By Joe Locker, Local Democracy Reporter
Nottingham Castle will fully reopen at the end of June with a £12 annual pass on offer to visitors.
The grounds and the ducal palace closed last November when the Nottingham Castle Trust announced it was going into liquidation.
Its collapse came just 18 months after a £33m revamp project was completed.
Control of the castle was handed back to the Labour-run Nottingham City Council.
The council announced on May 19 the castle would completely reopen from June 26, following a number of preview events for the King’s Coronation and Eurovision.
Under new admission arrangements adults will pay £12 once, and they will be able to visit all year round, while accompanied children aged 15 and and under go free with each paying adult.
Tom Unterrainer, a campaigner for the Open the Gates! group, welcomed the news but said some remain disappointed the grounds remain sealed-off by the price of a ticket.
He told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “It’s great news that children under 15 will be able to enter the castle at no charge.
“This is a massive step towards opening up a public space and historic monument to as many people as possible.
“However, some of us are very disappointed that the castle grounds remain sealed-off behind the price of a ticket. This is a valuable green space in the heart of the city. It’s owned by the city and residents should have free access as we do with other such spaces.
“Similarly, it seems to be the case that city residents will not be offered reduced price entry. If this is the case, then it’s a regrettable step backwards from previous arrangements.
“The ‘Curious Rebels’ pass, an annual pass offered by the Castle Trust in an effort to make amends, was priced in a similar fashion to the new annual entry arrangements. This raises questions around how different the new ‘business model’ is to the old, failed model.
“Whilst it’s great news that the castle is to reopen soon and whilst the council seems to have listened to some concerns about the failed Trust, it seems that they have not listened to all of the concerns.
“Neither did they make an effort to engage with and seriously consult people across the city. This is a big mistake but reflects an embedded attitude of the council leadership. Lessons remain to be learned.”
The council, which remains under the watchful eyes of a Government-appointed improvement board, was instructed to formalise a plan to reopen the castle by June.
It is expected the authority will lose £2.68m in debts and loans due to the Trust’s collapse.
Up to £2.13m has been earmarked for the reopening plan over the financial years of 2023/24, 2024/25 and 2025/26.
The council says it will continue offering two cave tours, Mortimer’s Hole and King David’s Dungeon, at £5 per person, as well as opening the Brewhouse Yard area.
A long-promised land train will operate between Brewhouse Yard and the Ducal Palace at weekends and during the peak holiday season, and a programme of events and school visits are being discussed.
Opening times will be 10am to 5pm daily from February to October, and 11am to 4pm daily November to January.
Portfolio holder for leisure, culture and planning, Cllr Pavlos Kotsonis (Lab), said: “I am delighted to be able to announce that Nottingham Castle will open again on Monday 26th June.
“We’ve already seen with the Coronation events and the sold-out Eurovision event that people are eager to return to the site and we’re very keen to welcome them back.
“We hope this announcement will come as welcome news, as we have endeavoured to listen to what visitors didn’t like about the Trust’s admission arrangements, and I believe the simpler pricing and exceptional value we are announcing will help to encourage visitors, near and far, to come back again and again.”
Peter Knott, Midlands Area Director for Arts Council England, added: “We’re pleased to hear that Nottingham Castle will soon be reopening its doors to visitors.
“It’s a great asset to the city and a place for people to celebrate the rich history and creativity of Nottingham.
“This much-loved visitor attraction is home to important museum collections, great art and unique historic buildings, and we look forward to it reopening with Nottingham City Council at the helm.”
Robyn Llewellyn, Director, England, Midlands and East at The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said they were looking forward to seeing the council reopen the gates in June, having “supported the restoration and conservation of this very important historic site”.