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Last Updated: Wednesday, 8 August 2007, 17:03 GMT 18:03 UK
Bats take roost in royal palace
Daubenton's bats
Daubenton's bats cling to a wall in Linlithgow Palace
Hundreds of threatened bats are being treated like royalty at a former home of the Stewart kings.

Brown long-eared, pipistrelle and Daubenton's bats have taken up roost at Linlithgow Palace, West Lothian, built by King James I in 1425.

The colonies are regularly monitored and the bats' welfare takes precedence over the wishes of film-makers who regularly ask to film scenes there.

Ian Lewis of the Historic Scotland said the bats are "very much loved here".

They are very much loved here - we treat them as royalty
Ian Lewis
Historic Scotland

Mr Lewis, from the ranger service which looks after the creatures, said: "They go unnoticed by our daytime visitors, but emerge as the light fades and go hunting for insects around the palace and over the loch.

"They come in the chimneys, through gaps in the brickwork and through any tiny little crawl space they can find.

"They are a real spectacle. The roosts are usually hidden away but when it is warm they roost out in the open, in seething clusters on the walls.

"We treat them as royalty."

The palace was the birthplace of King James V and Mary Queen of Scots, and home to several other Stewart monarchs.

Strictly protected

But Mr Lewis said the bats were as protected as any royal within the palace's walls.

He said: "All bat species are strictly protected.

"We get regular requests to carry out filming within the palace for historical programmes.

"Now one of the big issues we have is negotiating how they can do it without disturbing the bats.

"Night filming is very difficult if they want to use lights because, legally, you cannot disturb a roost."

Historic Scotland has started running special "bat patrols" for visitors at night when the secretive creatures become active.

A bat patrol will take place on Saturday 1 September at 1900 BST.




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