Travel History at Battle of Bannockburn Visitor Centre
It's a rare travel attraction that educates while it entertains — and it's a special one that lets you feel as though you're taking part in history. The Battle of Bannockburn Visitor Centre at Stirling, Scotland pulls that off with a high tech salute to the country's battle for independence.
Exactly 700 years ago this month, Scotland won its independence from English rule as the forces of Robert the Bruce defeated the armies of King Edward II at Bannockburn. The brand new Visitor Centre on the monument-marked site of the battlefield pays homage to the warriors that fought and died on both sides of the decisive tilt in the War of Scottish Independence.
Combining history with modern technology, the Visitor Centre allows young and old alike to experience the battle by taking part in it via 3D recreations.It's no coincicdence that the Visitor Centre opened this year as 2014 is a big year for Scotland. The nation will be hosting the Commonwealth Games, the Ryder Cup and a Homecoming that summons Scots from around the world back to their home country to celebrate the 700th anniversary of Scottish Indepdence.
As visitors enter (£11 for adults), they receive 3D glasses because a majority of the content is rendered in HD 3D. Massive screens simulate moments from the battle, while life-size 3D human images of Robert the Bruce, his soldiers and locals interact with visitors and share stories of their involvement in the battle.
Once a visitor learns as much as he or she can about the conflict, they enter the Battle Room where they take a command position around a video map table capable of recreating every unit and skirmish of the battle. Essentially, it's a large scale real time strategy war game allowing visitors to command either the Scottish or English forces to see if they can change history or lead the Scots to victory.
I was put in command of the Scots and paired up with a local who didn't know the history of the battle well enough. Of course, we lost and managed to crush the hopes of free Scots in the virtual world.
Of course, though Scotland originally won its freedom seven centuries ago this June, it is now part of the Commonwealth with England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Perhaps feeding off the spirit of Bannockburn, Scotland will vote in September on whether it will remain in the Commonwealth and once again declare independence.
No matter how that vote proceeds, it's a sign of the times that a democratic vote will make the determination this time — instead of thousands of men engaging in bloody combat amidst the Highlands.