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Among the Polar Ice at The McManus: Dundee’s Art Gallery and MuseumAmong the Polar Ice at The McManus: Dundee’s Art Gallery and Museum
Added: 09 Sep 2019
The most fragile landscapes on earth are the subject of a new exhibition at The McManus: Dundee’s Art Gallery and Museum. Among the Polar Ice brings together contemporary and historic works by artists who have experienced life on the ice.

Selected from Dundee’s nationally significant fine art and whaling collection, the exhibition showcases a small but growing collection of polar artworks which spans 200 years. At its heart are two major series of artworks by leading Scottish artists - Frances Walker and James Morrison.

The Antarctic Suite is the result of Walker’s voyage to the South Pole in 2007. Sailing and making shore visits over 18 days, she visited the Antarctic Peninsula, South Shetlands, South Georgia and the Falkland Islands. On her return to her Aberdeen studio, she painted a series of icescapes which she considers the finest work of her distinguished career. The six paintings of the Antarctic Suite evoke the timeless beauty of the region’s desolate and harsh natural environment.

James Morrison’s Arctic paintings capture the glacial landscape of Otto Fiord, Ellesmere Island, which lies within the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. Living in a tented camp, in sight of caribou, Morrison described the High Arctic as a ‘paradise on earth.’ Working out of doors, he battled the weather, fluctuations in temperature and the danger posed by the occasional polar bear to produce landscapes of extreme beauty.

The exhibition also highlights Dundee’s long history of Polar exploration. Works by William Burn Murdoch, who accompanied the explorer William Spiers Bruce on the Dundee Antarctic Whaling Expedition in 1892 are included alongside images from lantern slides, drawings and watercolour sketches. Simon Cook, geoscientist at the University of Dundee and Camilla Nichol of the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust have contributed to the interpretation of these images – providing scientific context for the artworks on display.

Admission is FREE. Opening times: Mon to Sat 10am-5pm, Sun 12.30-4.30pm.

Image credit: Dolina Mechan
ASVA Conference 2019 - Bookings now open! ASVA Conference 2019 - Bookings now open!
Added: 06 Sep 2019
Ready for some Best Practice? Attend this year’s ASVA Conference!

We are pleased to announce that bookings are now live for this year’s ASVA Conference. The conference will take place in the fabulous setting of Crieff Hydro Hotel in Perthshire on the 7th and 8th of November, and our theme this year is ‘Best Practice Makes Perfect – How to deliver great experiences’.

This is ASVA’s biggest and most ambitious conference to date. We have listened to ASVA members needs and wants and we are delivering an event with more practical, relevant content than ever before. This year’s conference will provide you with inspiration and guidance to help ensure that your attraction is staying ahead of the game and is delivering for every visitor that comes through your doors. We have also increased capacity at the venue this year, enabling more delegates to attend than ever before, thus increasing networking opportunities for all (another membership ask!). On top of that, thanks to the generous support of our headline sponsors, Gateway Ticketing Systems, we are delighted to announce that, despite the fact we have increased scale of the conference, we are keeping the delegate fees at 2018 levels. That means we will be delivering a bigger, bolder and better conference, with more content and more opportunities for engagement at no extra cost to you!

With speakers focussing on specific areas of best practice, including key topical concerns such as delivering memorable experiences, maximising income, staff motivation and development, engaging visitors, delivering a sustainable experience and ensuring your attraction is accessible to all, we are confident we have a programme that will be of interest to all within the attractions industry, regardless of size, role or attraction type.

We would also like to take this opportunity to highlight the all new ASVA Awards Ceremony for 2019, sponsored by Brodies. The ASVA Awards Ceremony will take place in the grand setting of Crieff Hydro’s palatial Drawing Room and we would welcome our Conference Delegates to join in the celebrations of the brightest and best in our industry, as well as to enjoy our fabulous Gala Dinner as well (and perhaps a few drinks afterwards too if previous conferences are anything to go by…).

Full details of the conference programme will follow, but we are delighted to confirm the following industry experts will be joining us to share their insights and experience:
• Bernard Donoghue - Director, Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (ALVA)
• Rory Hill - Visitor Services and Retail Manager, Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts
• Michelle Emerson - Marketing and Development Director, Eureka! The National Children’s Museum
• Scott MacLean - Deputy Managing Director, Green Tourism UK
• Carole Keltie - Head of Operations, National Gallery & Bala McAlinn – Director, Boo Productions
• Aine McVerry - Commercial Director, the MAC Belfast
• Ken Thomson - Marketing Manager, Stirling District Tourism
• Gerard Tattersfield – Visitor Services Manager, Lochranza Distillery & Jaclyn Mckie – Marketing Manager, Isle of Arran Distillers Ltd
• Matthew Merritt-Harrison - Managing Partner, Merritt-Harrison Catering Consultancy & Sandra Reid - Director, Fare Consulting
• Stuart Cassells - General Manager, the Macallan Estate
More announcements will follow over the upcoming weeks, so watch this space for more details.

The Early Bird booking deadline is Friday 11th October, so best practice would be to book now to secure the best rates! Last year’s conference sold out very quickly and, even with increased capacity, we anticipate a high level of demand this year, so don’t delay in making your booking!

We would also take this opportunity to highlight an event taking place on the 6th of November, the day before the ASVA Conference. VisitScotland are hosting the event - Ctrl+Alt+Succeed Scotland – at Perth Concert Hall, just a few miles away from Crieff Hydro, on the afternoon of the 6th November. The event is aimed at tours, attractions and activity providers, with a focus on digital development. This event will compliment the ASVA Conference and we would encourage conference delegates to attend. More details can be found here.

Are you looking to be Simply the Best? Wanting to be the Best Thing in Town? Well, we can promise the Best is Yet to Come if you attend this year’s ASVA Conference!
Surgeons’ Hall Museums welcomed record-breaking 10,000 visitors in July 2019Surgeons’ Hall Museums welcomed record-breaking 10,000 visitors in July 2019
Added: 19 Aug 2019
Award-winning Surgeons’ Hall Museums, owned by The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh (RCSEd), welcomed over 10,000 visitors in July 2019.

The Museums, which holds a five-star rating from VisitScotland, house the largest and most historic pathology collections in the UK. Interactive exhibits offer a wide variety of insights into healthcare through the years, with displays including Arthur Conan Doyle’s inspiration for Sherlock Holmes, Dr Joseph Bell.

Surgeons’ Hall Museums underwent a £4 million transformation in 2015, supported by a £2.7 million Heritage Lottery Fund grant, and was the first time the building had been significantly altered since 1908. It houses the Lister Project, which was recognised as the best permanent exhibition in the UK by the Museums + Heritage Awards for Excellence in 2016.

Director of Heritage, Chris Henry, said: “This demonstrates the appetite visitors have for our establishment as well as the dedication of the team ensuring that people want to visit. It also demonstrates that this museum can combine research, visits, education, events and entertainment and still be financially sustainable in the long term.”

Autumn is set to be as eventful with the Museums programme full of activity. There will be a creative writing workshop led by acclaimed novelist ES Thomson which offers a behind the scenes look at Surgeons’ Hall Museums. Adventures in Anatomy, a new talk series delivered by Human Remains Conservator, Cat Irving, will explore how our understanding of the body has changed over time.

At the end of October, Surgeons’ Hall Museums will once again be participating in the hugely successful Museums at Night festival by hosting heart dissection workshops for adults.

