Scotland in a Day – Revelling in a Scottish Road Trip — Travels with a Kilt

The Best of Scotland in a Day Don’t let the title confuse you. This is not a post about an – absolutely impossible – attempt to experience this fabulous wee country in 24 hours. Rather, it’s about capturing Scotland’s broad appeal in one day. The assets that have made it one of the top destinations…

via Scotland in a Day – Revelling in a Scottish Road Trip — Travels with a Kilt

St. Davids and Bishop’s Palace, Wales

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St. Davids and Bishop’s Palace, Wales

Interview with Amanda Canby-Lewis, Lead Custodian

Wales, a wild and mysterious place. My first travels through the country was back in my university days. I remember some amazing mountains and terrain, very strange signs, and people with a fun, odd sense of humor I enjoyed. In doing research for historic sites interviews, I started looking back into Welsh sites and found that they certainly weren’t lacking. There are so many castles, ruins and grounds to clamber around, not to mention lovely villages and sign posts with Welsh on them to try to learn how to pronounce.

St. Davids and Bishop’s Palace is a ruin that is quite spectacular, in Pembrokeshire. It’s a family friendly place with plenty of climbs for you. The grounds offer a lot to see and just relax. Soak in some history. It’s not just a place to hang out, in the summer there are a series of events. Hopefully if you can, catch a performance.

St. Davids and Bishop’s Palace

Opening hours can vary so please contact the site for up to date information on 01437 720517. Last admissions 30 minutes before closing.

Hours of operation: Daily 9.30am – 5.00pm , July and August until 6 pm

STDavidsBishopsPalace@wales.gsi.gov.uk

To learn a little bit more about the site, I asked Amanda Canby-Lewis, Lead Custodian

To let us know a bit more about the site. Here is her interview below.

How long has this historic site been in operation and how did it get it’s start?

The site has been open to the public and charging an admission fee since at least the early 1960’s. It was put in the care of the Ministry of Works in 1932 who did basic consolidation, conservation and excavation. As Pembrokeshire developed into a tourist area in the 1960’s it was opened as an historic tourist attraction by the Department of the Environment although I believe that prior to that visitors could just come in and walk around. Since 1984 it has been in the care of Cadw.

Due to some recent film work and television series, some of the historic sites have seen a huge increase in visits. How has this been beneficial and challenging to the heritage site?

Very little impact has been felt here as it has been only minimally used – the BBC series ‘Antiques Roadshow’ was filmed here and then the BBC series of ‘Hollow Crown’ (the Shakespeare histories) filmed parts of ‘Richard II’. I believe that any filming and publicity for the built historic environment is mainly beneficial as it raises their profile and may attract visitors who may not otherwise visit. It is also a good revenue stream.

With revenue increase, will you be able to expand upon some projects for the site?

As Cadw is currently part of the Welsh Government we have to work within given budgets. However, Cadw are continually looking to improve both interpretation and facilities at all their sites to improve the visitor experience and meet and exceed their targets.

What is the biggest challenge that you have in running a site like this?

The maintenance and conservation of the  building is paramount as it is a scheduled ancient monument. Therefore when work needs doing we have to shut areas which may impact on the public. To combat this we have found ways to make it part of the visitor experience through explanation and interpretation of what we’re doing, how and why. This has had an impact on repeat visits as people very often return to see what we’ve done and what the next phase is. There is also the competition for the tourist £ which is ever increasing with more and more attractions opening up. Looking at ways to increase our profits is also a challenge. Health and Safety presents a challenge as we aim to keep as much of the monument open to the public as possible – to do this we have to assess issues such as warning signage and look at ways of making visitors aware of potential issues.

Do you have interpreters and reenactments at your site and what is involved in running some of these programs?

We occasionally use re-enactors. This is never an issue to run as we use companies/groups who are used to working in an environment such as this and have researched fully. They are also responsible for their own risk assessments etc. The main impact is that it can draw larger visitor numbers in a small period of time so staffing has to be in place to deal with this. I have done costumed interpretation training and this is something we aim to increase over the coming year.

Does your site have exhibits or host special exhibits on occasion?

Due to the nature of the building it is difficult to house special exhibits for the following reasons: it is difficult to secure the site so any exhibits are vulnerable overnight when the site isn’t staffed. Also the covered areas of the building are damp so this impacts some kinds of special exhibits. The site however has interpretation through the building in various formats. In the past we have had exhibitions of local sculptors work throughout the building and this adds another dimension to the site and attracts visitors who may not usually visit – or encourages a repeat visit.

If you get hired by a film company, how do you manage the site and what gets changed around? Because it is heritage, things must be maintained and safe, how do the film companies work around it?

On occasion it is necessary to close the site or close areas of it. However, we do try to stay open – it is good publicity for both us and the film company. We will always look to work with the company so that we have a complete plan in place long before filming takes place. It is up to the companies to put their risk assessments in place taking into account the nature of the building.

Do you have any funny behind the scenes stories?

There is nothing more unpredictable than working in tourism and most days see something unusual! We deal with people from all over the world (the most unusual visitor I’ve had here was a Sherpa from Nepal), we deal with an historic building and we deal with wildlife which uses the building as it’s habitat – badgers stuck down holes, bees nests, bats! We also deal with people who can ask very strange questions – my personal favourite was a visitor who arrived and asked me why we’d moved the building as they were convinced that the last time they visited the site it was on an island! I tried various sites that I thought they had maybe got it confused with but they were not to be persuaded – they were right and I was wrong!

