Delighted visitors made a long-awaited return to historic north-east sites at the weekend.
Fyvie Castle and Crathes Castle opened their gates to the public for the first time since March and, thanks to warm weather and sunshine, attracted everyone from dog walkers to dancers.
Gardeners returned to the sites on July 6 and have been working hard to sculpt hedges, tend flowerbeds and trim lawns ahead of the influx of weekend visitors.
The gardens or grounds of Castle Fraser, Drum Castle, Haddo House, Leith Hall, Craigievar Castle and Pitmedden also reopened to visitors on the same day – though Pitmedden Gardens themselves remain closed.
Iain Hawkins, general manager North East at the National Trust for Scotland: “It was fantastic to finally see visitors enjoying the beautifully bright gardens at Fyvie and Crathes Castle.
“The gardens have been flourishing over the last four months, and our gardeners made sure that they were looking their best for this first weekend of visitors.
“The good weather meant that we had lots of people coming to enjoy the sights and sounds in the gardens and our social distancing measures worked really well.
“It’s great to offer an outdoor sanctuary for people to enjoy at this time.”
The National Trust for Scotland hopes to reopen Crathes Castle itself and its visitor centre in mid-August, with Drum Castle and Mar Lodge Estate opening around the same time.
However, the heritage body’s other north-east properties will not open until spring next year at the earliest.
The charity has said the coronavirus pandemic has created a £28 million shortfall, and the Save Our Scotland appeal has been launched to raise £2.5 million and help the trust continue protecting the country’s built and natural heritage.