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Is this Scotland’s most responsible attraction?



Obviously, an ‘outsider’ from Kent, passionate about Scotland, but an irregular if frequent visitor is not best placed to say. But judged against the Responsible Tourism Awards applications we have seen since 2004, the Scottish Crannog Centre is outstanding internationally. If there is an even more responsible attraction elsewhere in Scotland, we’d like to hear about it.  The Scottish Crannog Centre should enter the World Responsible Tourism Awards

The centre’s fame has spread at least as far as Azerbaijan. Mike Benson, the Director of The Scottish Crannog Centre, has been invited to Baku to speak at an International Conference on Archaeological Tourism and Sustainable Site Management. Mike’s very particular take on heritage and museums is evident in the title of his talk: “A thousand fingerprints and a thousand voices: Engineering a social museum.” Mike came to heritage site management with a far-from-conventional background. After 28 years in the steel industry on Teesside. He took the postgrad Museum Studies programme at Leicester University and then became Director of Ryedale Folk Museum, then Bede’s World, and the National Coal Mining Museum for England before moving to the Scottish Crannog Centre in December 2017. 

© Harold Goodwin

During my visit, I was struck by Mike’s strong sense of social justice, his interest in community and his commitment to growing and empowering the Crannog Centre staff. He is also interested in the Iron Age archaeology and learning by doing. 

The original Crannog Centre was founded in 2017 and destroyed by fire in 2021. It has been moved to a larger site and in just over a year it has been built and opened on April 1st at Dalerb on the north side of Loch Tay.

The Crannog Centre is described on their website conventionally: “Explore our museum, which holds ancient artefacts, and our Iron Age village, crafted with locally sourced materials, showcasing traditional craftsmanship with hands-on activities. Join expert-led tours and witness the construction of the first of three Crannogs that we will have on the water.”

And unconventionally: “All donations to the charity supports the work we do interpreting the lives of Crannog dwellers from the past, but also allows us to use the collection we care for to inspire, educate, and strive for social justice on a local, national, and international stage.”

© Harold Goodwin

Mike has worked to secure the installation of a public artwork, The Gathering, by the local wood artist and crafter Angus Ross, “reflecting our values of working together, community, interconnections, and togetherness. Personalised discs will sit at the heart of each pillar, all engraved with messages and memories from our supporters.” 

© Harold Goodwin

“This scheme is open to members of the public who would like to become part of the 21st Century Crannog Community and help us continue our mission – to care for and make accessible, the finds of Scottish crannog excavations and to interpret the lives of crannog dwellers for the benefit, enjoyment, education and inspiration of people of all ages.”

This is a genuinely extraordinary place, for locals, visitors and tourists alike. The Crannog Centre is values-driven. You feel and experience the difference when you visit. 

I ran my experience of the Crannog Centre against the 2022 Responsible Tourism Charter:

  • Provides more enjoyable experiences for all, through more meaningful connections with local people and a greater understanding of local history and culture, and social and environmental issues;
  • Making a positive contribution to the conservation of natural and cultural heritage through living cultural heritage 
  • An inclusive employer and attraction that provides for the differently abled, the outdoor shower can be used by all. 
  • Operating as far as practicable with a 25-mile local production and sourcing purchasing policy and planting to provide for the settlement’s future.
  • Avoiding plastic. 
  • Enhancing the well-being of the local community and those who work at Crannog by employing young people, some of whom have dropped out of school, and encouraging them to grow in skills, knowledge and confidence.
  • Contributes to the building of local pride and confidence. 
  • Listening to staff and empowering them to develop their areas of expertise. 
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