IT WILL capture the heat of battle without the gore. Visitors to the new Bannockburn centre will get the chance to unleash their inner bloodthirsty warrior on an interactive 3D battlefield, complete with rampaging soldiers and arrows flying overhead.
Scotland on Sunday has been given an exclusive preview of plans for the £9 million visitor centre that will be the focal point of celebrations to mark the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn during the 2014 Year of Homecoming.
Hollywood-style computer-generated imagery will allow visitors to experience what it would have felt like during the battle. They will be invited to learn sword-wielding moves before being let loose to deploy their own warrior tactics in a battlefield game.
The interactive experience will go live for a series of tests early in 2014, weeks after the building is handed over. It is set to open several months ahead of the official unveiling in June 2014.
Site property manager Scott McMaster said: “The kind of motion capture technology we will be using, which will allow people to come face to face with medieval warriors and experience what it was like to have arrows whistling over your head, was not available five years ago when this project was getting off the ground.
“We’re making great progress on site with the steel frame going up a couple of weeks ago, work already under way to restore the historic monuments on the site and now the work starting to dismantle the existing centre. The new centre should be handed over at the end of next year.”
The new centre is being built in a different location from the old centre, which was scathingly compared to a “1960s hotel extension” and is about to be demolished, in order to open up views of the battlefield and the iconic statue of Robert the Bruce.
The “excellent” progress of the site means it is likely there will be an avoidance of the embarrassment caused three years ago when the new Robert Burns Birthplace Museum in Ayrshire was not ready for the first year of Homecoming, which was held to coincide with the 250th anniversary of the Bard’s birthday.
The National Trust for Scotland, which is responsible for Bannockburn, as well as the Burns museum, has joined forces with Historic Scotland on a major project for the first time after initial plans to overhaul the existing centre – first discussed more than four years ago – were ramped up.
New details of the project to be revealed include plans to stage theatrical performances in a new outdoor courtyard, a glass fronted restaurant looking out onto the battlefield and the creation of a new and a dedicated gaming arena. Visitors will also be given 3D glasses to experience the gory battlefield scenes. A viral “teaser trailer” has already gone online.
The number of visitors to the new centre is hoped to at least double from 65,000 to 130,000. A new work of art to be installed around the 1960s-built stone rotunda, which encircles the flagpole at the spot where Bruce was said to have raised his own standard in 1314. It will feature a poem which will be the winner of a contest to find inspiring new words for the site.
There were a lot of problems with the old visitor centre, including the fact that it blocked out views of the statue and the flagpole.
“The initial plan was to refurbish the whole centre and we were given £5 million from the Scottish Government for that project, but we won additional funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund on the basis of a much bigger project,” said McMaster.
A small-scale temporary exhibition space is being opened up near the building site to allow people to see the visitor centre take shape, while access is being maintained to the battlefield to allow people to see the monuments while they are being restored.
David McAllister, project director at the National Trust for Scotland, said: “With building, landscaping and conservation work all underway and at such a fast pace, visiting Bannockburn before the new visitor experience opens to the public will provide an exciting taster of what’s to come.”