Drop-in sessions available as part of Museums admission will include Looking at Microscopes and World Restart a Heart Day CPR lessons.

The Museums currently run Blood and Guts: The Twists and Turns of Edinburgh’s Medical History walking tour which is available every Saturday and Sunday at 2pm. Tickets for the tour also include Museums access.

Details for all events and tickets can be found on their website.
Ministerial visit marks standout year and 3 millionth visitor to The Real Mary King’s CloseMinisterial visit marks standout year and 3 millionth visitor to The Real Mary King’s Close
Added: 16 Aug 2019
Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs, Fiona Hyslop, accepted an invitation to meet the team on a visit to Edinburgh’s most unique visitor attraction this week as The Real Mary King’s Close marked its three millionth visitor and prepared to take its place in a global hall of fame.

On the visit, the Cabinet Secretary congratulated the team on their multiple award successes, including the Thistle Awards (Scotland’s most prestigious tourism awards), at which The Real Mary King’s Close won in the Best Heritage Visitor Experience category and was bestowed a special commendation in the Best Attraction category. The visit follows the busiest July the attraction has ever experienced as it welcomed a record 34,263 visitors through the doors.
Tourism Secretary Fiona Hyslop said:

“The Real Mary King’s Close represents the best of Scottish tourism – an immersive attraction that both educates and entertains visitors in Scottish history and culture in the heart of Edinburgh.

“It was a privilege to join staff today celebrating their three millionth visitor and being awarded a Thistle Award Best Heritage Tourism Experience for 2019.”

The news coincided with the publication of Lonely Planet’s latest Ultimate United Kingdom Travelist publication, which recommended the visitor attraction for the first time.

Juliana Delaney, CEO of Continuum Attractions, said: “It was an honour to welcome the Cabinet Secretary to The Real Mary King’s Close this week. This has been a standout year for the attraction and I am delighted to have that success recognised through such accolades and above all, through the increasing number of visitors we’ve hosted. This is a real mark of the pride the team here takes in their customer care - something which is absolutely critical to any successful tourism business.”

Located on Edinburgh’s historic and world-famous Royal Mile, The Real Mary King’s Close takes guests on an underground journey into a warren of uniquely preserved 17th century streets, which were once home to the thriving community that included local resident Mary King.

Paul Nixon, General Manager of The Real Mary King’s Close, said: “This has been an incredibly busy season already here at The Real Mary King’s Close and these successes recognise the hard work of the whole team here, who host thousands of visitors from across the world and really bring Edinburgh’s hidden history to life. I think even Mary King herself would feel somewhat surprised about the number of people who have been keen to learn about her and the other historic residents of the Close!”
HMS Unicorn Future DevelopmentsHMS Unicorn Future Developments
Added: 13 Aug 2019
As the Unicorn Preservation Society prepares to celebrate the 200th anniversary of HMS Unicorn this grand old lady of Dundee has quietly been gaining success as an award-winning visitor attraction and is securing the necessary funding to preserve the ship for future generations.
The National Lottery Heritage Fund, formerly HLF, has demonstrated their confidence in the Society having recently awarded us a £29,800 grant to undertake further preparatory work on our journey towards major funding. This award represents an enormously important step forward.

Funds have also been raised to carry out a laser and sonar scan on the hull of HMS Unicorn, allowing for the first time the creation of accurate drawings. Also a Conservation Management Plan has been drawn up, giving a full description of the ship, her condition, and maintenance plans going forward.This is important supporting work as the Unicorn Preservation Society prepares to submit a project enquiry to National Lottery Heritage Fund for the first step in securing the future of the ship in dry dock in the East Graving Dock, Dundee.

The Unicorn Preservation Society has recently submitted a Strategic Outline Case to the Tay Cities Deal for funds to enable the restoration graving dock and to further develop the visitor offering in the longer term. The UPS vision is to see HMS Unicorn preserved in the East Graving Dock at the centre of a new Maritime Heritage Museum in her home city of Dundee.

The Board is also strengthening its skills and knowledge base with the appointment of two new Board members. Emma Jane Wells who has a background in museum consultancy and Commodore Eric Fraser, recently retired from the Royal Navy who has much maritime and diplomatic experience.
If you haven’t been down to Victoria Dock recently why not take a trip to the ship and give your support, taking the opportunity to see at first hand the many other improvements that have taken place onboard.

Up to date news can be found on Facebook with info on how to support Unicorn by raising funds and by becoming a Friend of Unicorn. Please contact Operations Manager, Billy Rough on for more information.

Photo credit Rhys Boyle
Dinosaur sets up home at LoganDinosaur sets up home at Logan
Added: 30 Jul 2019
A life-size dinosaur is wowing visitors at Logan Botanic Garden, near Stranraer, this summer. The imposing model of the pre-historic reptile has been created by Trevor Leat, one of the foremost willow sculptors in the UK with support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery.

The five metre high (16ft) sculpture of a Tyrannosaurus Rex is part of the Garden’s golden anniversary celebrations highlighting the specialist collection of southern hemisphere plants and the uniqueness of ‘Scotland’s most exotic Garden’. Garden Curator, Richard Baines said: ’Successful gardens are based around creativity, innovation and long term vision. The addition of the life-size dinosaur, “Loganosaurus rex’’ creates an amazing focal point in the Garden.

“The dinosaur should feel very much at home as it is located amongst giant tree ferns that would have been growing during the Jurassic period. It is a fun addition especially for kids and the installation, part of our 50th anniversary celebrations, highlights the fact that gardens are for all, both young and old’.

Explaining how he created the T. rex, Trevor said: “I used varieties of willow that I grow here in Galloway. First I fabricated a steel rod armature over which I wove layers of willow to create form and movement. It took around a week to complete and was transported the 60 miles from my workshop to Logan by lorry.’’

Trevor has previously been commissioned to make a wide range of animal sculptures, including a minotaur, Asian elephant and a Gruffalo – but it is his first dinosaur creation.
Greatest tourism moment in 50 years revealedGreatest tourism moment in 50 years revealed
Added: 25 Jul 2019
VisitScotland marks 50th anniversary with public poll

The Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games has been named as the greatest moment for Scottish tourism in the last 50 years.

The huge sporting event - which brought around 690,000 visitors for a holiday to Scotland as a result - was voted number one in a poll VisitScotland created to mark its 50th anniversary.

The public were asked to vote for what they considered to be the biggest catalyst for bringing visitors to Scotland and Glasgow 2014 bagged the top spot with 20 per cent of votes.

This was followed by Scotland being named the most beautiful country in the world by Rough Guide readers in 2017 (16 per cent) and the release of Hollywood blockbuster Braveheart in 1995 (11 per cent).

Readers of the renowned travel bible voted Scotland number one ahead of Canada, New Zealand and Finland. And the release of the Mel Gibson epic, caused a surge in interest in Scotland and its history leading to a boost in visitor numbers for the National Wallace Monument in Stirling – leaping from 30,000 a year to nearly 200,000 in 1996.

The first official Scottish Tourism Board was established 50 years ago following the Development of Tourism Act 1969 and voters picked this as the fourth greatest moment for Scottish tourism alongside the 1988 Glasgow Garden Festival (eight per cent). And rounding out the top five moments was Glasgow’s role as the City of Culture in 1990 (six percent).

The survey – which was carried out by Scotpulse – focused on moments with a national impact for Scotland which contributed to tourism becoming one of the country’s most important industries.

