Information, gifts, celebrities and royalty at Ballater iCentre
Set in the picturesque village popular with tourists, Ballater iCentre is housed in the beautifully-restored and award-winning Old Station.
The stunning building is home to an enthusiastic and knowledgeable group of VisitScotland staff, who provide visitors of all ages and nationalities with information and inspiration to get the most out of their visits to the area.
Famous faces to have come through the doors have included comedian Billy Connolly (who always bought a tea towel!) his wife Pamela Stephenson and singer, Annie Lennox.
Members of the Royal Family have also graced the iCentre, as Visitor Services Advisor Pat Crawford explained: “Zara Phillips came in with her young daughter to use the toilet and invited me to go outside to see the new baby.
“Sophie Wessex brought a friend and children to view the carriage on the platform when that part of the building was still a museum and at the end of the visit offered to pay the entrance fee. I did not have the heart to charge them the entrance fee of £2. I did, however, invite them to sign the visitor book, which they did!”
Vera Simpson, Visitor Services Advisor said: “Ballater iCentre is located in such a beautiful part of the world, it makes it so easy to give recommendations to visitors. In this area, you never run out of ideas for things to see and do and the visitors always leave happy!”
The iCentre stocks a range of gifts, including a range of VisitScotland Shop Local items. The Shop Local retail scheme was created to assist local artisans, designers and craft producers/associations with a local ‘shop window’ to retail their products within VisitScotland iCentres.
Community is a very important part of life in Ballater and VisitScotland plays its role in this, with staff involving themselves in many community projects - from litter picking and flower-watering, and most recently, assisting with running the Scarecrow Trail as part of Ballater Victoria Week.
iCentre staff also work closely with the rangers of neighbouring estates as well as the Cairngorms National Park, in promoting responsible tourism in the area to visitors.
Tracey Warrack, Visitor Services Advisor said: “I enjoy working in the Ballater iCentre as part of a supportive and knowledgeable team, meeting people from all backgrounds, in such a historical and beautiful building here within the Old Station.
“However it can sometimes cause confusion among visitors, some of whom have entered and expected to buy a train ticket for Glasgow, Inverness or Aberdeen!”
The iCentre team are on hand to answer any questions visitors might pose, though Pat remembers a few particularly challenging ones, including one little boy asking for holiday activities for his dog and a lady insisting on checking out the colour of the paintwork in the hotel room before confirming her booking.
With Balmoral Castle on the doorstep, there are also often questions about the Royal Family – Pat recalls one unusual visitor request being to sit next to the Queen at Crathie Kirk during the Sunday service.
In addition to the area’s royal connections, there is a plethora of other attractions for visitors to enjoy.
For more information call in to Ballater iCentre, open 9.30am-5pm, seven days a week, or visit www.visitscotland.com/about/practical-information/vic/