With less than a month to go until the opening of the new Battle of Bannockburn Visitor Centre, Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs has been given a preview of the attraction.
The highly-anticipated new visitor centre – which is due to open on 1 March, ahead of the 700th anniversary of the battle on 23 and 24 June – uses cutting-edge technology to bring the battle to life for visitors, offering an experience which is unlike any other available in the UK. State-of-the-art installations are used to interpret and explain the events which led up to the battle, and its consequences.
A collaboration between Historic Scotland and The National Trust for Scotland, the Scottish Government has committed £5 million to the project through Historic Scotland, and £4.1 million has been awarded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. The opening of the centre will form a key part of the Homecoming 2014 celebrations and promises to attract significant visitor numbers to the Stirling area.
Fiona Hyslop was given the opportunity to experience the interactive exhibits and meet the Battlemasters who guide visitors through the attraction. Cutting-edge motion capture technology is used to immerse visitors in a 3D medieval battle, while they are also given the chance to lead a division of soldiers from Robert the Bruce and Edward II’s armies in a dramatic battle simulation.
A massive 3D map of the landscape gives a bird’s-eye view of the battle, showing both the present-day terrain and the land as it was in 1314, and visitors can ‘meet’ computer-generated representations of some of the individuals whose lives would have been impacted by the events of 23 and 24 June 1314.
This is the first heritage attraction in the world to use motion capture technology, famous for creating characters in film such as Gollum in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The CDDV – a partnership between the world leaders in 3D visualization at The Glasgow School of Art’s Digital Design Studio (DDS) and heritage experts from Historic Scotland – worked with The Clanranald Trust for Scotland who have provided combat fighting for over 180 film productions, including Gladiator and Robin Hood, to develop authentic fight choreography. The CDDV also filmed live horses with the guidance of Toby Capwell from the Wallace Collection to develop the equestrian animation.
A range of short 3D films transport the visitor back to 1314, the night before the battle, to witness some of the physical preparations involved in battle and cavalry training, surrounded by 270 degree, massive screens, for a truly immersive experience. This prepares the visitor for the innovative Battle Game, where they can take command of the knights and soldiers who fought in 1314 and pit their wits against their fellow visitors on a virtual battlefield.
Designed by Scottish architecture firm Reiach & Hall, the building takes a sensitive approach to the battlefield site. Careful conservation of existing monuments on the site has been undertaken and the new building adopts a modern interpretation of traditional farm steadings and a large courtyard, bringing the historic and contemporary together in an inventive and dignified way.
Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs said: “The Battle of Bannockburn was a pivotal event in Scotland’s history and as we approach the 700th anniversary of the battle, I was delighted to be given a preview of the exciting new Bannockburn Visitor Centre. State of the art technology is used to tell the story of the conflict in an informative and engaging manner, revealing the impact it had at both an individual and a national level. The centre is housed in a striking building designed by Reiach and Hall, which enhances the experience for the visitor, reminding us of the value that a sense of ‘place’ has for all of us and the important role that the built environment plays in enriching our lives.”
Sir Kenneth Calman, Chairman of the National Trust for Scotland said: “Our charity is proud to have been charged with the care of this important site since the 1930s. The Trust’s aim is to tell this place’s story with academic accuracy and balance, in the most compelling way we can. We have worked with world-leading experts from a range of disciplines to create this unique experience which is a true testament to their impressive talent and innovation, and which will provide visitors with an unrivalled insight into medieval battle and the events of June 1314.”