Survey participants were also asked if they would choose something else as the greatest moment with 4% picking this option. Some of the verbatim suggestions included: “Andy Murray Wimbledon”, “Billy Connolly no argument”, “Carol Smillie”, “Edinburgh Fringe Festival” (not included in options as it began prior to 1969), “Nessie Sightings” “Whisky” and “Hibs winning the Scottish FA Cup after 114 years”.

The results of the survey varied regionally and across different demographics. The Over 55s selected the Rough Guide accolade in top place, while the 2014 Commonwealth Games was number one for those under 55.

Voters in west central Scotland picked the Games whereas the Rough Guide status was top for most of those in east central Scotland and the Highlands and Islands.

But the release of Braveheart claimed the top spot for those in Aberdeen followed by the establishment of the Scottish Tourist Board and in the Highlands and Islands, the North Coast 500 was voted in second place after Rough Guide.

Malcolm Roughead, Chief Executive of VisitScotland, said: “Over the last 50 years there have been so many big moments for Scotland’s tourism industry that it is difficult to choose just one, but the public has spoken.

“The Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games marked a momentous time for Scotland as we showed the world that we can host the biggest events on the planet and a global spotlight was shone on our country for visitors.

“All of these moments and more have helped Scotland to become a tourism giant over five decades and while this is VisitScotland’s own milestone, it’s very much an anniversary to be shared with our industry colleagues and partners.

“Today’s success owes much to the vision of pioneers within this resilient and resourceful industry and our 50th allows us to look fondly at the past while, importantly, fixing our gaze toward the future – here’s to 50 more.”
Holyrood Distillery to openHolyrood Distillery to open
Added: 25 Jul 2019
Due to open on 30th July, Holyrood Distillery will be Edinburgh’s first single malt whisky distillery for nearly 100 years, and will also be a significant new visitor attraction in the capital, offering a variety of different experiences as well as evening hospitality options.

With a focus on flavour, the visitor will enjoy a hands on, sensory experience to guide them through both the gin and whisky produced onsite. There will be a well-stocked shop which will be open to all, and the visitor will end their tour in the tasting bar, which offers stunning views over Holyrood Park.

Tours will accommodate up to 22 guests and range from the full distillery tour, separate Gin or Whisky experiences, to a 2-hour masterclass with head distiller Jack Mayo.

Housed in a historic B-Listed former railway building, the project is the dream of Canadian couple Rob & Kelly Carpenter, and David Robertson, who have hired a team of leading industry experts to help them create a number of exceptional malt whiskies, gins and gin liqueurs.

The distillery is just a 20 minute walk from the Royal mile, or visitors can arrive via a path from the park.

For more information visit or
Scottish Tourism Alliance Autumn Conference – double discount for ASVA MembersScottish Tourism Alliance Autumn Conference – double discount for ASVA Members
Added: 09 Jul 2019

The line-up for this year’s Scottish Tourism Alliance Annual Autumn Conference on 7th October at the EICC has been announced and if you’re quick off the mark, you’ll get a double discount on your ticket through our membership of the STA and the Early Bird ticket offer which will end on 31 July.
This year’s event has a packed programme, starting with an interview with Fiona Hyslop MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs. Delegates will then hear the most up to date economic outlook for the tourism industry from one of the UK’s leading financial and economic experts, Philip Bartlett, Economist at RBS Group.
We will then hear from Stephen Leckie in his capacity as Chair of the Tourism Leadership Group who will provide an update on our national Tourism Strategy TS2020 with one year left to go. Stephen will then do the ‘big reveal’ of the future Vision and Mission of our Tourism Strategy Beyond 2020 and will outline the priority areas of focus.

Tourism is of course all about people, and in the final session before lunch titled ‘A Human Future’ you’ll hear four different perspectives on how we can build a stronger industry for the future through our people.

Afternoon sessions will explore topics such as improving mental health within the industry; future-proofing tourism with learnings from Glasgow’s circular economy; growing profit through data and how we can deliver better quality experiences through collaboration in our destinations.

There are a number of networking opportunities throughout the day and delegates are also invited to stay on after conference for a networking and G & Tea experience (sampling the new Scottish Tourism Alliance gin!).

Don’t miss the opportunity to get ahead of the curve at one of the most crucial times for our industry. The Early Bird offer ends on 31 July so make sure you grab your ‘double discounted’ ticket before they fly.

Secure your ticket today here.
And the award goes to…And the award goes to…
Added: 10 Jun 2019
The Scotch Whisky Experience were delighted to collect the award for Best Place for Women to Work at the Business Women Scotland Hospitality and Tourism Awards on 16th May. The awards, held at Edinburgh’s Waldorf Astoria, celebrate the achievements of individuals and organisations within Scotland’s booming tourism and hospitality industry, bringing together representatives from businesses across the country: from visitor attractions and festivals to accommodation providers and restaurants.

The Scotch Whisky Experience team, who were shortlisted alongside the Waldorf Astoria and Fairmont St Andrews, were praised for their positive approach to the long-term career progression of women within the organisation, and for the company’s inclusive and conscientious approach to maternity leave, phased return to work, and work-life balance.
The attraction was also recognised for its commitment to accessibility, making the ceremony’s first awards shortlist of the night: Accessible Business of the Year. While this award went to the team at Dundee’s Caird Hall, the Scotch Whisky Experience were proud to be a finalist in this incredibly competitive category, acknowledging the many adaptations and product augmentations that have been implemented over the years to make the attraction as accessible to as many people as possible.

“We’re incredibly proud to have made the shortlists for both of these awards”, says Susan Morrison, Chief Executive. “The Scotch Whisky Experience is about championing inclusiveness in whisky, and we achieve that with a programme of carefully honed training sessions, tastings and events that level the playing field for our whole team. Over our 30 years in business, we’ve created an internal culture where all members of our team feel they have a voice, an opinion and something to offer on this amazing spirit. Winning this award means so much to the organisation, and even more so to Scotland’s incredible whisky industry who we’re proud to represent.”

The Scotch Whisky Experience employs 90 members of staff, with a wide range of roles from operations, retail and hospitality to marketing, technical, administration and finance. The overall management roles are 59% female, with a 50:50 gender split between those in general managerial roles. In 2018, there were four female appointees to the board of directors; equating to 35% of the full board.
Located in Edinburgh at the top of the city’s famous Royal Mile, the attraction opened in 1988 and in its 30 year history has welcomed over 7 million visitors from around the world, and poured over 9 million drams of Scotch whisky.
Anniversary of Jim Clark’s historic Indy 500 win marked with announcement on opening of new museum  Anniversary of Jim Clark’s historic Indy 500 win marked with announcement on opening of new museum
Added: 31 May 2019
Marking the 54th anniversary of Jim Clark’s historic win at the Indianapolis 500 this week, Scottish Borders Council, charity Live Borders and The Jim Clark Trust are delighted to be able to announce that the new Jim Clark Motorsport Museum in Duns will open to the public on Thursday 11 July.

On 31 May 1965, Jim Clark won the Indianapolis 500, becoming the first driver to do the double of winning the famous American race and also the Formula One World Championship. He went on to win a second World Championship in 1965, and remains the only driver to win both in the same year.
The £1.6m museum project is being taken forward by the Council in partnership with Live Borders, The Jim Clark Trust and the Jim Clark Memorial Room Trust. Funding has come from the Council, the Heritage Lottery Fund, Museums Galleries Scotland and The Jim Clark Trust, the latter including a grant from the Fallago Environment Fund and individual donations from around the world.
Councillor Euan Jardine, SBC’s Executive Member for Culture and Sport, said: “Work is progressing well on the new museum, with Live Borders now on-site to complete the internal fit-out and prepare the exhibitions.

