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31 May 2021

A day in the life of a ... Visitor Experience Manager

Written by Julie Armour, Visitor Experience Manager, Brodie Castle
A woman in a pink t-shirt is in a garden and holds a National Trust for Scotland omega sign, with the word 'love' on it.
Julie Armour, Visitor Experience Manager at Brodie Castle, who’s known Brodie Castle all her life
In this series, we join colleagues from across the Trust for a behind-the-scenes glance at the important role they play in caring for our special places.

Hello! I’m Julie and I love my role as Visitor Experience Manager at Brodie Castle. It’s a wide-ranging role and no day is the same – from welcoming visitors to caring for the castle’s wonderful art collection.

I have many wonderful childhood memories of Brodie Castle – my mum and grandparents all worked for the Brodie family, so I grew up knowing it inside out. I’m the third generation of my family to work at this very special place nestling in the Morayshire countryside. My Granda started working there in the 1940s. He went down the mines during WWII at the age of 14 and then returned to Brodie to work as Head Forester until his retirement on his 65th birthday – 50 years’ service and his only job!

The teachers at my primary school were always grateful for a bunch of Brodie daffodils, handpicked by my Granda. The daffodil collection was started by the 24th laird, Major Ian Brodie (1868–1943), and it continues today – every year the display around the estate and in the Playful Garden just seems to get better and better! Brodie is home to the one of the UK’s seven National Daffodil Collections recognised by the Royal Horticultural Society. It’s been carefully developed over the years in partnership with Plant Heritage and is now nurtured by my colleagues in the gardening team.

I first started working at Brodie in the late 1980s, when I’d help my granny and mum – I can still remember my mum polishing and shining the bathroom in the Laird’s apartment! In 1991, when I was 13, I progressed to the tearoom, working with my cousin and aunt.

In August 2012 I took up the role as Visitor Services Assistant (Housekeeper) and have also worked in catering, retail and weddings at Brodie. In 2016 I was successful in being appointed as Head Housekeeper – this was such an exciting time at Brodie with the opening of the Playful Garden. I very much enjoyed being a part of this project and working alongside my colleagues.

A woman in a hard hat and hi-vis jacket is standing in the Playful Garden at Brodie Castle when it was under construction. The large white sculpture of Brodie Bunny is in the background.
During construction of the Playful Garden, with Brodie Bunny in the background

I progressed into the role of Visitor Services Manager (Welcome and Retail) and had the great opportunity to attend the National Trust collections care week-long training in January 2019 and learned so much about the care of the collection. This prepared me well for my current role as Visitor Experience Manager, which I’ve been doing for just over a year now, and covers collections care, the welcome centre, retail and events. I love working with the team to plan events, especially our hugely popular Brodie Illuminations each autumn and, of course, all things Halloween and Christmas!

There’s no such thing as a typical day at Brodie and I live by the motto: ‘I can make the plan but not plan the outcome’. I could be crawling about loft hatches, auditing pest management traps or welcoming people in the welcome centre. Once I even got to have dinner in the Laird’s Dining Room with a group of visiting Americans, whose itinerary I had helped our travel trade team to plan. We got piped down the drive – that is definitely up there as one of my favourite work days. That, and meeting a Queen Elizabeth II lookalike. What fun our visitors had that day ... but that’s another story!

The best part of my job? That’s hard to decide – I love all aspects of my job. When I’m in retail, I love retail and when I’m doing conservation work, I love conservation! I also love a good wedding, but if I had to choose one thing, it would be working at the welcome desk. I love selling memberships and get a real buzz from recruiting visitors.

A woman is standing at a roadside next to a large National Trust for Scotland banner.
Julie getting ready to start recruiting members

And the future? I’m not much of a forward planner and just like to take it a day at a time. I enjoy what I do – I love Brodie and just can’t imagine being anywhere else. My ideal future role would possibly be a Regional Conservation Adviser. But if such a role was created it would have to be with an office based at Brodie ... oh and a chauffeur, as I don’t drive!

The garden and grounds at Brodie Castle are open daily. The Playful Garden, Castle Café (takeaway) and toilet facilities are open Wed–Sun. The castle is currently closed and will reopen in July.

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