Culzean: Makaton castle

Elena T
11th April 2016
Watch Michelle and Elena signing

Culzean Castle and Country Park is one of the most visited heritage attractions in Scotland. It’s located in South Ayrshire and is cared for by the National Trust for Scotland.

The heritage site includes one of Robert Adam’s architectural masterpieces, Culzean Castle, and a beautiful park where you can see a variety of wildlife. Culzean’s scenery is truly breath-taking, the castle is on a cliff-top and the views of Arran are spectacular.

Culzean Castle It is a vast and varied heritage site, which includes a beautiful Walled Garden, the Adventure Cove playpark, the Eisenhower Hotel and many lovely cottages available to rent. Our visitors come from far and wide and inevitably fall in love with the place! There’s something for everyone.

We attract over 200,000 visitors a year, all with different needs and varying expectations of what they want to do at Culzean. The Learning and Ranger teams at Culzean embarked upon our Makaton adventure in the summer of 2015, when we attended a Taster session with a Makaton Regional Tutor. It soon became clear that there was a lot to learn and we were eager to provide a better service to our visitors with communication difficulties.

My colleague Michelle (Ranger) and I (Learning Officer) attended the Makaton Beginners’ Workshop in early 2016 with Makaton Regional Tutor Caroline Protheroe. We work hard at Culzean to ensure that our heritage site is inclusive towards its visitors. Learning about Makaton and how we can use it seemed like a perfect way to develop our approach towards welcoming visitors.

What we learned at the workshop will be shared with our colleagues and we will be providing basic training to use Makaton in the castle and park. We are currently working on creating symbol packs that Castle Guides and Rangers can use with visitors who have communication difficulties.

Although we’re not always in contact with people who have communication difficulties, we encounter visitors with different levels of autism and with different communication abilities. One outcome from attending the training course is that Michelle and I organised an Early Opening Day for Autism Awareness Day. The event was aimed at individuals with autism and their families and friends. We were excited when we found out that one of the participants used Makaton! The early opening event was the first one of its kind at Culzean and we plan on organising more in the future!

We are currently working on developing singing and signing sessions and storytelling using Makaton. The Ranger walk on Saturday included Makaton use.

Events such as storytelling, sing and sign sessions and Ranger walks using Makaton is something that we can do throughout the year, and we look forward to welcoming new audiences to our site. There are endless possibilities of including Makaton in our everyday work: we are currently looking into developing a document with Makaton symbols on it which visitors can download from our website.

Culzean Castle and Country Park is a Makaton Friendly organisation. Get in touch with Sarah Drew (01267 606760 / to find out how you can become Makaton Friendly.

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