Improving Access to Dunollie: A new handrail along the castle path.
It’s always very exciting to welcome visitors back onsite after our usual five-month winter closure, but this year especially so! We work very hard to improve our visitor experience, and this time, we are proud to report several important changes. The first of these, which we would like to talk about today, is our new handrail along the Castle path, which, we believe, will make Dunollie’s castle ruin safely accessible to many more visitors this year.
Our main issue in terms of physical access has always been the steepness of the hill on which Dunollie Castle is situated. Before opening as a visitors site 11 years ago, we had already moved the path leading up to the castle in an attempt to make the climb easier and to increase the number of visitors reaching the top. Whilst this was a huge improvement, the path remained very steep. Installing the handrail has been long, time-consuming project and one that staff members and trustees have been working on since before the Covid-19 pandemic.
The mound on which Dunollie Castle is situated is a scheduled monument, and therefore we work hard to ensure that any archaeological remains are carefully preserved. Any excavation work is carried out by a professional archaeologist with the consent of Historic Environment Scotland.
We had to therefore think a little bit outside of the box to find a way to secure a handrail without it affecting the ground on which it would stand – and so we did. When the wych elm in Dunollie’s Simba Garden was deemed unsafe for a visitor attraction and had to be felled, we had an idea.
With the consent of Historic Environment Scotland and funding from the Clan MacDougall and MacDowell Society of North America, we were able to move the lengths of wych elm to line the castle path. The logs were then tethered to the ground using wire mesh secured underneath the path itself. The idea at this point was to install metal railings into the logs and then a length of rope – but unfortunately the COVID-19 pandemic hit and we had to wait a few years to finish the project.
In 2022 we began work on finishing the handrail, and thanks to funding from the Oban Common Good Fund for the metal railings, a donation of rope from CalMac and volunteer help to move the remaining logs, we now have a completed handrail ready for the 2023 season.
Thanks to this handrail, we hope to provide a safer climb to Dunollie Castle and it’s breath-taking views across Oban Bay and the Inner Hebrides.
The handrail project was made possible thanks to generous donations from the Oban Common Fund, Clan MacDougall and MacDowell Society of North America, as well as several individual donations, volunteer time and the support of Historic Environment Scotland. We also owe thanks to our contractors Norman Steeman Engineering and Highland Tree Routes, to CalMac for providing rope, as well as former Business and Sustainability Manager Jane Isaacson who had the original idea and worked on the scheduled monument consent from Historic Environment Scotland.
To find out more about the accessibility of our site as a whole, visit our website (click here). If you have any questions, please get in touch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org and we will do our best to help.