The new purpose-built Great Tapestry of Scotland gallery, visitor centre, cafe and workshop space will open in Galashiels next Thursday following a £7.1 million investment.
One of the world’s largest community arts projects, the Great Tapestry of Scotland was hand-stitched by a team of 1,000 people led by Dorie Wilkie.
More than 300 miles of wool was used in creating the 160 linen panels – enough yarn to lay the entire length of the country from the border to the tip of Shetland – with the design by Andrew Crummy based on a narrative by historian Alistair Moffat.
This week McCall Smith, whose vision it was to create the work, fitted the 160th and final panel with chief stitcher Ms Wilkie as the final preparations were made for opening of the new centre in the heart of the textile town.
McCall Smith said: “The opening of this wonderful gallery marks the end of a long period of hard work by all of those who have created this astonishing tapestry and its permanent home. But it also marks the beginning of the public life of one of the great artistic creations of our time.”
The visitor centre, designed by architects Page\Park and built by contractors Ogilvie Construction for Scottish Borders Council, is considered a critical regeneration project for Galashiels.
It has has been funded by the Scottish Government through its Regeneration Capital Grant Fund, the Borders Railway Blueprint programme and the local authority, with the attraction anticipated to generate around £1m a year for the local economy.
Sandy Maxwell-Forbes, centre director for The Great Tapestry of Scotland, said: “We are absolutely delighted to be opening the doors of our new purpose-built visitor centre, with its stunning architectural ceiling sculptured to reflect the town’s Victorian roofscape.
"This presents an exciting opportunity to support the economy, create local jobs and enhance the cultural and educational opportunities in the south of Scotland. And it offers a fantastic day out for locals and visitors alike."
Mr Maxwell-Forbes said the new centre had attracted “significant interest” from tour operators around the world, as well as from those who have already viewed the work.
He said: “They tell us that just viewing the tapestry is such a powerfully enriching experience that they want to visit time and time again. We look forward to welcoming them alongside many others who will be seeing it for the first time in our new permanent home in Galashiels, just a short distance from Edinburgh and Newcastle.
"This wonderful new building really does provide a fantastic opportunity to highlight all that is great about Galashiels, the Scottish Borders and the south of Scotland.”
Culture minister Jenny Gilruth said: “The Scottish Government has been a strong supporter of The Great Tapestry of Scotland from its inception, and the creation of the new visitor centre is part of a wider economic and social regeneration across the south of Scotland.”
The first visiting exhibition at the centre’s Gallery 1420 will be Iconic Scotland, which features images and stories of 40 influential countrymen and women. Among them are rugby legend Doddie Weir, Outlander star Sam Heughan and Frightened Rabbit’s Scott Hutchison.