“This project has been almost five years in the planning and in just six weeks we will have a fantastic new museum open to the public which will really do justice to Jim Clark’s incredible achievements in the racing world and also his life as a Borders farmer.

“The new museum will be a fantastic addition to the tourism offering in Berwickshire and will provide an economic boost for not just the immediate area but also the wider Scottish Borders.”

Shona Sinclair, Curator at charity Live Borders, added: “Jim’s replica Indianapolis 500 trophy will be on display in the new museum alongside new items, film footage and photographs to showcase Jim’s inspirational career.

“A huge amount of work has gone in to researching and preparing the collection for display and I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the volunteers who have assisted the Jim Clark Motorsport Museum team with this task. We can’t wait to start welcoming visitors.”
In conjunction with the opening of the new museum, The Jim Clark Trust is working on the development of a tourist trail around the area, taking in locations associated with Jim Clark, such as historic racing venues and his grave at Chirnside Church.
Ben Smith, Secretary of The Jim Clark Trust, which helped raise over £300,000 towards the museum project, said: “Jim’s victory at Indianapolis in 1965 expanded his fan-base massively and we have no doubt that fans from across the world will descend on the new museum after it opens this summer.
“All the partners are working to maximise the impact of the interest in Jim and the opening of the new museum, and as part of that the Trust is developing a tourist and car club trail that will provide additional interest for visitors, and also bring many car enthusiasts to the museum for many years to come.”
The new museum will provide an expanded and dynamic exhibition space showcasing memorabilia and the trophy collection, two of Jim Clark’s race cars, new image galleries, film footage, interactive displays, technology and education zones.
Mercat Tours shows benefits of profit sharing, flexible working and the living wageMercat Tours shows benefits of profit sharing, flexible working and the living wage
Added: 23 May 2019
Mercat Tours was born in an Edinburgh classroom. The simple belief that fired my father’s passion for teaching has been Mercat’s mantra since we established our walking tours in 1985 - ‘history is a damn good story, what it needs is a damn good telling’.

Since then, we’ve worked to keep traditional storytelling alive. This is enjoyed by both guides and visitors, who relish our rich heritage. What may be a surprise is that the majority of those we attract are UK visitors. What also may surprise is the £1million we spent on our 90-strong team in 2018. From lime-light loving guides to eagle-eyed finance, tourism is inclusive and accessible, with attitude counting for more than academic skills.

Our investment in the team is rooted in an ambition to nurture our people, because a happy, fulfilled team is loyal, and proud of giving visitors the best experience. This belief led to remodelling the business in 2017 when, following team consultation, we introduced annual contracts for all. We invested in our people, giving added securities and benefits, and removing seasonal or zero-hour contracts. These benefits ensure buy-in from our team, boosting pride in their work and encouraging skills development, resulting in a better customer experience and growth for all.

The key is flexibility. We offer our team flexible opportunities, adapting our model to accommodate early starts, late finishes and split shifts, as well as part time working. For example, in 2003 Jane joined us as a storytelling guide. When she started her family, we changed Jane’s work pattern to ensure she could continue to earn. When Jane wished to pursue further education, we adapted her working week again and assisted her in gaining qualifications. This led to Jane staying with Mercat for 16 years and progressing through the business. Without our flexible approach, neither we nor Jane would have been able to grow.

Mercat is a profit-sharing company with all staff benefiting from our success. In 2017, we became the first walking tour operator in Scotland to secure Living Wage employer accreditation. Investing 10% of our annual profits in team development, we provide access to several training courses, in addition to fully funded three-month training for guides, which is accredited by Napier University.

Looking forward, we give equal consideration to the next generation of employees as the current. We’re proud of our ‘Day In Edinburgh’ project, which aims to inspire local pupils to consider tourism as a career, showcasing the jobs available using a collaborative, practical approach. We have worked with Holy Rood High School and Craigroyston High School and have hosted 685 students and 120 staff alongside 24 organisations in Edinburgh and aim to grow this. We also offer paid placements to local University students.

Being a responsible business is not a strategy, it is in Mercat’s DNA. Our ethical approach has resulted in above average success; 19.5% YOY growth, 87% staff satisfaction, 97% customer satisfaction and 100% trade satisfaction. This tells the story of a thriving company embedded in the community, respected by trade, with a fulfilled team helping happy visitors.

Sharing the tourism story is crucial. If the local authority, tourism businesses and residents work together then everyone can enjoy the benefits tourism brings. By understanding how investment in the city benefits both visitors and residents we can support each other to grow, celebrating our thriving industry, giving the warm welcome for which we’re famous now, and in the future.

Kat Brogan, Managing Director Mercat Tours.
Jonnie Walker Attraction Given Green LightJonnie Walker Attraction Given Green Light
Added: 10 May 2019
Plans to create a global flagship visitor experience for Johnnie Walker have received official approval from local authorities in Edinburgh.

The City of Edinburgh Council Planning Committee formally granted permission for the project, which will transform one of the city’s most important landmark buildings into a major new tourist destination.

The Johnnie Walker visitor experience is the focal point of a £150million investment in Scotch whisky tourism by leading global spirits company and ASVA member, Diageo, the biggest single investment programme ever seen in the whisky tourism sector.

The planning committee have approved the application for the venue, which is expected to create between 160 to 180 new full-time equivalent jobs and to generate in the region of £135 million in tourism spend in the wider Edinburgh economy.
The proposals would see the meticulous restoration of the building at 146 Princes Street with many of its beautiful heritage features preserved where possible and integrated into the visitor experience.

The plans include:
A multi-sensory, immersive visitor experience across three floors, guiding people through the 200 year history of the brand, the art and science of whisky-making, and taking them on a journey through the flavours of Scotland.

A flexible events space for staging music, theatre, arts and community events, making the venue part of the thriving cultural life of the city.

A training academy that will be a home for Diageo’s award-winning Learning for Life programme, which creates training and employment opportunities in the hospitality industry for unemployed people, and works to improve hospitality standards and promotes the responsible serving and consumption of alcohol.

Roof-top access with stunning views of Edinburgh Castle and across the city skyline to east, west and north.

At street level the plans include a significant retail space, bringing a contemporary shopping experience and interior design inspired by the Johnnie Walker retail flagship store in Madrid, which opened in November.

Construction work is expected to begin in the early summer.

David Cutter, chairman of Diageo in Scotland, said: ‘This is another significant step forward in our journey to create an inspiring flagship destination for Johnnie Walker.

‘We have had great support for our proposals from local stakeholders and businesses in Edinburgh and we are grateful to everyone who has helped us to get to this stage. We will continue to work with the local community as we now progress with construction and with making our plans a reality.’

Cristina Diezhandino, Diageo global Scotch whisky director, said: ‘We are incredibly excited by our plans for the Johnnie Walker visitor experience in Edinburgh where people can explore, discover, and immerse themselves in story of the world’s leading whisky brand.

‘We have ambitious plans to make this a truly world-leading attraction, drawing people from the four corners of the globe to Scotland and to give them an unforgettable experience in Scotch whisky and Scottish culture.’

