Doors Open Day

Back to the surfaceI can’t remember why, but I have missed the last couple of Doors Open Days in Inverness, which is a shame as there are a number of places I’ve always been keen to get into.

On Saturday, it came around again, and I was able to get into the castle (the sheriff court) and the Old High Church.  Both are impressive places inside (I’ve only seen both from the outside), and it was interesting to hear more about the history of the castle.

It’s a common complaint in Inverness that the city’s most striking building is not open to the public (unless in handcuffs) and most importantly not open to visitors – it’s a natural assumption that you would be able to get in to a city’s castle, after all.

Many have called for the museum and art gallery to move in, and for the Sheriff Court to be evicted to elsewhere, and while I do fully support that, I didn’t realise until taking a tour of the castle that it was apparently used as a court ever since it was rebuilt.

However, the highlight of the day was, by far, Inverness’ emergency bunker – which is exactly what the name conjours up.  Built during World War 2 it took on a role during the Cold War of being home to plans for coordinating civil administration after a nuclear strike.  Today, it still has that role but has expanded to coordinating responses to a whole host of potential disasters, from major environmental catastrophes, acts of terrorism, or any disaster that sees, for instance, large-scale mobilisation of the emergency services or extensive homelessness.

An unassuming place from ground level and residing in a quiet street on the Raigmore Estate, long and steep stairs lead you into a network of rooms that contain everything from a wee museum of the bunker’s history to stores of sleeping bags to a bicycle-powered air conditioning system.  There is also the obligatory collection of computer rooms where administration can take place should the need arise.

Here’s hoping it’s not put to full use any time soon.

Photos from the day here.

3 thoughts on “Doors Open Day

  1. Hi Gareth. Well, I guess I’m busy on Sunday mornings elsewhere! Although on that note it reminds me of David Mitchell’s Observer column this week where he notes the irony of it being mostly churches. I guess many people might not think they’re open regularly or think to go in them on a Sunday.

    And talking of crime, I never mentioned that we got to see cells in the castle and also inside a Reliance prisoner transport van. Quite sobering stuff, especially the staff’s comments about removing belts etc to prevent suicides.

  2. And to be fair to the Sheriff Court, I’ve just realised an error in my third paragraph – the castle is actually open to the public, by means of the public gallery in the courts. I guess it’s easy to forget that courts are public places and anyone can go and see justice in action. Indeed, the folk showing us round encouraged visitors to do this, and it’s nice to see this urge to be transparent.

    Much like some folk might not assume churches are open places, so I didn’t really think about the fact that courts are similarly open.

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