When you visit Scotland you will no doubt want to visit castles such as Edinburgh Castle, Dunnotar Castle and Urquhart Castle. Whether you want to find out more about your ancestry, visit castles you have seen on postcards or online or even follow in the footsteps of a certain red haired man in a kilt (Outlander fan?) you’ll want to purchase a pass in order to save yourself some cash. Without a pass costs can really mount up, especially if you have a nice long wish list of “must sees”.
The castles, monuments, brochs and battlegrounds are mostly covered by one of three organisations – Historic Scotland, the National Trust for Scotland and the Historic Houses Association. Each offer their own passes and membership.
Historic Scotland look after 300 locations, 77 of which are paid for attractions such as Edinburgh Castle, Iona Abbey, Urquhart Castle and Stirling Castle. Depending on how long you plan to be visiting Scotland there are a couple of options.
If you plan on just a week, or if you don’t have a huge list of properties you want to see there is an Historic Scotland Explorer Pass. You can buy it from their website or from the Visit Britain website.
3 days over 5 – Adult £30, Child (5-15) £18, concession £24, family (2 adults and up to 6 children) £60
7 days over 14 – Adult £40, Child £24, Concession £32, family £80
Both include a guide book, brochures, locations map and also entry to daytime events. You get fast track entry to both Edinburgh and Stirling Castle.
If you are visiting only one region you can buy a regional explorer pass for the Islands, Orkney, the Scottish Borders or Dumfries and Galloway. More details for these can be found on the website.
If you plan on a longer trip and have loads of places you want to see you might want to consider a membership. For a one off payment you can visit the properties as often as you like for a year so no restrictions while you are here. Compare the prices and see which is cheaper for you.
Adult – One annual payment of £47.03 (direct debit) or £49.50 (credit card)
Adult + 6 children £51.78/£54.50
Concession (1 person over 60, full time students or in receipt of state benefits) £37.53/£39.50
National Trust for Scotland
The National trust for Scotland offers a pass called The National Trust for Scotland Discovery Pass which will give you access to over 60 of their properties including Culloden Battlefield, Culzean Castle and the Battle of Bannockburn. Again, whether you choose this pass or membership depends on how long you are staying in Scotland.
3 days out of 7 consecutive days – Adult £26.50, family (2 adults and up to 4 children under 17) £53
7 days out of 14 consecutive days – Adult £31.50, family £63
14 days out of 30 consecutive days – Adult £36.50, family £73
Membership for 1 Adult – One off payment of £47.03 per annum by direct debit, £49.50 per annum by credit card
There are some popular castles that aren’t looked after by either of these and are instead managed by the Historic Houses Association. They have 32 properties including some in England and Wales. There is a pass available for £48 for the year. Properties include Dunnotar, Dunvegan and Dunrobin.
One more Pass worth mention, especially if you fancy a wee dram while you are here, and only really worth it if you are only staying for a week, is the Heritage Pass. Combining Historic Scotland properties, National Trust for Scotland properties and Dicovering Distilleries you can visit 120 sites but only between April and October so not any good if you are travelling out with these times. It’s valid for 7 consecutive days and costs £49 per adult and £27 per child (5-15).
The list below shows you some of the savings you can make. Lets say you want to travel to Scotland with your partner and two children. You fancy visiting Edinburgh and Stirling castle then going to some Outlander sites and ending up in Inverness. You can clearly here that you will save by buying an annual membership for both Historic Scotland and the National Trust for Scotland. Not only will you save £135 just on these attractions but there is another 127 places you can go to as well!
*A lot of the properties will close over the winter months so check the website when you are planning your trip.
*When you buy your passes you will get an e-voucher to print out. Bring this with you and redeem it for your pass at one of participating properties (check the list on the websites).
*There are a few places such as Balgonie Castle and Drummond Gardens which are independently owned and charge a small fee.
*Some castles may need to close at short notice, or close for events. Some will have restricted opening hours in the winter. Again, check the websites before you leave.