Hello there and welcome to our blog!
You may or may not be familiar with the Callanish Visitor Centre already (pictured above). If not and you would like more information, feel free to go to our website at www.callanishvisitorcentre.co.uk. This blog has been set up with the aim of keeping people updated with the Redevelopment Project of the Calanais Visitor Centre as it progresses.
The Calanais Visitor Centre opened 19 years ago and the building has served its purpose very well throughout the years, however it has become apparent in recent years that there is a need for an extension. The visitor numbers have grown very rapidly recently, from 14,000 in 2008 to over 41,000 in 2013 – a record number since the Centre opened. This year was no different and has beaten last year’s record as it currently stands at over 42,000 visitors!
There has also been an increase in the number of cruise ships now visiting the Isle of Lewis during the summer months, and we are kept busy over the summer receiving many cruise ship groups here at the Centre.
However, as a result of such a high volume of visitors coming to Centre, particularly in the summer season, the Centre and the staff sometimes struggle at peak times to accommodate them. For this reason, Urras nan Tursachan (the Standing Stones Trust) decided that an extension would be required in order to better cope with such a high number of visitors. The aim of the extension project is to expand the size of the cafe, shop and interpretation area. Another main aim of the project is to redesign and upgrade the interpretation area. The initial interpretation has served its purpose well but is now outdated and beginning to look tired. We are hoping to make use of modern technology, with a new design and layout in order to provide our visitors with an excellent source of information on the Story of the Stones.
The development need was also brought to the attention of staff and directors by community consultation. In February 2008 a ‘have your say day’ consultation was carried out in the local community, facilitated by the Local Council and the main issues raised by the local community were the development of Calanais Farm and more local job opportunities. A further consultation in 2010 by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar found the same key objectives. In September 2012 our own consultation in the local community returned feedback which was positive to the development plans.
Urras nan Tursachan, decided to hire David Macdonald as a Graduate Project Manager in August 2013. David got the extension project up and running, securing funding for a feasibility study – with thanks to Highlands and Islands Enterprise and Big Lottery: Investing in Ideas funding- and appointing a design team. Since August, David left his post to pursue studies in Edinburgh, and Anna MacKay was hired as Graduate Development Officer to continue with the project. Both job posts were part of the ScotGrad Graduate Placement Programme and have been part funded by Highlands and Islands Enterprise.
A company called JMArchitects were hired as the design team and we have had several meetings with them in order to produce a design for the extension. We are currently awaiting design options and should hopefully have a preferred design option early next year. As part of the design team, a company called Bright3D will be producing a new design for the interpretation area, and we are very excited to see what they come up with.
To help finance the next stage of the project, we will be submitting an application to the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) once a design option has been chosen. This application will include planning what the extension will include, look like and what activities the Centre will provide for visitors and the local community. In addition to this, we will also be applying to other funding bodies, as well as contributing some money from our own savings.