Plans unveiled for revamp at Scotch Whisky Experience

An artist's impressions show the plans for the Scotch Whisky Experience including a VIP tasting area. Picture: contributed
An artist's impressions show the plans for the Scotch Whisky Experience including a VIP tasting area. Picture: contributed
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A SCOTCH whisky visitor centre in the shadow of Edinburgh Castle has unveiled plans to breathe new life into its venue including the creation of a VIP tasting space.

Proposals to refurbish the Capital’s Scotch Whisky Experience (SWE) – situated in the old Castlehill School site – have now been submitted to council planners for consideration.

Spearheaded by LDN Architects, the work includes plans for a new extension in order to link a basement area of the Castlehill School building with the nearby Janitor’s House.

As well as linking the two buildings, the Janitor’s House would also be converted.

The conversion of the building is aimed not only at creating more office space for staff but also providing the SWE team with an area to lay on VIP tasting sessions for visitors.

Design proposals submitted by LDN Architects say the extension will “provide easy access to users and create continuity between the buildings, as well as providing much needed additional accommodation to SWE”.

They add: “It is intended that this space will be used as a flexible presentation / private function area which links through to the Janitor’s House, in which VIP whisky tasting sessions can take place.”

Other proposed changes featured in the plans include a new lift for direct access from Johnston Terrace and the creation of a glazed canopy area between the existing outhouse and the Castlehill School building to allow staff to move between changing areas and the building while under cover.

Introducing the designs, the architects state: “Due to the continued growth of the business along with the consistently increasing visitor numbers SWE recognise the need to strengthen and expand existing facilities.

“This demand led to SWE recently purchasing the Janitor’s House Building to the south west of the site, with a view to expanding their existing facilities.”

Established in 1988, the SWE is one of Edinburgh’s most highly regarded visitor attractions, holding a five star rating with Visit Scotland. It employs more than 80 people and attracts around 350,000 visitors every year, with around 80 per cent of these from overseas.

Professor Cliff Hague, chair of heritage watchdog the Cockburn Association, said he appreciated the role of the SWE as one of the many attractions offered by the Capital.

However he added: “My main concern would be with the elevation from Johnston Terrace, where the proposed extensions climb above the parapet as bulky boxes that lose the symmetry and show a lack of sensitivity to the fenestration of the rest of the building.

“I would add that former school was once used as an urban studies centre. While that use was lost long ago, it remains a great shame that such a special city as Edinburgh does not now have a facility for its young people and visitors that celebrates and explains the nature of this and other cities.”

In their design statement, LDN Architects state: “The height of the proposed extension is driven by the existing features of the Castlehill School Building and aims to have as little impact on the existing elevations as possible.”