A famous filming location, Doune Castle is a jewel in Historic Environment Scotland’s (HES) crown. Situated in rural Stirlingshire, the medieval fortification inspires awe in more than 150,000 visitors every year, many of whom are seeking a glimpse inside the great hall of Game of Thrones’s ‘Winterfell’ or hoping to walk in the footsteps of the cast of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Although in a state of semi-ruin, the curtain-walled castle remains an impressive monument and is notable as one of the earliest and best-surviving examples of a planned royal residence in Scotland.
A stone’s throw from the castle grounds – which boast a charming woodland walk, the site of a Roman fort and views of the River Teith and Ardoch Burn – is the picturesque village of Doune. The burgh is an important tourist draw in itself, with the connection between town and castle benefitting the local population financially and culturally.
HES, which has an extensive 16.2 hectares of the site under State care, identified Doune as “an important place… to demonstrate best practice in visitor management”. As such, the organisation is dedicated to upholding the highest quality standards of visitor experience, of which signage is a key facet. Identifying the need for renewed external signage in 2020, the team looked to Leach with its extensive understanding of the heritage and visitor attraction sectors to provide expertise.
From the outset, Leach’s team were incredibly mindful of the context and significance of the venture. All aspects of the signage needed to be in keeping with the setting, from the chosen material to the size and positioning, whilst observing the timescales laid out by HES. As the site is subject to a Landscape Conservation Management Plan, the team also needed to ensure the work had little to no impact on the approximately twenty recorded wildlife habitats within the grounds. Accordingly, Leach conducted a comprehensive site survey to understand the detailed requirements and any restrictions in full prior to commencing the first phase of the project – which in total spanned three months of Spring 2020 and the first three months of 2023.
The external signage specialists sourced a large quantity of European kiln-dried Oak to create waymarker and finger posts to help visitors navigate their way around Doune, the castle and its nature reserve. As many veteran trees around the monument are old Oaks pre-dating the 18th century, the addition of these Oak wayfinding signs was harmonious with the very essence of Doune. A custom-engraved timber lectern emblazoned with “Doune Historic Village” was created, much to the satisfaction of HES. A collection of interpretation boards manufactured from “Vault” panels was also supplied, a robust, vandal-resistant external signage system which brings stunning photographic quality to outdoor graphics. Completing the project, a double-sided welcome sign now marks the entrance to the Castle to greet its thousands of annual visitors in style.
All installations were carried out in stages to minimise the interruptions to Doune’s tourists and wildlife. Leach also took advantage of a period of temporary closure that HES enforced for essential masonry restoration works to the castle to undertake much of the work.
“It’s clear to see why Doune Castle and the nearby village of Doune are must-visit locations. Steeped in history and rich in nature, it was a privilege to direct the Doune signage project. From start to finish, we worked to preserve the monument and villages’ abundant charms whilst creating a tourism-friendly space to promote their presence for all to enjoy,” said Josh Taylor, Leach Project Manager.
Are you looking to update your external signage? Do you have specialist requirements or a unique environment to consider? Your site is in good hands with Leach’s experts, so get in touch to kick-start your transformation!