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Concern as castles hit by climate change

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By Fiona Reid
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Concern as castles hit by climate change

CLIMATE change is accelerating the decay of 13 historic sites in Dumfries and Galloway - including Caerlaverock Castle and Lochmaben Castle.

As a result, Historic Environment Scotland (HES) has set up a new inspection programme to work out the risks at each location.

The affected properties are Caerlaverock Castle, Carsluith Castle, Dundrennan Abbey, Loch Doon Castle, Lochmaben Castle, Maclellan’s Castle, Morton Castle, Orchardton Tower, Sweetheart Abbey, Whithorn Priory, Cardoness Castle, Glenluce Abbey and Threave Castle.

Tactile condition surveys are being carried out to assess the extent of deterioration of high-level masonry and ensure public safety against the risk of potentially unstable building fabric.

The results will help HES plan repairs, conservation work, adaptation measures, interventions and new ways of caring for these historic assets.

These sites will have restricted access in place while the surveys take place, as part of a national programme involving 200 properties across Scotland.

Director of conservation Dr David Mitchell said: “The safety of staff, visitors and contractors is our top priority and access restrictions at 13 sites will unfortunately be necessary. We are currently assessing where partial access can be put in place at sites where it is safe to do so, and information will be posted to the HES website as it is available.

“Our routine inspections are increasingly revealing the deterioration of building fabric at high level. While our changing climate is not the sole reason for deterioration, it has certainly accelerated it and brought the issue to a head. Historic properties are inherently fragile by their nature, often ruinous and standing at exposed locations. We face a constant battle against time and the elements.

“We are one of the first heritage bodies tackling this issue head on and the difficult choices it will lead to, but we are not alone. We are taking proactive action now to assess the nature and scale of the immediate challenge and to explore a range of solutions and options.

“It is inevitable our approach to protecting historic buildings will have to change; we need to reimagine how we manage these historic and much-loved places. A range of solutions is needed, including repairs, investment, and new and innovative interventions. In some cases, reduced physical access and accepting the natural process of decay will need to be considered.”

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