In 1995 Queen Elizabeth visited the site which obviously necessitated a high level of security with security personnel on site throughout the night before the visit. I arrived on site very early to find a sniffer dog handler sitting on a wall alone – his dog had disappeared to go chasing rabbits! Something funny happens nearly every day!!

Castle Doune, Scotland Interview with Stephan Duncan

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Doune Castle, Historic Environment Scotland 

Scotland is filled with great historical sites. Many of these have been seen in countless films and television series. In the summer of 2016 I visited one of these famous sites just outside Stirling, Scotland, Doune Castle. The site was featured in one of my favorite Monty Python films, The Holy Grail, and recently has represented the fictional Castle Leoch in the Outlander series on Starz.

The castle is mostly intact and has a great view of the surrounding area, as is the purpose of such a stronghold. At least it wasn’t built in a swamp. The grounds are very nice and the facilities are very informative. Great narration at points of interest by both Terry Jones and Sam Heughan are featured. It’s a short bus trip from Stirling if you are doing public transit.

Stephan Duncan at Commercial and Tourism at Historic Environment Scotland  agreed to an interview on the site.

Interview With Stephen Duncan, Director of Commercial and Tourism at Historic Environment Scotland.

How long has this historic site been in operation and how did it get its start?

Dating back to the 1300s, Doune Castle near Stirling has a long history as a fortification. It was taken into our care in 1984 and has been managed as a popular visitor attraction since.

Due to some recent film work and television series, some of the historic sites have seen a huge increase in visits. How has this been beneficial and challenging to the heritage site?

Doune Castle has starred in Monty Python and the Holy Grail and Game of Thrones, however, it’s most famed for its role as the fictional Castle Leoch in the hit historical time-travelling TV series Outlander. The centuries old stronghold is still feeling the ‘Outlander effect’; last year alone 90,279 people explored the 1300s castle and filming location for themselves. An increase of 32% compared with the same period in 2015.

Blackness Castle has also benefited from its cameo in the series as the stand in for Fort William. Visitor numbers at the 15th century, Firth of Forth fortress are also up by 39% to 30,053. The coastal attraction is often referred to as ‘the ship that never sailed’ due to its boat like shape.

As well as providing a real insight into the country’s shared past and history, Scotland’s cultural heritage assets have a key role and hold significant potential in helping to support and drive economic development. This potential is illustrated in the contemporary relevance that Scotland’s historic places, such as Doune Castle, have today and how they continue to engage new and larger audiences.

With revenue increase, will you be able to expand upon some projects for the site?

Revenue generated across our estate by commercially-led activity is reinvested in Scotland’s wider historic environment. At Doune Castle we’re strengthening the overall visitor experience, with continued investment that will bring added benefits to our individual visitor and group markets, whilst our plans to expand our retail space and offering will also see the creation of new local job opportunities.

The castle is also amongst a number of heritage sites within our care throughout Scotland that is set to benefit from a £6.6 million Scottish Government investment to support conservation work and repairs.

What is the biggest challenge that you have in running a site like this?

By their nature historic buildings can often present challenges and require specialist expertise to ensure their safeguarding for the benefit of future generations. As one of our top ten ticketed visitor attractions in our portfolio of properties, Doune Castle has seen a significant surge in visitor numbers over a relatively short period of time. This growing popularity brings with it new challenges that we factor in to our day-to-day running of the site such as our visitor management infrastructure and how we can work to enhance the overall experience of our visitors that they’d expect from a top attraction.

Do you have interpreters and reenactments at your site and what is involved in running some of these programs?

Whilst the site is not staffed with period costume performers and historic re-enactors, we continually assess and evaluate our visitor experience at all of our staffed sites. At Doune Castle our refreshed and improved audio guides which feature commentary from the famous faces behind Monty Python and the Holy Grail and Outlander, offer visitors an opportunity to follow in the footsteps of those associated with castle’s story throughout the centuries.

Does your site have exhibits or host special exhibits on occasion?

Interpretation at the site allows visitors to gain a real understanding of the story of Doune Castle and its past. It is amongst 25 historic sites spread across the length and breadth of the country to be included in the recently launched joint campaign with National Museums Scotland, Royal Collection Trust and The National Trust for Scotland, with match-funding from VisitScotland. Primed to capitalise on a surge in interest around Bonnie Prince Charlie, catalysed by Outlander, On the Trail of Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobites, a digital-led campaign which focusses on highlighting sites that share links with this iconic character from Scotland’s past.

If you get hired by a film company, how do you manage the site and what gets changed around? Because it is heritage, things must be maintained and safe, how do the film companies work around it?

We manage over 300 historic sites across the country, which together represent 5,000 years of history. Centuries old castles, abbeys, palaces and other historic sites provide unique filming locations throughout Scotland. Filming companies are required to adhere to our requirements surrounding the protection of the monument first. If this is achievable we work closely with filming and production companies to ensure we can meet their requirements whilst taking into account the considerations of working within a historic building and a scheduled monument, and at times a busy visitor attraction depending on the type of filming.