In defence of our castle

12th January 2001 at 00:00
You may recall that before the "cuts", Cannonball House at the top of Edinburgh's Castlehill was an excellent education centre for Old Town visits. The Parliament is now using the upgraded facilities for its own young visitors presumably until it moves to Holyrood.

Right beside the Esplanade, it has always seemed a good spot for a castle education centre, housing all the activities before and after a visit.

Historic Scotland disagree. They plan to use part of the Queen Anne Building up on Crown Square together with two of the large vaults which they are opening up. That would mean that the annual 16,000 school visitors would be halfway round their visits before reaching the centre.

They also say that since key points like the War Memorial and the military museums "are all within easy reach of the Queen Anne Building it will be easy for teachers and helpers to shepherd their charges between the education centre and the most significant parts of the cstle."

They claim "it would be inappropriate for school children to have to walk all the way through the castle and across the Esplanade to Cannonball House in order to par-ticipate in follow-up activities." They add that time must not be wasted in unnecessary journeys or looking for lost children.

The idea of a schools' workroom or halfway house inside the castle might well be a good one, but there is another concern at the heart of this question. More and more space in the castle is already being devoted to shops, restaurants, offices, museums and displays. However desirable in themselves, they mean less and less space to demonstrate the uses for which these parts of the castle were originally built.

Before Edinburgh planning committee give their blessing to Historic Scotland's centre, these questions should surely be resolved by open consultation with the various teachers' organisations.

Ronald Guild

Arboretum Road Edinburgh

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