Angry Bannockburn Live visitors may be refunded

SCOTLAND’S national tourism body may pay out refunds to visitors to Bannockburn Live festivals following a spate of protests about lengthy queues at the event, The Scotsman can reveal.

Huge queues formed to see the battle re-enactment but some ticket holders were turned away. Picture: SWNS
Huge queues formed to see the battle re-enactment but some ticket holders were turned away. Picture: SWNS

VisitScotland has pledged to investigate all complaints on a “case by case” basis in the wake of problems at both days of the £650,000 festival, a centrepiece of the Scottish Government’s Year of Homecoming campaign.

It is understood that hundreds of people who attended the event may have missed out on seeing the centrepiece battlefield re-enactment because the arena where it was staged was too small.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Festival-goers also took to social media sites to express dismay at the length of queues to pick up pre-paid tickets and to pay at the gate. There were also protests at the amount of time it took to buy food and drink.

Although VisitScotland said the festival eventually reached a full capacity of 20,000, less than half the tickets had been sold by the beginning of June. More than 4,000 were bought at the last minute over the weekend at the festival site, next to the new Bannockburn visitor centre.

Festival insiders told The Scotsman that the event was caught short by the numbers who eventually turned out, with huge queues forming to see the battle re-enactment. The arena where more than 300 performers appeared six times over the weekend was only capable of housing 3,500.

Some people were turned away by security guards, despite queuing for more than an hour, amid claims the arena was filled to capacity. Many festival-goers were also thought to have left the site following a huge downpour on Saturday afternoon.

The prospect of refunds was raised by Murdo Fraser, the chair of Holyrood’s tourism committee, which will be calling the 
organisers of the event to 
answer questions on what went wrong at the event, which 
VisitScotland insisted had been an “incredible success”.

However its chairman, Mike Cantlay, was forced to apologise to people upset over the amount of queuing at the £22-a-head event, staged to mark the 700th anniversary of the iconic battle. He said on Sunday: “If 
anyone feels inconvenienced then I would certainly like to personally apologise to them.”

Yesterday the tourism body, which was forced to take responsibility for the event in January after the National Trust for Scotland pulled the plug on its involvement, confirmed it would be carrying out a full review of the event, adding: “Complaints will be dealt with on a case by case basis.”

One review of Bannockburn Live, by Kelly Hayes, on the Travelling History website, said: “The main advertised attraction of the event was the re-enactment of the battle which, from an 
organisational aspect, was a nightmare.”

VisitScotland, which discounted many tickets, said it had still exceeded its financial targets, but refused to give a breakdown of how many of these were full-priced tickets.