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30 Oct 2018

Glencoe revamp begins

Glencoe's visitor facilities are getting an upgrade this winter
As work gets underway on upgrading the visitor centre at Glencoe, Operations Manager Emily Bryce introduces herself and gives a hint of what visitors can expect from the new-look facilities.

Newly appointed Operations Manager for Glencoe and Glenfinnan Emily Bryce has arrived at an exciting time! The team at Glencoe are making the final preparations for a major project to revamp the experience at the visitor centre which is a gateway to Scotland’s most famous glen.

They’ve got a busy time ahead, as Emily explains:

Welcome to the National Trust for Scotland Emily! Tell us about your new job …

My role is a new one, which brings together the teams who care for two Highland gems. With Glencoe and Glenfinnan each located about 15 miles from Fort William, it makes sense to share our resources and expertise more closely between them.

These are two of the National Trust for Scotland’s most well-loved and well-visited places, so my task will be to ensure we give our visitors and members a fantastic experience when they come here, share our stories in imaginative ways and help generate the income which will enable us to look after them for years to come.

Emily Bryce, Operations Manager for Glencoe and Glenfinnan
Emily Bryce, Operations Manager for Glencoe and Glenfinnan

And you’ve got a career-long love of heritage and the mountains, haven’t you?

Well, yes! I began working for the National Trust (south of the Border) straight after completing a history degree at university. For ten years I worked in a variety of roles, first at the centre and then in the North East of England region. I’ve been lucky enough to work at some fantastic places, including the Farne Islands on the Northumberland coast, famed for their puffin colony; Deleval Hall, a Vanburgh-designed and now ruined mansion near Newcastle; and Gibside, an 18th-century landscape garden and nature reserve in the Derwent Valley.

After having my daughter Isla in 2014, I moved to Scotland to be closer to my family in Fife and began a new career at Mountaineering Scotland, following my other big passion in life – hillwalking! While I loved working for this membership organisation for hillwalkers and climbers, when I saw the opportunity to be part of the National Trust for Scotland team at Glenfinnan (where I’ve stayed several times in the train station’s historic railway carriage bunkhouse) and Glencoe (where I’ve climbed most of the eight Munros owned by the Trust) I couldn’t resist going for it … And here we are.

How does it feel to be responsible for two of Scotland’s most awesome places – Glencoe and Glenfinnan?

It goes without saying that it’s a huge privilege to work in two such special locations. It’s as close as you can get to my ‘dream’ job. This doesn’t mean that it isn’t a complex job with some challenging matters to help progress with!

The huge rise in the popularity of Glenfinnan for tourists in the Highlands means that at some times of the year, our current facilities struggle to meet the demand. This is why I’m pleased that we’ll be investing in the car park and visitor centre here over the next year.

At Glencoe many people drive through and admire the views without ever knowing that the glen is cared for by the National Trust for Scotland and the huge amount of dedication that goes into conserving these cherished landscape and footpaths by our Ranger team. I’m keen that we turn this around, helping visitors discover more of this story and inspiring them to support our work.

Glenfinnan is also part of Emily's patch
Glenfinnan is also part of Emily’s patch

What are you most excited about?

As well as looking out of my office windows at some of the finest views in Scotland?

People come from every corner of the planet to tour the Highlands, and Glencoe and Glenfinnan are two prime destinations on that tour. Many arrive with very little knowledge of the Scottish history or landscapes that they travel through. I’d like them to leave having had a warm and authentic Highland welcome, a better understanding of our stories and gained a respect for the unique and vital role of the National Trust for Scotland in protecting these special places forever.

At the other end of the scale, I’m excited about connecting with the communities on our doorstep. I want them to feel at home at our places, feel a shared pride in caring for them and to come and enjoy what we have to offer with their friends and families.

Tell us more about what’s happening at Glencoe this winter?

I’ve joined the team at a very exciting (if a wee bit hectic) time!

This winter we’re transforming the way we welcome visitors to one of Scotland’s most iconic National Nature Reserves, 17 years after our current Glencoe Visitor Centre was built. In spring 2019 we will reveal an improved café and shop, and a new cinema experience capturing the stories of this incredible landscape, from its origins a million years ago to the present day.

There will also be a changing exhibition space, interactive map to help you plan your adventures and some fantastic sculptures throughout the centre. These improvements will make a huge difference to the visitor experience and help explain why we do all we do to protect this place, for the love of Scotland.

While work gets underway to improve the main visitor centre from November to March, our car park and toilets will stay open and we’ll be combining our café, shop and information point in one space. We’ll continue to offer a warm welcome to visitors from our new home in our MacIain room and give them a glimpse of what they can expect after our fantastic refresh. Do pop in!

An artist's impression gives a glimpse of Glencoe Visitor Centre's new look cafe
An artist’s impression gives a glimpse of Glencoe Visitor Centre’s new-look cafe