Visitor centre marking battle of Bannockburn opens to public

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Today First minister Alex Salmond led events to mark the public opening of the Battle of Bannockburn visitor centre.

The state-of-the-art visitor centre, which was a joint project between the National Trust for Scotland and Historic Scotland, commemorates the famous battle which took place on the site 700 years ago in 1314.

The new centre, which opens to the public on the 1st of March, is the first tourist attraction in the world to use state-of-the-art motion capture techniques to immerse visitors in a realistic and historically accurate medieval battle in 3D.

The First Minister was joined by members of the community and groups involved in the project for a ceremony celebrating the successful completion of the project and the opening of the centre to the public.

Ahead of signing the first entry in the visitor book, the First Minister addressed invited guests saying:

“Bannockburn secured the emergence of the modern Scottish nation.
The battle was immediately deemed iconic; a colossal victory despite overwhelming odds and it was fought for the most noble of causes – the defence of king, country and community of the realm.

“As W. Mackay Mackenzie observed in his study of Bannockburn written for the centennial of 1914, ‘history is but a literary and political exercise; a mist of rhetoric has settled upon the field’. This victory was quickly and has been repeatedly chronicled in word, poetry and song.

“All battles have to be mythologized to some extent if their memory is to survive and many much more recent than Bannockburn have undergone this process. However this formative point in our history was not bought at any sort of bargain. The casualties on both sides in the Wars of Independence were enormous.

“When Eddie Morgan became our Makar, his first work was a translation of a poem about Bannockburn, written by an English eyewitness. I want to quote a passage from it now.

“How can I sing of so much blood…
I cannot number the humblings and tumblings of hundreds that fall.
Many are mown down, many are thrown down,
Many are drowned, many are found and bound”.

“The poem reminds us that here at Bannockburn are places where thousands, far too many thousands, of men lost their lives. And part of the remembrance of any battle, even one 700 years ago, should be respect and honour for the fallen.

“However the inspirational central myth of Bannockburn, and indeed the essential truth of the event, lies in its preservation of Scottish freedom and independence.

“If the battle did not in itself win the war, it certainly did prevent defeat and six years later inspired the Declaration of Arbroath, to become known as Scotland’s Declaration of Independence.

“The highest compliment I can pay to this centre is that it rises to its setting. Through sensitive architecture, modern scholarship and stunning computer graphics, it will enable people from Scotland and around the world to understand why Bannockburn has resonated down these ages.

“It communicates to a new generation the significance of this site as the birthplace of our modern nation. And it helps us appreciate anew that the democracy and liberty that we enjoy today, and indeed the coming peaceful opportunity for freedom, we can in the greatest part credit, to these struggles of seven centuries ago.”

The First Minister and others in the official party also unveiled a specially commissioned stainless steel graphic installation. Those taking part in the unveiling represented groups and organisations with an important connection to the project, or have contributed to the successful creation and delivery of the ground-breaking new centre.

Amongst the group marking the public opening was National Trust for Scotland Chairman Sir Kenneth Calman, Bruce descendant Lord Elgin, actor David Hayman who voices Sir James Douglas in the centre experience (trusted lieutenant of Robert the Bruce), 14 year old Milton AFC footballer Alyx MacRobbie from Bannockburn High School, and William McDowall, war veteran and IT manager at Erskine Hospital.