RADIO controlled grass cutting "robots" are to be tested in a hi-tech bid to keep the steep slope of Inverness Castle looking tidier and council workers safe.
Highland Council health and safety concerns have left the west side of castle hill unkempt with long grass and weeds as the city is braced for one of its busiest periods of the year this weekend with the Highland Games tomorrow, followed by Inverness Gala and the Bryan Adams concert on Sunday.
Previously contractors did the job, but they are now "out of contract" and the problem is the responsibility of the council.
And "robot" mowers running on Caterpillar-style tracks is one potential solution to be investigated by council chiefs.
The much-photographed steep side of the hill is looking untidy, especially in contrast to the rest of the castle grounds, which recently benefitted from a major facelift with new seats, lighting and paths.
A council spokeswoman said: "Our community services department is reviewing the way that we cut the grass on the slopes of the castle.
"The slopes are too steep to cut safely using conventional methods. During the summer we will be testing new types of equipment that may allow us to maintain the appearance of the castle and its surroundings safely.
"Maintenance of the slope is an ongoing challenge due to its steepness and other factors which can cause health and safety issues of working at the location – the rabbit population and rabbit holes and underlying tree roots all add to the issues the council faces in maintaining the area.
"With the end of an existing grounds maintenance contract, during the summer the council will test new types of remote controlled slope mowing equipment that may allow us to maintain the appearance of the castle and its surroundings safely."
The banks of the River Ness have also not been cut for a time, and they will also be reviewed for safe working practices.
Provost Helen Carmichael said: "The safety of the men is a priority, but some decisions have to be made about maintenance. Some people like some areas left wild while some are looking for a bowling green finish and I will be asking the Inverness city committee members for their views.
"There were complaints about the castle slope and the river banks. I think to be looking at this in July is a bit late and it should have been sorted in April. The castle and the river are jewels in the city’s crown, after all."