World-class visitor centre is planned

A plan of the proposed visitor centre
A plan of the proposed visitor centre

Banchory is in line for a visitor centre that could put the town on the world map.

The local Heritage Society has launched an ambitious proposal this week to establish a Royal Deeside Visitor Centre and Heritage Hub in the centre of the community.

The exciting project would have the potential to become one of Scotland’s biggest and most technologically advanced visitor centres.

Spokesman Gordon Walkden, chairman of the Heritage Society working group, has his eye on a town centre site at Bellfield, which is due to be vacated in a few years’ time.

He told the Piper: “It is an ideal location for an international-standard visitor and heritage facility that can serve the whole of Deeside and bring renewed status to the High Street.

“This will be a brand new approach to public services, open to residents and visitors alike and run by the community. Heritage comes to us in many forms through our history, cultures and environment, but there is another more forward-looking strand which is social heritage, promoting health and wellbeing as well as sustainability and rights and responsibilities.”

Former Banchory councillor Karen Clark, who chaired a consultation meeting, said Banchory’s new centre must feature all aspects and be fully technologically–enabled with content accessed not just through the electronic displays, but also through personal electronic devices.

She added: “The intention is to attract young people as well as old into the centre and to help them not only to look back at what has been achieved, but to look ahead and take charge of the future.”

The group sees its plans as “revolutionary and quite unlike a conventional museum”. Nearly all content will be presented through digital screens and projectors, similar to that of a multiplex cinema, that visitors can walk through. There will be one-to-one access for suggestions and advice on where to go and what to do.

It regards Deeside as a prime setting of international standard, cradled by spectacular granite mountains, swept by unique landscapes and energised by an iconic River Dee that winds through historic settlements all the way to the North Sea coast.

All that content, together with the stories of the people from the local area and where social heritage might go in the future, will be presented visually and in sound.

Starting with the rocks and landscapes, features will cover the Hunter Gathering families who first followed the river from the sea 8,000 years ago, right up to the railway age, and then the present technological era.

On the way it will reconstruct the role of St Ternan, founder of legends and Banchory’s patron saint, the lost Roman Legion, the Feudal era marked by Deeside castles and the North-east oil boom and modern living.

Mr Walkden said: “It is an epic story and along with much else including traditional language and music, our own health and wellbeing and the pursuit of sustainability, it all lends itself well to electronic methods of story-telling.

‘We want to create a prize-winning new visitor and community experience for Deeside and one that will both inform and outlast us all.”