle as a defence’, and ‘The castle as a residence’.

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2013

Stirling Castle: guidebooks

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Second edition 1948, 7th impression 1967

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2nd ed. 1948 (8th impress. 1972)

The first edition of the guide to Stirling Castle was published in 1936: the description by J.S. Richardson, and the history by Margaret E. Root. A second edition appeared in 1948, and it continued as a ‘blue guide’ into the 1970s (note the move from guide-book to guide).

A fold-out plan was placed inside the back cover.

The cover of the Richardson and Root guide is ‘a drawing of a portrait medallion representing James V, one of a set of wood panels originally in the ceiling of the King’s Presence Chamber’. The heads were the subject of a monograph published by the Royal Commission in 1960. A booklet was issued by the Royal Commission in 1975, with the text by John G. Dunbar.

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1975

The Historic Scotland guide by Richard Fawcett was published in 1999. This consisted of a guide tour followed by the story (not history) of the castle.

Stirling_HS
1999 (repr. 2002)

Huntingtower: guidebooks

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Huntingtower © David Gill

Huntingtower, near Perth, was placed in State Guardianship in 1912. James S. Richardson prepared the first guidebook in 1931. A second edition appeared in 1950 and continued in print into the 1970s. The blue guide uses a detail from the ceiling inside the castle. Richardson’s guide starts with historical notes (pp. 1–5), followed by a description (pp. 6–9). Black and white photographs, as well as floor plans appear in the centre of the guide. He comments:

Viewed from any point, Huntingtower presents a picturesque appearance; the broken line of walling, the corbelled parapets with their subdued corner rounds and the corbie-stepped gables give the visitor an impression of a Scottish fortified-house of the 16th century, divested of its outer defensive works, garden and orchard.

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1st ed. 1931; 2nd ed. 1950 (4th impress. 1972)

A third edition of Richardson’s guide was published in 1982. Historical notes have been replaced by history, and description by descriptive tour. Photographs and plans are incorporated in the text.

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1982, 3rd edition

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HMSO 1989 (Historic Scotland 1996, 2001)

Richardson’s guide was replaced in 1989 by a new guide by Denys Pringle. There are two main sections: the story of Huntingtower, and the architecture of Huntingtower. The centre pages provide a short tour of the castle. Floor plans are printed inside the back cover.