Diageo is currently investing over £185 million in Scotch whisky experiences in Scotland. As well as the Edinburgh location, the company is also investing to transform its existing 12 distillery visitor attractions across Scotland and a £35 million investment to reopen the iconic distilleries of Port Ellen and Brora.

Whisky from Diageo’s distilleries all over Scotland contribute to Johnnie Walker, but four distilleries – Glenkinchie, Cardhu, Caol Ila and Clynelish – will be linked directly to the Johnnie Walker venue in Edinburgh, representing the ‘four corners of Scotland’ and the regional flavour variations crucial to the art of whisky blending.

Together these sites will create a unique Johnnie Walker tour of Scotland, encouraging visitors to the capital city to also travel to the country’s extraordinary rural communities.
‘Water’ year ahead‘Water’ year ahead
Added: 11 Apr 2019
An expanded Clydebuilt Festival, a spectacular new event at Scotland’s Boat Show and a celebration of Scotland’s waters and the journeys over them from the National Theatre of Scotland are just a taste of the events lined up to put Scotland’s coasts and waters in the spotlight in 2020.

Launched on Wednesday 10 April at VisitScotland Expo – the Year of Coasts and Waters 2020 will inspire visitors, locals, and the tourism and events sector to get onboard and enjoy everything the year has to offer.

From water inspired myths and legends to historic harbours, sweeping coastlines to the very best in seafood, whisky, wildlife and wellness – Scotland’s enviable reputation for unspoiled beaches, rich natural and cultural heritage and thrill-seeking adventure activities will be showcased through a year-long programme of events and activities.

A total of six initial events – designed to ‘wet the appetite’ for what’s in store have been announced today with many more to be revealed later in the year. The six events supported by the Year of Coasts and Waters 2020 Round

One Events Fund include:
• Ferry Tales from the National Theatre of Scotland - an imaginative and impactful performance and community project, with the support of Caledonian MacBrayne and their ferries, celebrating the waters surrounding Scotland’s waters and the journeys over them made by thousands of residents and visitors.
• Edinburgh International Film Festival presents Scotland’s Shores - an exciting programme celebrating the country’s coasts and waterways through unique events, classic film screenings and a special outdoor coastal experience.
• Clydebuilt Festival – 2020 will be the event’s fourth year, the event will significantly expand its existing offering across the festival bringing art, music, crafts, boats, dancing, sea shanties and more to the Riverside Plaza. Castle to Crane - a major component of the festival will also be back bigger than ever in 2020 with opportunities for more participants to get involved.
• The Fife Regatta 2020 – last seen in its home waters off Fairlie in 2013, the regatta will start and finish in Largs, taking in various locations around the Clyde including Holy Loch Marina, Dunoon, Rothesay, Isle of Bute and Tighnabruaich, Argyll for locals and visitors to enjoy.
• River of Light - Scotland’s Boat Show and Kip Marina will make a splash in 2020 with a brand-new event that will see Scotland’s biggest boat show’s programme extended into the evening on the 10 October.
• RSPB Scotland’s DolphinFest 2020 - DolphinFest 2020 will help Aberdeen become recognised as a must-visit destination for dolphin watching and will provide pop-up activities across the city that will celebrate Aberdeen’s dolphins; from interactive games, to conservation talks and citizen science projects.

A number of Scottish travel and tourism exhibitors at VisitScotland Expo 2019 are also making the most of the new longer-lead Themed Years opportunity to showcase their exciting products in advance of the year. These include Forth Boat Tours who continue to invest in expanding their offering; Forestry and Land Scotland who will be celebrating 100 years of the national forests in 2019; The Majestic Line who are celebrating their 15th year of operation and who will be launching their fourth ship - Glen Shiel; VisitEast Lothian who will be promoting the Go East Lothian Trail – a bikepacking route running from North Berwick to Dunbar; Glenapp Castle who will be offering their Sea Safari on the Glenapp Castle boat and recent National Scottish Thistle Award 18/19 Winners Sweeney’s Cruise Co. and Cruise Loch NessForth. Visit Inverness Loch Ness will also be showcasing their new long-distance trail around Loch Ness - set to become the walkers’ equivalent of the NC500.

Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “Following on from the success of our previous themed years, I am pleased to see Scotland’s natural assets take centre stage as we celebrate Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters in 2020.”
“Delivered by our skilled and passionate industry these six initial events, taking place right across Scotland, will help to promote the upcoming year-long celebration and encourage participation not only from Scotland’s communities but also our visitors from near and far.”

In addition to a range of new and existing events, the year will also provide the opportunity to promote and celebrate a variety of unique and authentic experiences showcasing Scotland’s unrivalled coasts and waters including The Hebridean Whale Trail, the first of its kind in the UK, set to launch later this year; new road trip routes taking in Scotland’s winding coastlines and characterful communities including The Coig and the South West Coastal 300, and the TS Queen Mary on the River Clyde which is getting set to be one of the UK’s largest interactive maritime and social history exhibits. The year will also encourage responsible engagement with Scotland’s coasts and waters.
Further investment aligned with the year includes a new state of the art visitor centre welcoming cruise ship passengers from across the world in Greenock, which will include a purpose-built gallery celebrating the work of Inverclyde resident artist George Wyllie (1921-2012) and a new restaurant with panoramic views across the Clyde.

A state-of-the-art Johnnie Walker visitor attraction is also set to be the centrepiece of an investment programme from Diageo designed to further boost Scotland’s whisky tourism sector. Diageo distilleries spanning Scotland’s coastlines will also receive transformational investment to create immersive brand experiences for millions of Scotch fans around the world.

The Scottish Seabird Centre in North Berwick, near Edinburgh, one of the UK’s leading marine education and conservation charities has also reopened the doors of its 5-star visitor attraction following completion of the first stage of their refurbishment. They also plan to transform their existing Discovery Centre with new exhibits and interactive displays - opening is set to take place in 2020.

Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters 2020 will begin on 1 January 2020 and run until 31 December 2020. For more information, visit
Saving our scran with some choice solutionsSaving our scran with some choice solutions
Added: 03 Apr 2019
A look at the fresh produce in your local supermarket will reveal the usual suspects. Familiar favourites like Little Gem lettuce, Maris Piper potatoes and Royal Gala apples dominate our shelves, but does this lack of choice really matter? A new photographic exhibition – Food Forever – at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) says that diversity is important and is putting the spotlight on the need to conserve and promote diversity in food as a source of resilience in the food system.
The exhibition, which opens on Saturday, 6 April, includes portraits of scientists, farmers and chefs working to ensure that we protect the vast colourful spectrum of diversity in our food. “In effect they are all champions of diversity” said RBGE’s Dr Max Coleman. “Variety in our foods is part of the pleasure of eating, but there is also a more serious message in the exhibition about securing food supplies in a rapidly changing world’’, he added.
Food insecurity is created by many factors, but changes in local climate, declines in pollinating insects and the spread of pests and diseases are among the main causes. “Factors threatening to disrupt the steady supply of food are very real. Recognising the value and role of diversity in meeting the challenges is summed up by the old saying about not putting all your eggs in one basket”, Dr Coleman added.
Relying on a single crop or a very limited amount of genetic diversity is risky, and diversity in farming acts to spread the risk of failure. Extensive ‘monocultures’ of single crops are common in modern intensive farming and this approach does make our food system vulnerable to rapid change, such as the emergence of a new pest or disease.
As well as showcasing the work of food diversity “champions” in Scotland, and elsewhere around the world, the exhibition is part of a wider initiative led by the Crop Trust that encourages everyone to play their part. Consumer food choices make a big difference to research, innovation and what is actually being produced by farmers. “As consumers, if we stick to what we know and don’t buy new or unfamiliar fresh produce it is hard for farmers to make the switch to new crop varieties that might have benefits, such as greater resilience’’, said Dr Coleman.

