The National Trust for Scotland has revealed its gardens and estates in the north-east could reopen by next month.
The charity closed all its sites to visitors after lockdown was enforced in March.
But it has now emerged that some of the popular attractions – Crathes Castle, Drum Castle and Mar Lodge Estate – could welcome visitors back again in July.
The buildings and visitor centres will face further delays though but are hoped to open their doors again in mid-August.
The grounds of Castle Fraser, Craigievar Castle, Fyvie Castle, Haddo House and Pitmedden Garden could also reopen in July, however, the trust has revealed that properties on the estates will remain closed until next year.
Leith Hall, Garden and Estate in Kennethmont, meanwhile, will be mothballed until the 2022/23 season – one of just six properties around Scotland to stay closed for so long.
Richard Thomson, MP for Gordon, where Fyvie Castle, Haddo House and Pitmedden Garden are located, said: “It’s disappointing to learn that the National Trust for Scotland is not in a position to re-open so many of these much-loved properties over this year and next.
“There’s no question this will make it harder to restart the region’s tourist and visitor economy in the period ahead as we come out of lockdown.
“While the trust’s present difficulties are well known, I’d encourage the organisation’s leadership to engage with staff, volunteers and local communities to see if there are potentially other ways to help keep our local built heritage as open and accessible for as many people to enjoy as possible.”
Chris Foy, CEO of VisitAberdeenshire, said: “The National Trust for Scotland has some incredible properties and gardens across Aberdeenshire and it is unfortunate for the organisation, its staff and visitors that the impact of the Covid-19 means that not all properties will open this summer.
“We wish the NTS the very best in its endeavours to protect its sites for the future, and look forward to the time when all properties can return to being part of the rich visitor experience across the north-east.”
The organisation has said this schedule has been written up with the expectation that access to other types of properties and travel from further afield will be possible under stage three of the Scottish Government’s ‘route map’ out of lockdown.
Barriers are already being lifted on a number of their countryside properties, but none of these are located within the north-east.
Simon Skinner, CEO of the National Trust for Scotland, said: “For the trust to remain a going concern we have to decide which properties we can afford to open, either because they will generate sufficient visitor numbers to help with our recovery or because we can find ways to re-open them that will be compliant with the new normal of public health restrictions.
“We have already missed the busiest season for some properties, and it simply isn’t viable to re-open them in the latter part of the year. So, we will keep them closed until the ‘new’ season begins in Easter of 2021.
“In a few cases, such is the unsuitable configuration of the buildings in terms of social distancing, or the scale of their running costs, that we will have to consider keeping them closed longer – perhaps into 2022 – until when we hope conditions will have improved sufficiently to bring about a return to better days.
“These are not choices we wanted to make but we need to take them to ensure that the trust gets through this period and emerges from the other side ready to do what it does best.”