A NEW visitor centre at Rosslyn Chapel has been unveiled as part of a £10 million revamp of the historic building.
The centre, situated next to the attraction in Midlothian, is around three times the size of the original centre, which was designed to accommodate 25,000 visitors – far short of the current 130,000 who flock there every year.
Work on the new centre took longer than planned – around two years – after the first building contractor went bust more than a year ago.
Facilities within the centre now include interactive displays, an education area, an extended gift shop and a tearoom.
After it featured in Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code novel and the subsequent Hollywood film, visitor numbers at Rosslyn Chapel have soared.
Colin Glynne-Percy, director of Rosslyn Chapel Trust, said: “The last few years we have had inadequate facilities to cope with the number of visitors and weren’t able to offer the best visitor experience, so the opening of the new centre gives us much more space for interpretation and education, and should give a much better overall visitor experience.
“We had a temporary visitor centre for two and a half years. It’s very satisfying and a huge relief that we have got the doors open and are no longer having to work out of temporary facilities.”
The new centre, which spans around 3000 square feet and opened on Tuesday, is part of a £10m revamp of the chapel, which is being funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Historic Scotland and Rosslyn Chapel Trust.
Described as a book in stone, Rosslyn Chapel is renowned for its intricate carvings, featuring symbols of the Knights Templar, Christianity, Freemasonry and mythology.
However the building, which dates back to 1446, was in a poor condition and exposed to the elements, with both the fragile carvings and the chapel itself at serious risk without the refurbishment.
Work to conserve and protect the ornate stonework of the ancient building is expected to be complete by the end of next year, with a formal opening for the centre taking place next spring.
The centre features four interactive units, which allow visitors to explore some of the best-known carvings in the chapel. There are also individual “listening hoods” telling tales about the chapel through the years.
Mr Glynne-Percy said: “We will also be able to have education sessions for all ages, from younger visitors to senior citizens.”
He added: “The old centre had a very small shop, an admissions desk, two toilets and that was it.
“The visitor centre now enhances the wonderful experience of Rosslyn Chapel, one of Scotland’s most iconic visitor attractions.”