IT is one of the most iconic landmarks of Scotland, recognised around the world.

And out with the pandemic, Edinburgh Castle regularly draws millions of visitors each year.

Now a row has escalated between the castle's operators and city residents after heritage bosses won a battle to install solar panels on Edinburgh Castle in a bid to reduce its carbon footprint.

Plans were unveiled last month to place the panels on the roof of the Scottish National War Memorial building at the historic site.

Historic Environment Scotland (HES), who manage the property, took action after they found the famous monument generated an "incredible" amount of energy, amounting to as much carbon as nearly 350 average UK homes would generate per year.

However, the move prompted opposition from local conservation group the Cockburn Association who said the solar panels would reduce the castle's "significance and interest".

The works involve installation of photovoltaic panels on the roof of the memorial building and cabling, which will run from the roof into the Palace Block, and help power the castle complex.

The City of Edinburgh Council have now said that, because the panels will only be visible from the air, the project can go ahead.

The council deemed the proposed work "not development" meaning formal planning permission is not required.

HES acknowledged the plans could be viewed as "contentious" given the castle's status as the country's "most significant Scottish Royal castle".

However, they said that the benefits outweigh any concerns.

In a design statement submitted to the local authority, HES said: "Such an extensive intervention could be viewed as contentious given the role of the building as a place of national memorial.

"However, the design is sufficiently sensitive and unobtrusive so as not to be visible to visitors to the memorial and it will not detract from the sense of place.

"Although the proposed works represent a substantial intervention to the Scottish National War Memorial, and the castle as a whole, there would be significant benefits as a result of this work."

In a submission to the council, the Cockburn Association said: "The proposals are not adequately justified against a range of alternatives and would result in unnecessary visual interventions leading to the diminution of its significance and interest.

"We are supportive of measures to improve Edinburgh Castle's carbon management, but these can only be acceptable if they have no impact on its significance and architectural integrity. That is not the case here."

The council's planning department had previously expressed concerns that the panels could affect the city's iconic skyline and pave the way for similar projects on other historic buildings.

However, in a written decision, they said: "A series of supporting photographs show that the feature will not be visible from other elevated public vantage points due to a combination of its great elevation and the outer parapet.

"The feature would only be visible from the air above. It is noted that objection was raised to this specific view.

"Given the various factors regarding the siting of the proposal the application is concluded to be Not Development."

The Scottish National War Memorial was built between 1924-7, designed as the nation’s tribute to all those who sacrificed their lives during the First World War.

Situated at the core of the castle complex, close to the summit of castle rock, the site has long been an important location within the heart of the castle.

The earliest known structure on the site was the ‘great chapel’ or St Mary’s Church, known to have been in existence from at least the 14th century. It was later converted into military barracks.

HES said they were "committed to reducing energy use across the sites in our care".
The number of visitors to Edinburgh Castle fell to a low of 277,000 in 2020 as a result of the pandemic. Prior to this , visitor numbers reached over 2.2 million visits in 2019.