VisitScotland banks on virtual reality to spark new boom

A host of Scotland's best-known visitor attractions and historic landmarks have been turned into virtual reality experiences for a new mobile phone app.

VisitScotland has deployed virtual reality for the first time in one of its campaigns.

Would-be visitors will be able to explore Edinburgh Castle. the National Museum of Scotland, the Forth Bridges, the Kelpies, Eilean Donan Castle, Glasgow Cathedral and the Glenfinnan Viaduct thanks to the latest technological innovation from VisitScotland.

It has joined forces with a team from Edinburgh Napier University and the leading digital agency Whitespace to design the app, which the tourism agency hopes will help attract people to holiday in Scotland for the first time.

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The “ScotlandVR” app, which is billed as VisitScotland’s first foray into the world of virtual reallity, allows the user to visit 3D models of iconic locations and also take 360 degree tours of each setting.

Dramatic film footage, photography and animation sequences are deployed in the new app, which can be downloaded for free on Google Play and via the Apple Store.

An initial 26 attractions are featured on the app - launched to coincide with a year-long tourism campaign to promote Scottish history, heritage and archeaology - although others are expected to be added over the next few months.

Othe places featured include the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum, in Ayrshire, the former home of Sir Walter Scott at Abbotsford in the Borders, the polar exploration vessel RRS Discovery in Dundee and the Wallace Monument in Stirling.

VisitScotland said it had to cover every part of the country in the project, with the the Callanish Stones on the Isle of Lewis, the prehistoric village of Skara Brae on Orkney and Shetland’s museum in Lerwick all brought to life via the app, along with the Cairngorms National Park, the Falkirk Wheel, Falkland Palace in Fife and Glasgow’s Riverside Museum.

It has been developed in the wake of new research showing that nearly two thirds of searches for destinations come from mobile devices.

Malcolm Roughead, VisitScotland’s chief executive, said: “Far from being a fad or gimmick, virtual reality is revolutionising the way people choose the destinations they might visit by allowing them to ‘try before they buy’ and learn more about the country in an unique and interactive way.

“We’ve no doubt that once people get a taste of the spirit of Scotland through ScotlandVR, they will be booking a holiday to experience our stunning landscapes and attractions in the flesh.”

Scottish tourism secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “This virtual reality app provides people across the globe with a window into Scotland’s fantastic attractions. It will, I hope, inspire more people to discover Scotland for real. There has never been a better time to come to Scotland and experience our world class destinations and historic buildings and monuments.

“A team from Edinburgh Napier University developed the concept for this app, which demonstrates the pioneering spirit and ingenuity of Scotland’s academic, technology and tourism sectors.”

The £1 million celebration of history and heritage, which is being funded by the Scottish Government and the Heritage Lottery Fund, will include events at all six of the nation’s world heritage sites.