New visitor experiences at established tourism sites face a unique challenge. They will always be fighting against nostalgia as older generations re-visit with younger family members and rose-tinted childhood memories. Pitlochry Dam is one of those sites. Generations of visitors will have memories of peering into murky viewing chambers to try to spot a Salmon going up the fish ladder or peeking over the high window ledges to see down into the turbine hall.
I clearly and fondly remember the warm air, the deep vibrations and the engine oil smell of the walk through the dam (and the frustration of never seeing a Salmon in that window in the fish ladder!). So I was excited to take my family to Pitlochry this October break to see the new offering for visitors to the Dam while enjoying the autumnal colour of Highland Perthshire.
Opened in January 2017, the SSE Pitlochry Dam Visitor Centre sits above the dam on the town side commanding spectacular views of Loch Faskally, Pitlochry Dam and the River Tummel from the upstairs cafe and closer views of the dam from the downstairs exhibition area.
The exhibition covers an impressive range of stories in the thematic areas of: Dam building in Scotland, salmon and related habitats and modern renewable electricity production and distribution.
Electricity production, renewable energy and electricity distribution is a key engineering and science challenge of our times and a subject that is often covered in exhibition format. I have previously pulled together all my electricity related exhibits and activities in this blog post and also addressed the topic for a piece of work for the National Trust at Cragside House and Estate. I also covered the topic of Dam building in Scotland in Scotland from the Sky 2.
I wasn’t disappointed with the treatment of the topics at Pitlochry Dam. And my six year old was completely engrossed – he could have stayed for an hour or more – thank goodness for the cafe available to keep the adults occupied.
Online reports indicate that we are not the only family to have been impressed. Visitor figures in the first year were almost twice the target and the attraction rates 4.5 stars on TripAdvisor. Well done to everybody involved.