Prepare for battle at Bannockburn: Scottish history comes charging at you in 2014

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Battle of Bannockburn visitor centre

In case you’re not overly familiar with Scottish history, the famous Battle of Bannockburn 1314 was one of the most decisive clashes in the First War of Scottish Independence. Robert the Bruce led Scottish forces to battle against the English at Bannockburn almost 700 years ago. Although vastly outnumbered, Bruce’s men drove King Edward II’s army homewards after two days of fierce and brutal combat in the landscape surrounding Stirling Castle.

That’s what the history books tell us, but you can now relive the battle as it’s brought to life at Scotland’s newest attraction, the Battle of Bannockburn visitor centre.

A collaboration between National Trust for Scotland and Historic Scotland has seen the existing battlefield heritage centre replaced by something truly special, which opened its doors to the public on Saturday 1 March 2014 (a date which can also be written as 1.3.14 – do you see what they did there!?).

As I was lucky enough to get a sneaky peek of this brand new, state-of-the-art visitor centre ahead of its opening, I thought I would share with you what’s in store at the centre.

Stepping into the ‘Prepare for Battle’ room, you’re transported back to 1314 to the night before the battle where you come face to face with life-size, 3D Robert the Bruce and King Edward II, fully dressed for battle in glorious shining armour.

Take a wander between both camps and interact with an English knight, a Scottish spy and more who were all involved in the conflict, and witness some of the physical preparations, including battle training, on giant 3D screens. You’ll hear arrows whizzing past your ears and the clash of metal – it’s truly an immersive experience.

It’s also your chance to gather information about medieval battle strategy before the next stage of the experience – the Battle Room where you can lead a division of soldiers from Robert the Bruce and Edward II’s armies in a dramatic battle simulation, which is played out on huge 3D map in the centre of the room. All I can say is think tactically and be ruthless! As pre-booking is essential, get your tickets before you go.

Bannockburn Live

But the new centre is not the only way to see the historic events of this battleground come to life in 2014. In late June, Bannockburn Live will be a feast of food, music and battle performances set over two days.

Visit and see the battlefield transformed into a thriving hub of activity – it’s a unique opportunity to glimpse into the past. Huge-scale demonstrations of medieval warfare will show crowds the turbulent events that took place during the epic clash of 1314.

The battle scenes have been specially choreographed by Clanranald, professional re-enactors who are famous for their work on Hollywood blockbuster productions such as Gladiator, Robin Hood and Thor II. The visual spectacle of hundreds of powerful armed soldiers charging into battle is bound to be an astonishing sight to behold.

It’s not just about the combat experience – there will be medieval encampments where you can see first-hand soldiers getting ready for battle in armouries and kitchens so that you can take in the sights, smells and atmosphere of 14th century Scotland.

In addition to the battle action, there will be a top bill featuring both traditional and contemporary Scottish music on the main stage. Meander to the clan village where you can discover more about your own roots. Listen to tales of the past and folklore at storytelling sessions and sample quality produce from across the region and beyond at the food and drink village.

As one of the main Homecoming Scotland 2014 events, it’s set to be a weekend of activities and festivities that the whole family can enjoy. Be at Bannockburn Live on Saturday 28 or Sunday 29 June and witness as the Scottish history and culture is brought to life in a truly spectacular fashion. I’ve got my ticket already! What about you? Find more information about the event and buying tickets.

Why not discover more about Scottish history or find other Homecoming Scotland 2014 events?

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Amy Robertson

Amy is media executive at VisitScotland. Hailing from the west coast of Scotland, she's rather fond of music festivals, coastal walks, whisky and coal fires.