Battle of Bannockburn visitor centre ‘best in UK’

Fiona Hyslop is joined by Maythu Pettigrew and Anthony Pearson ' both nine-years-old and from Stirling ' at the opening of the Battle of Bannockburn Visitor Centre last year. Picture: Donald Macleod

Fiona Hyslop is joined by Maythu Pettigrew and Anthony Pearson ' both nine-years-old and from Stirling ' at the opening of the Battle of Bannockburn Visitor Centre last year. Picture: Donald Macleod

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The National Trust for Scotland’s Battle of Bannockburn experience has been named the best visitor centre in the UK.

The £9.1 million centre commemorates Robert the Bruce’s victory over the English in 1314.

It has attracted more than 100,000 visitors since it opened in March 2014. The centre won two accolades at the Association of Heritage Awards held at the new Stonehenge Visitor Centre in Wiltshire.

It took the top UK prizes for the visitor centre and excellence in interpretation too.

The centre, which is designed to enhance the presentation of the battle and its significance to Scotland’s history 700 years on, was up against heritage sites across the UK, including ­Stonehenge and the King ­Richard III visitor centre.

Judges were “blown away” by the Battle of Bannockburn, which is the first heritage site in the world to use 3D technology to put visitors in the heart of a medieval battle.

The Battle of Bannockburn Visitor Centre at Bannockburn. Picture: Robert Perry

The Battle of Bannockburn Visitor Centre at Bannockburn. Picture: Robert Perry

Property Manager Scott McMaster said: “This is amazing recognition for the pioneering approach we’ve taken to ­telling the story of the Battle of Bannockburn in our fantastic new centre.

“We knew when we were ­creating this experience that it was amazing, and the feedback we’ve had, both through the many awards we’ve received and from more than 100,000 visitors confirms that.” The Battle of Bannockburn experience is the first heritage centre in the world using Hollywood-calibre motion capture to immerse visitors in a realistic and historically accurate 3D medieval battle.

The centre was a joint project between the National Trust for Scotland and Historic Scotland.

It features a shiny “chainmail-style” black tiled roof and an overhanging feature resembling the blade of a sword.

The cutting-edge approach was designed by interpretation consultants Bright White, working alongside the Glasgow School of Art’s Centre for Digital Documentation and Visualisation.

Its hi-tech centrepiece is a Battle Game in which visitors are assigned command of units in either the Scots or English armies before making tactical decisions which will win or lose the battle.

They are later shown how the battle really played out 700 years ago.

The site has won a number of awards and accolades, including the prestigious ‘best visitor experience’ from the Association of Scottish Visitor Attractions awards.

The Battle of Bannockburn was fought on 23-24 June 1314. King Edward II travelled to Scotland to relieve Stirling Castle and find and destroy the Scottish army in the field.

Edward’s army of up to 25,000 men far outnumbered the force assembled by Robert the Bruce, but the Scots were victorious. After a day of skirmishes, the second day of the battle ended in a rout.

The NTS has owned the Bannockburn site where King Robert the Bruce famously planted his standard the night before the battle, since the 1930s.

The new centre attracts around 6000 people per month, compared to the old heritage centre, which welcomed 25,000 visitors per year on average.

An additional 20,000 people attended the Bannockburn Live event that marked the 700th anniversary of the battle last year, and thousands more regularly visit the famous monument and the centre’s cafe.

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