AN East Lancashire ancient monument and tourist attraction has reopened to the public after a six month closure.

Visitors can now return to Clitheroe Castle Keep following structural surveys and safety works in preparation for a repointing project.

The keep and curtain wall were closed in October on the advice of heritage experts who were undertaking structural surveys at the site.

Now the 800-year-old keep and curtain wall have reopened to the public, although fencing around the keep and props inside it will remain in place over the coming months, while further survey work is undertaken.

During the work a quantity of pottery pieces were discovered which are currently being analysed by archaeologists and first indications are that they may be extremely old.

The surveys will allow the 12th century castle's owners to prepare a plan for the repointing work which could cost in excess of £300,000.

The replacement of the special mortar in the building's stonework is expected to start this summer.

Experts are hopeful the repointing can be done without closing the keep again.

Last month Ribble Valley Council leader Cllr Stephen Atkinson said there was a possibility the surveys might reveal that structural work might be needed on the ancient building which would delay the project while Heritage Lottery grants were sought to supplement the cash allocation already earmarked for it in the authority's capital budget.

A report on the results of the surveys, the costs and timescales of the repointing and other works with a blueprint for their execution is expected to come before councillors in the near future.

Adam Allen, Ribble Valley Council’s director of community services, said: “Clitheroe Castle is the jewel in the borough’s crown and the keep and curtain wall are particularly popular among residents and visitors.

“It was unfortunately necessary to close the site while heritage experts completed the surveys and we would like to thank residents and visitors for bearing with us during the closure.”

Clitheroe Castle has dominated the Ribble Valley skyline since its construction in the 12th century by Robert de Lacy to protect the administrative centre of his vast estates.

In 1920, it was purchased by public subscription as a memorial to those who had fallen and served in the First World War.

The site is now owned and managed by Ribble Valley Borough Council.