Food Forever can be seen at RBGE’s John Hope Gateway from Saturday 6 April to Sunday 9 June. Entry is free.
Virtual Reality in Visitor AttractionsVirtual Reality in Visitor Attractions
Added: 25 Mar 2019
On the back of feedback received from ASVA members, ASVA collaborated with our friends at Interface on an exciting new workshop in March, examining the use of Virtual Reality in Visitor Attractions. The workshop involved practical examples of this technology being employed in an attraction setting, expert advice from academics on the use of the technology and the opportunity for delegates to actually try out some VR equipment for themselves.

You can read more about the workshop in a blog our CEO has written for Interface, and we are pleased to attach the presentations from the event.


Click below to download presentations

ASVA Interface VR Workshop 7 March 2019 - Overview

ASVA Interface VR Workshop Outputs

ASVA Interface VR Workshop Tomintoul Presentation

Dr Alan Miller VR Presentation

New Lanark World Heritage Site unveils New Management PlanNew Lanark World Heritage Site unveils New Management Plan
Added: 22 Mar 2019

New Lanark World Heritage Site is launching its five-year management plan on Monday 25 March 2019, at the New Lanark Exhibition Gallery, hosted by New Lanark Board of Trustees. The Chair, Bill Howat, will open the event and present New Lanark’s ambitious vision for the historic village.

Founded in 1785 by David Dale, New Lanark became synonymous with Robert Owen and his pioneering and visionary ideology. Owen’s social legacy, combined with the innovative design, rich industrial heritage and spectacular setting of the village, are evidenced in New Lanark’s Status as one of six UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Scotland.

Building on the ethos of Robert Owen and those who have come before us, New Lanark Trust aims to continue to conserve its heritage, site and environs; contribute socially and economically to the area; and evolve to stay relevant to our people and the world.

World Heritage status began as a designation aimed at protecting and conserving sites of worldwide significance. Today it has evolved into a universally recognised symbol offering a diverse range of benefits and opportunities.

Scott McCauley, CEO New Lanark Trust says “New Lanark has evolved from its initial incarnation as an industrial village, to an exemplar of conservation-led regeneration, to a world-class World Heritage Site, engaging with audiences from every spectrum of life as an embodiment of the thought of the Scottish Enlightenment. We will fully utilise our World Heritage status, growing public awareness and understanding, and use it to deliver this aspirational Management Plan.”

Partners to the development and delivery of the management plan for New Lanark include New Lanark Trust, Historic Environment Scotland and South Lanarkshire Council, who are committed to maintaining and enhancing the values of the World Heritage Site as defined by UNESCO’s criteria for Outstanding Universal Value, Authenticity and Integrity.

Bill Howat, Chair of New Lanark Trust says, “In a period of ongoing challenges for heritage and cultural organisations, partnership working, across the heritage sector and beyond, is of vital importance to delivering the Management Plan. Whether on an international, national or local scale, partnerships allow for sharing of ideas and co-ordination of resources, helping to deliver exciting and innovative projects such as those in this plan”.

He continues “We would like to thank all those who have been involved in the preparation and development of the Management Plan, including our partners, stakeholders, consultees, staff and volunteers. World Heritage status is a great honour and responsibility, and one that we as key custodians of New Lanark take very seriously. This document will play an important role in shaping the direction that New Lanark World Heritage Site will take over the next 5-10 years. It is thanks to the passion and enthusiasm shown by all involved in the development and future delivery of the Management Plan that New Lanark will be conserved for future generations, able to contribute to the economic strength of Scotland, and continue to evolve and stay relevant in the 21st century.”
The Real Mary King’s Close celebrates momentous win at tourism awardsThe Real Mary King’s Close celebrates momentous win at tourism awards
Added: 22 Mar 2019

The Real Mary King’s Close celebrates a momentous win, taking home the title of Best Heritage Tourism Experience in Scotland at the VisitScotland 2019 Thistle Awards.

The five-star historic visitor attraction was honoured with two accolades at the prestigious Scottish Thistle Awards finals, winning in the Best Heritage Tourism Experience category and gaining a Special Commendation for Best Visitor Attraction.

The Scottish Thistle Awards is Scotland’s premier awards for the tourism industry, celebrating success, innovation, excellence and best practice in Scotland’s tourism and hospitality industry. The Best Heritage Tourism Experience award, sponsored by Historic Environment Scotland, was part of a number of accolades presented at the ceremony hosted at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre in Edinburgh on Thursday 14th March 2019.

Juliana Delaney, CEO of Continuum Attractions, which operates The Real Mary King’s Close, said:
“The whole team is thrilled to receive this incredible honour. To be recognised as Scotland’s Best Heritage Tourism Experience is a true testament to the commitment our whole team has for our attraction. Every aspect of our guest experience is developed with love, a sense of pride, and an enthusiasm for both our rich history, and delivering outstanding customer service. We’d like to take this opportunity to thank all of our many guests, our peers within the industry, and VisitScotland for its continued support over the years.”

Eilidh Macleod, Marketing Manager at The Real Mary King’s Close, said:
“It has been an incredible year for The Real Mary King’s Close, and I couldn’t be more proud of our team and the exceptional experiences they deliver each and every day. We love bringing Edinburgh’s hidden history to life, and welcoming guests from all over the world to experience our unique city-centre attraction. The Scottish Thistle Awards represent the highest standards in our industry, so being recognised as Scotland’s Best Heritage Tourism Experience really is a fabulous accolade.”

The award and commendation come at the end of a record-breaking year for The Real Mary King’s Close, which has grown from 60,000 annual visitors 16 years ago, to a record 256,000 visitors this year.

To find out more visit
Scottish visitor attractions record an increase in visitor numbers for the fifth year in a rowScottish visitor attractions record an increase in visitor numbers for the fifth year in a row
Added: 05 Mar 2019

ASVA are pleased to report that visits to its member sites rose slightly in 2018, the fifth year running that an increase in numbers has been recorded.

Analysis of statistics submitted by 232 of the organisation’s member sites for its annual ‘Visitor Trends Report’ confirms that 30,262,245 visits were made to those sites in Scotland in 2018, which represents a modest increase of 0.1% over 2017 figures. The increase comes on top of a 9.7% rise in 2017, which itself followed a 6% rise in 2016, confirming once again that visitor attractions in Scotland are enjoying a period of sustained growth.

The two top sites – The National Museum of Scotland and Edinburgh Castle – each attracted more than 2 million visits, only the second time that any visitor attraction in Scotland has surpassed the 2 million milestone.

Four additional sites attracted in excess of 1 million visitors – two in Edinburgh (Scottish National Gallery and St Giles’ Cathedral) and two in Glasgow (Riverside Museum and Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum).

Sectors which fared particularly well in 2018 include castles and heritage sites (+4.2%), zoos, wildlife parks and aquariums (+4.3%), sports and activity attractions (+7.7%) and distilleries/whisky-related attractions (+2.3%).

Edinburgh continued to dominate the marketplace, with 10 of the top 20 attractions located in the city. The National Museum of Scotland welcomed the most visitors over this period, while Edinburgh Castle retained its status as the most popular ‘paid’ attraction.

