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Free education visits

Find out about our free visits and experience Scotland’s history in the places where it actually happened.

A group of educators and young pupils walk alongside a castle curtain wall.

1 Overview

Free visits let groups unlock Scotland’s heritage and experience history where it actually happened. Plan a free education visit to one of our properties for learners of any age.

Our free education visits scheme is open to schools, colleges, universities and other qualifying groups. Visits must have a genuine educational purpose and be booked at least 10 working days in advance. The teacher or group leader generally leads the free visit.

There are plenty of inspiring places to choose from. Our 300+ historic sites and properties stretch from Shetland to Stranraer, and together bring to life more than 5,000 years of history.

Read about how to organise a free visit or request an educational group visit to Stirling Castle or Edinburgh Castle online.

2 Qualifying learning groups

Find out about free visit terms and conditions, including restrictions.

Qualifying children’s groups include:

  • nursery, primary and secondary school groups from European Union (EU) countries
  • recognised home educator groups in the EU
  • school groups on an exchange visit to the UK – when joined by teachers and pupils of the host school
  • after school clubs
  • UK based Scouts and Guides (and junior groups) and Boys’ and Girls’ Brigade groups pursuing a relevant badge
  • youth groups and skills/work programmes on themes related to our work – e.g. tourism, hospitality, traditional skills
  • organisations with an educational remit that arrange visits for groups of children or youths with additional support needs, special learning needs or disabilities
  • Ministry of Defence cadet force groups
  • Young Archaeologists’ Club groups
  • holders of a valid Children’s University Passport To Learning (must be accompanied by a paying adult)

Qualifying adult groups include:

  • groups from EU universities or colleges studying relevant courses
  • groups with UK student visas who are studying relevant courses full time at a UK institution for at least one semester
  • adult learner groups from local authority lifelong learning courses or the University of the Third Age
  • teachers and education professionals participating in continuing professional development
  • groups of adults with additional support or special learning needs or disabilities on visits arranged by educational organisations
  • community education groups involved in youth work, support services, social inclusion programmes and skills/work programmes related to the historic environment

Visits won’t qualify as free if arranged by:

  • tour and coach operators
  • third parties who arrange visits for education groups
  • English as a foreign language groups and language schools
  • organisations that arrange leisure visits for adults, including student societies
  • organisers of study holidays, summer schools, lecture tours and similar programmes arranged on a commercial basis
  • educational establishments outside the EU

3 Free visit terms and conditions

Visits must have a genuine educational purpose and be booked at least 10 working days in advance to qualify as free.

All group leaders must:

  • complete their own risk assessment for their group
  • take full responsibility for the behaviour and well-being of their group during the visit
  • ensure the correct adult to child ratio (if a group of children)
  • present the education visit voucher on arrival

Find out how to arrange a planning visit to help you with your risk assessment.

Supervision ratios

Groups that include children under 16 must have adequate adult supervision at all times when on site. The required adult to child ratio will vary according to the age of the children.

Our recommended ratios are one adult for every:

  • 10 children over 8 years but under 16
  • six children over 5 years but under 8
  • two children under 5 years

We suggest at least one supervisory adult for every four visitors with additional support needs.


Education visits are free at all of our sites except:


A representative of the visiting educational organisation must make the booking.

You may be asked to provide:

  • proof of status within your organisation
  • information about your organisation
  • details of the planned educational purpose of the visit
  • official email address (formal educational bodies only)

Education visits must not be resold, used for commercial gain, advertised or used to provide entry to third parties or non-educational members of a group.

Any group or organisation found in breach of the above terms will not be permitted entry and may be barred from accessing the scheme in future. We will contact the relevant authorities if there’s evidence of fraudulent activity.


Learning Services
Historic Environment Scotland
Holyrood Park Education Centre
1 Queen’s Drive

Telephone: 0131 652 8155/8156
Email: learning@hes.scot