CHALLENGES facing heritage sites in Ayrshire and across Scotland have been outlined to during a visit by an MSP to one of Ayrshire's most historic sites.

Conservative MSP Sharon Dowey spoke to Craig Mearns, director of operations at Historic Environment Scotland (HES), and other representatives of the government body, during a visit to Crossraguel Abbey near Maybole.  

The abbey was founded by Duncan of Carrick in the early 1200s and was one of only two Cluniac monasteries in Scotland.

Ms Dowey highlighted the importance of reopening local heritage sites as their impact on the local economy and community is significant.

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Ms Dowey also visited Dundonald Castle and praised the excellent relationship between HES and the Friends of Dundonald Castle SCIO, who are doing an incredible job of promoting the castle to tourists and providing a community hub for local people.

HES representatives stated that they hope to replicate this model across other historic sites in the region.

While small parts of the Crossraguel Abbey ruins remain closed, the grounds are now open to visitors and Sharon Dowey wants to encourage constituents and tourists to take a trip to the Abbey and experience it for themselves.

Ms  Dowey said: “It was a pleasure to spend a beautiful morning with Craig and several other HES staff exploring Crossraguel Abbey, which gave me the chance to relive some of my childhood memories from the area.

“During the visit, the HES team mentioned the big challenges they’re up against, particularly around the lack of stonemasons.

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“Faced with these challenges, it’s great to hear that their priority has been, and always will be the health and safety of their staff and visitors, and the economic and community impact of the sites.

“By presenting the conservation story of sites such as Crossraguel Abbey, I’m sure that they will attract more visitors and raise awareness about the opportunities of working at HES.

“Now that Crossraguel Abbey is open, it’s definitely worth a visit to this stunning historical site to explore its beautiful architecture and learn about its rich history.

“The HES staff do a great job in taking care of our heritage sites across Scotland, and I’m sure that as we enter the summer months, visitors will be keen to see the site for themselves and take in all that the Abbey has to offer."