Overall, some 59% of all visits were made to attractions that featured in the top 20 list.
Dr Gordon Rintoul, Director of National Museums Scotland said: “It is terrific that the latest ASVA visitor figures have once again confirmed the National Museum of Scotland as the most popular visitor attraction in Scotland. In addition we recorded the highest ever visitor numbers across all our sites with over 3.2 million visits.

“It has been a busy year for the Museum with the hugely popular exhibitions, Rip It Up: The Story of Scottish Pop and Art of Glass and a packed programme of activities including a Q&A with astronaut Tim Peake as he unveiled the display of his Soyuz spacecraft, Science Festival events and workshops and the sell-out Fringe showcase, Museum After Hours.

“This month we have just completed the 15-year, £80 million transformation of the National Museum of Scotland with the opening of three new galleries devoted to our outstanding collections of ceramics, ancient Egyptian and East Asian material and we look forward to welcoming visitors to these over the coming year.”

Another area of Scotland which fared well in 2018 was the Highlands. RZSS Highland Wildlife Park near Aviemore enjoyed a major uplift in visitor numbers (+68%), driven in part by the birth of Hamish, the first polar bear cub to be born in the UK for 25 years, while the prehistoric archaeological site of Jarlshof in Shetland recorded a 41% increase in numbers.

Attractions in the vicinity of Loch Ness, including the medieval fortress of Urquhart Castle and Loch Ness by Jacobite, which offers scenic cruises on the loch, continued to demonstrate growth with increases in visitor numbers of 6% and 9% respectively.

Commenting on a bumper year, Daska Mackintosh, Highland Wildlife Park’s Head of Operations and Visitor Services, said: “We’ve had an incredible year and I’m very proud of the whole team here at the Park who have worked exceptionally hard to provide excellent customer service over the course of our busiest year ever.

“As a charity, we depend on every visitor to help us carry out vital conservation work here in Scotland and across the world. Hamish’s arrival has helped us to highlight the threats that many wild animals are facing and the small changes we can make to really make a big difference.”

The ‘Outlander’ effect continued to benefit many sites featuring in the cult TV series, as well as others with Jacobite connections, with large increases in visitor numbers recorded at attractions including Culloden Battlefield Visitor Centre (+ 11%), Glasgow Cathedral (+24%), Blackness Castle (+36%), Aberdour Castle (+42%), The Royal Burgh of Culross (+53%) and Glencoe (+29%).

Distilleries and whisky-related attractions also largely enjoyed another successful year, with notable rises recorded at Cardhu Distillery Visitor Centre (+14%), Dallas Dhu Distillery (+11%), Glen Ord Distillery Visitor Centre (+15%), Oban Distillery Visitor Centre (+17%) and Tomatin Distillery Visitor Centre (+13%), while The Scotch Whisky Experience in Edinburgh welcomed 2% more visitors through its doors.

The interest surrounding the opening of the new V&A Dundee in September appears to have impacted positively on the City of Dundee and surrounding area, with attractions including Discovery Point (+42%), Verdant Works (+21%), Arbroath Abbey (+18%) and Barry Mill (+14%) recording significant increases over 2017 figures.

Welcoming the figures in ASVA’s 2018 Visitor Trends Report, Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs Fiona Hyslop said: “It’s fantastic to see the success of ASVA’s iconic tourist sites attracting more than 30 million visits in 2018.

“From the new V&A Dundee and growing numbers of distilleries to our historic castles and battlefields which are benefitting from the ‘Outlander effect’ these figures show Scotland is a magnet for visitors from around the world.

“However with the on-going uncertainty of the EU Exit, the Scottish Government recognises we cannot take tourism success for granted. We will continue to work to support sustainable growth of the industry as it creates jobs, boosts the local and national economy and builds on our strong international reputation.”

Gordon Morrison, Chief Executive of ASVA said: “Although reporting only a modest increase in visitor figures of 0.1%, it should be remembered that 2017 was something of a stellar year. To be reporting even a modest increase in 2018 visitor figures is therefore a great achievement for the industry.

“Investment in new attractions, plus attractions that have invested in their visitor offer by developing innovative new products and services and launching inspiring events and exhibitions programmes, are not only reaching new visitor markets but are actively encouraging their existing visitors to return time and again”.
Gretna Green Ltd. Introduce ‘Alipay’Gretna Green Ltd. Introduce ‘Alipay’
Added: 20 Sep 2018
Family run business Gretna Green Ltd. have introduced the global online payment application “Alipay” to help cater to their international customers. Alipay is the world’s most popular financial application with around 400 million users and over 100 million transactions around the world.

The team at Gretna Green recognise the importance of easy payment methods for the visiting tourism market and made the decision to launch the mobile payment app this summer; creating a streamlined purchasing process and removing any issues regarding the use of cash payments by adapting their business to ensure they have the best shopping experience possible.
Alipay gives customers complete control over their finances, cutting out the need for currency conversion and use of expensive credit cards.

The new service was introduced at the award winning five-star visitor attraction in August 2018. Kevin Stewart, Head of Marketing says; “The introduction of Alipay to Gretna Green is the latest step in positioning our attraction as an international destination of choice for the visiting tourism market. We understand how important it is to cater to and meet the demands of our growing international visitor and ease of payment is so important in ensuring a seamless experience. We are always looking to improve our services on site and online and endeavour to keep up to date with the latest technological advances.”

Gretna Green Famous Blacksmiths Shop Attraction currently welcomes over 800,000 visitors each year to the Dumfries & Galloway region and is the most visited, privately owned tourist attraction in the country.
David Livingstone Centre marks start of £6m Birthplace ProjectDavid Livingstone Centre marks start of £6m Birthplace Project
Added: 15 Aug 2018
Work starts on site this week on the much anticipated £6.1 million Birthplace Project to transform The David Livingstone Centre in Blantyre into a world-class visitor attraction.

Clark Contracts Ltd. has been appointed as the main contractor on the multi-million pound operation to restore and renovate the 11-hectare Station Road site which includes the iconic Shuttle Row mill-workers’ tenement where the legendary explorer and missionary was born and raised.

The Birthplace Project is jointly funded by The National Lottery through The Heritage Lottery Fund (£4.1m), the Scottish Government (£1.3m) and Historic Environment Scotland (£575,000).

The funding will see David Livingstone’s birthplace redeveloped to provide a vibrant new museum, setting Scotland in a global context and celebrating the inspirational story of how a poor millworker became one of the most popular British heroes of the Victorian era and a hero of some Sub Saharan African countries today. The project will include the renewal of the historic buildings, a newly interpreted exhibition which will showcase artefacts from the Trust’s collection of 3000 objects and an upgrade of visitor facilities such as the café and shop.
Scottish Attraction Voted Amongst Best in World!Scottish Attraction Voted Amongst Best in World!
Added: 15 Aug 2018
Landmark Forest Adventure Park, located just outside Aviemore, has once again been named in the Top 1% of visitor attractions worldwide. The Scottish visitor attraction, which first opened its doors back in June 1970, has just been awarded the very prestigious Travellers’ Choice award by TripAdvisor for the second year running.

The Travellers’ Choice Award is based on reviews left by visitors via the online platform and is the highest honour that TripAdvisor bestows on visitor attractions around the world. As the only travel industry award based on millions of reviews and opinions from travellers around the world, these annual awards reflect ’the best of the best’ for service, quality, and customer satisfaction.

