Exploring the impacts of climate hazards on heritage sites.

Yesterday I visited Edinburgh Castle in Scotland. I was there to look at the spaces in the castle that had been damaged by an extreme rainfall event last year. This magnificent castle sits on volcanic rock and towers above the city. It is estimated that a royal castle has been located in this site since the 12th century. It is a symbol of great historic importance for the people of Edinburgh and Scotland, and it continues to play a central role in the cities culture. The castle hosts various festivals and events, is the backdrop to celebrations including Hogmanay. Yet last year rain fell so heavily and rapidly that the existing drainage was overwhelmed a streams of water entered some of the rooms within the castle walls. So dramatic and unexpected was this event that Historic Environment Scotland and researchers at the University of Edinburgh are now unravelling what happened and why. I am part of that team and it was fascinating to see how such a historic site had been impacted. The work is ongoing but what has struck me is the passion and care that those who work for HES have taken in getting the castle full open to the public. They have had to take great lengths to ensure the precious collections housed within the rooms impacted are safe and can continue to be enjoyed by those who visit. Fortunately the damage was manageable but researchers at UoE are exploring whether, due to climate change, these types of extreme rainfall events may become more frequent in the future.  The impact of hazards to places like Edinburgh Castle highlights not only the losses that can occur in terms of staff hours, tourist income, and repair but also how important our heritage is to our cities, communities and individuals. The CRITICAL project aims to ask people around the world, what is heritage to you? and how can our heritage support our efforts to adapt to climate change.  Edinburgh Castle is important to so many people in Edinburgh city – providing income through tourism, being a symbol of Scottish history and culture. Heritage provides a link to history but also a source of knowledge and hope for the future.

HES recently published a media release discussing the impact of climate change on their properties in care New measures introduced to manage the impact of climate change | HES (historicenvironment.scot)