The Lodge Visitor Centre, Aberfoyle


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Parks and leisure
Forestry Commission Scotland
May 2013
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Attracting visitors to a flagship visitor centre in the forest

David Marshall Lodge is the flagship visitor attraction in the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park in the Trossachs and it has served the area well for 50 years as a major recreation, leisure and educational resource.

 The Lodge Visitor Centre

The building, originally opened in 1960, had been extended and had other refurbishments of various levels over the years. It had run into disrepair and was not being used to its full potential. The intention was to fully refurbish the building to enhance the visitor experience and attract more visitors to the park, increasing revenue.

Creating access to enjoy the surroundings

The regeneration works were carried out in 2 phases with Phase I being undertaken between February and May 2012 and Phase II from May 2012 – May 2013.

During Phase I we built a new 80m service road cut into the hillside as well as 2km of forest paths, and increased car parking to the lodge, while also moving the coach parking away from the busy pedestrian access routes.

We constructed a new easy access path to the nearby waterfall, removed the existing play area and created new play features, and constructed a new wildlife hide and path along the new waterfall walk. We developed a bespoke traffic and pedestrian access plan to ensure safety as the lodge remained open during this phase.

Phase I was handed over four weeks early and included reforming the entrance from the main road to allow us to reverse the traffic flow for vehicular and pedestrian safety.

 The Lodge Queen Elizabeth Forest Park

Improved facilities

The lodge was closed prior to the start of Phase II and temporary accommodation provided, which included catering, office and toilet facilities for staff and visitors. We then carried out the full refurbishment of the existing centre including a new entrance and courtyard, new toilet block, improved wildlife viewing, cafe and interpretation along with all associated external landscaping works.

Full refurbishment included asbestos removal and soft strip, major structural alterations and fit out. Modest works were carried out to the exterior, due to the listed nature of the building. A new timber-framed external toilet block was also included.

Mechanical and electrical works included new heating, connecting into an existing biomass boiler housed in the neighbouring Go-Ape building. They also included new hot and cold water services, ducted ventilation to the kitchen area (with natural ventilation elsewhere), new lighting, emergency lighting, fire and intruder alarm systems, and small power and data services.

 The Lodge, Aberfoyle, interior

Involving the community

During the project, a number of workshops were delivered. These included one by JM Architects and another by Bright 3d. These were to HND architectural design students, and were designed to enlighten them about the project itself and also of the different avenues of professional design available to them.

Through work placements carried out in association with Forth Valley College, one of the students was offered and accepted an apprenticeship with our ceiling and partitions sub-contractor.

We also completed a building session at Aberfoyle Primary School for Primary 7 pupils and hosted a visit prior to completion of the project. These were held to make children more aware of the world of work and construction in particular.

Reclaimed timber from existing decking was donated to McLaren High School in Callander. Slabs and decking boards from around temporary facilities were given to local community and non-slip decking recovered from a temporary mini-lodge was gifted to the Forestry Commission.

A forest lodge to serve the next 50 years

Our upgrade and refurbishment ensured that the lodge is well placed to meet the challenges of the next fifty years. Following the upgrade, David Marshall Lodge has been re-branded as The Lodge Forest Visitor Centre and has achieved a 5 star rating from Visit Scotland's Quality Assurance Scheme along with a Gold Green Tourism award..

Project team

  • Robertson Central (contractor)
  • JM Architects (architects)
  • WA Fairhurst & Partners (civil & structural engineers)
  • DSSR M&E Engineers (building services)