Not only has Landmark Forest Adventure Park been awarded the Traveller’s Choice Award again, but they have also moved up yet another place in TripAdvisor’s list of the Top 10 Amusement Parks in the UK. The family attraction is now named as one of the Top 4 parks north of London and the highest rated amusement park north of Blackpool.

Landmark Forest Adventure Park is one of many great family attractions located in the surrounding Aviemore area which make it such a popular holiday destination with families in the UK. Last year Aviemore and its surrounding area were visited by around 1.1m visitors, a testament to its high quality attractions, restaurants and range of accommodation.

Whilst the team at Landmark is understandably thrilled at their recent achievement, they are keen not to rest on their laurels. Commenting on their latest accolade, Danny Fullerton, General Manager, said “We’re all absolutely delighted to have won this prestigious award! With thousands of families returning to the park every year, we recognise just how important it is for us to continually improve as a visitor attraction. Hopefully this award is a good indication that we are going in the right direction! It is hugely encouraging as we make preparations to bring even more exciting attractions to the park over the coming years.”
ASVA welcomes new CEOASVA welcomes new CEO
Added: 19 Jul 2018
We’re delighted to welcome Gordon Morrison to the role of Chief Executive Officer of ASVA.

Gordon is a well known face within the attractions sector in Scotland, both through his work at VisitScotland as Quality & Tourism Manager, where he was responsible for the delivery of highly regarded Visitor Attraction Grading Scheme and, more recently as Commercial & Visitor Services Manager with Museums & Galleries Edinburgh. He brings with him a wealth of knowledge and experience of the sector, particularly in relation to quality and improvement of visitor experience, and will use this knowledge and experience to help ASVA in our mission to support and inspire Scottish attractions to deliver sustainable, world class experiences.

Gordon joined the organisation on the 16th of July. About working for ASVA, Gordon says:
I am absolutely delighted to join the organisation. The work ASVA does in supporting the attractions sector, providing advice, statistical information and inspiration to members via our website and communication channels, our development programmes and, of course, the truly outstanding annual ASVA conferences, is very highly valued by the attractions industry and I look forward to building on the organisation’s success in 2018 and beyond. I am taking over from a real institution in Eva McDiarmid and I am determined to continue her legacy, ensuring that ASVA remains one of the most respected organisations within the tourism sector.
My aim is to ensure that ASVA is truly representative of our members and is responsive in meeting the evolving wants and needs of the attractions sector in Scotland. I am determined to be an open, accessible and visible CEO and I look forward to meeting with and speaking to members and stakeholders from across the country over the upcoming weeks and months.’
Added: 18 Jun 2018
Lothian (operators of Edinburgh Bus Tours) is expanding further and widening its portfolio with the launch of Lothian Motorcoaches, creating further jobs and boosting tourism in the Scottish economy.

From June, Lothian Motorcoaches will sit alongside and complement its Edinburgh Bus Tours operation by offering bespoke day tours to both resident and tourism markets across Scotland, as well as associated private hire services specialising in high-end corporate events and weddings.

Lothian have acquired five executive coaches for the operation. Working in close partnership with Plaxton, a subsidiary of Alexander Dennis, on both build and design; the upmarket Plaxton Panther executive coaches have been fitted to a superior standard offering customers a high quality, luxury experience featuring WI-FI, USB charging points, reclining seats with leather headrests and unique LED lighting, accented in a mild red effect to add to the interior ambience.

Richard Hall, Managing Director for Lothian said: “We are delighted to launch Lothian Motorcoaches, offering coach tours and private hire services for the residents and visitors of Edinburgh, the Lothians and beyond. Our specially trained drivers and guides aim to deliver an unrivalled customer experience, which combined with outstanding vehicles proudly built in Britain, offer a unique package for both the residents of Edinburgh and the Lothians and the important incoming tourism market that Scotland is lucky enough to enjoy. We look forward to commencing operations and welcoming the first of many customers aboard.”

Paula Ward, Regional Leadership Director, VisitScotland said: “Scotland’s reputation as a quality destination relies on continued investment and innovation to ensure that current provision meets future demand. The launch of Lothian Motorcoaches demonstrates a real commitment to further enhancing the tourism offering in Edinburgh and beyond.

“The new tours will encourage visitors to our capital city to visit some of the beautiful surrounding countryside and world-class attractions that can be enjoyed in Scotland. Tourism is more than a holiday experience – it is integral to sustaining communities across Scotland by generating income, creating jobs and stimulating social change.”

The live-guided coach tours will take customers to various historic and picturesque locations across Scotland, including Loch Lomond, Stirling and St Andrews. Linking in with Lothian’s subsidiary Edinburgh Bus Tours, visitors and residents will be spoilt for choice as to ways to explore all that Scotland has to offer.
Scottish stars back National Trust for Scotland’s biggest ever campaign Scottish stars back National Trust for Scotland’s biggest ever campaign
Added: 15 May 2018
Some of Scotland’s most recognisable public figures have thrown their weight behind the National Trust for Scotland’s most ambitious campaign ever with the aim of boosting member numbers by more than a third to 500,000, doubling paid visits to 1 million and increasing regular donors and member visits over the next five years.

An extraordinary cast from Hollywood A-listers to TV favourites and sports legends have all given their time for free to support the charity. The celebrities appear alongside less familiar faces in a film which takes the unconventional approach of asking Scots what they hate about Scotland before finding out what they love about the country. The film entitled For the Love of Scotland debuted on STV on the 29th of April, taking over the whole of a prime-time ad break. At three minutes, this is thought to be the longest Scottish TV advert ever made.

The cast includes Hollywood actors Brian Cox and Gerard Butler; sporting royalty Sir Chris Hoy, Judy Murray, Alex McLeish and international rugby players Stuart Hogg and Finn Russell; TV presenter Andrea McLean and musician Evelyn Glennie. The stars were joined by a host of less well known National Trust for Scotland supporters from across Scotland as they revealed not only what gets them down about Scotland but what fires them up about the country.

Sir Chris Hoy hates potholes but loves how Scots can be the best in the world. Brian Cox hates having to work so far away from Scotland but loves how Scots all have a sense of home. Gerard Butler loves mountains, glens and lochs and naturally, Burns, but hates midges and smirr! With a nod to her passion for tennis, Judy Murray hates when ‘rain stops play’ but she loves our national treasures. Scotland manager, Alex McLeish, of course, hates Glorious Defeat, but loves how Scots all pull together as a team.

Mark Bishop, Director of Customer and Cause at the National Trust for Scotland said: “Everything we do is for the love of Scotland. The hundreds of thousands of members, donors, volunteers, visitors and staff do what they do because they care about Scotland and we thought it was time to recognise that. The National Trust for Scotland isn’t just here for a lovely day out, it stands for something much bigger than that.

“We’re about coastlines and castles, art and architecture, wildlife and wilderness. We’re here to protect our natural and national treasures for everyone to enjoy.

“We’ve set ourselves an ambitious target to do two things – firstly to help people better understand what we do and why we do it and secondly to protect the Trust for the future by increasing our members, donations and visitors.

“In creating this campaign, we’ve been heartened by the extraordinary passion we’ve tapped; from multi-award winning actors and sporting royalty to our hard working staff and volunteers and everyone else who champions our work. We have harnessed that support to help us shout louder about the important role we play in caring for Scotland now and forever.”

The For the Love of Scotland film can be seen at the National Trust for Scotland’s website
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