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North Coast Visitor Centre Achieves 4 Star Status

22nd November 2022

Photograph of North Coast Visitor Centre Achieves 4 Star Status

The North Coast Visitor Centre in Thurso has achieved a four star award by VisitScotland's quality assurance scheme in its first year of operation.

Set in the former Thurso Town Hall and Carnegie Library, the visitor centre includes a museum featuring Caithness history, in addition to an art gallery, a shop and cafe. There is no entry fee for North Coast Visitor Centre, relying as it does on donations. The building is accessible, with lifts to each floor if required, and ramps also providing access around the building. Free WiFi is provided for visitors as part of Cafe North.

During the first year of opening, the NCVC has hosted a wide variety of events including six exhibitions including Mairi Hedderwick: Imagining an Island in the spring and David Body: Caithness Impressions in the autumn. The TSB pop up Bank visits each week, and other local events counted the Caithness and Sutherland Heritage Forum, talks, open days, consultations and drop in events for various organisations in their number.

For younger people, a children's writing workshop for the John O Groat Book Festival, an event by HLH Countryside Rangers and Youth Development, and a ‘Schools Out' event with HLH Museums, Rangers and Libraries with Nucleus, were just a few of those on offer. Three schools and a Beaver group also made the journey to NCVC through the year, giving over 80 local students an opportunity to get to know the new facility.

Exhibits now housed at NCVC include Dounreay: Collections of safety manuals, helmets and equipment from the Dounreay workforce; the Broch Project's original Lego Broch (Brick to the Past), and the loan of a model of the first Thurso Lifeboat.

Councillor Ron Gunn, Chair of the Highland Council’s Caithness Committee said, "The folk of Thurso have waited a long time for the building to reopen and thanks to funding from Dounreay and Highland Council, High Life Highland have very successfully taken over the building as The North Coast Visitor Centre. Many hundreds of people have passed through the door to use the facilities and have been impressed by the wide variety of displays and exhibitions. The cafe has been a welcome addition for both locals and visitors.

"The well-deserved four star award shows how hard staff and management have worked during the first year of operating and I wish them every success for the next 12 months."

DSRL (Dounreay Site Restoration Ltd) Managing Director, Mark Rouse said, "This is such an important place, both for the people that live in Caithness and Sutherland and the visitors we welcome year on year. I am delighted that it has been recognised and the staff should be very proud given the hard work they have all put in. Our history and heritage should be celebrated and the exhibitions and stories told here ensure this happens. I wish the staff all the best for the year to come and would encourage people to visit and enjoy everything the North Coast Visitor Centre has to offer."

Ken Nicol, High Life Highland Board member, said, "I am delighted that NCVC has been awarded a four star award in its first season of opening, quite an achievement for our staff who have put in a power of work to achieve this standard. It is great news for everyone coming to visit this tourist attraction, giving reassurance on what they will find when visiting the centre. It also adds to the tourism offering in the area, encouraging people to visit from further afield and make sure that they include a stop in this part of the world. It's great news too that this means all High Life Highland’s museums now have a four star rating!".

Susan Taylor, Manager of the North Coast Visitor Centre, said, "All of the team at NCVC have been involved in working towards delivering high quality customer experience, given that the assessment covers all areas of the museum including the staff, museum exhibitions, cafe, shop and even the website and all social media platforms.

"Its been an amazing year for all involved with NCVC since we opened the doors. We’ve been thrilled to welcome thousands of visitors, and this has included many who live here or have connections to the area. Some have given generous donations or loans of objects to our collections and we very much welcome this interest from the local community. It is so important for all of us here that everyone feels welcome at NCVC as we want it to be well-used by all! We are delighted with the reviews that we have received in our first year and we will continue to extend a warm highland welcome to all of our visitors."

The North Coast Visitor Centre is jointly funded by The Highland Council and Dounreay Site Restoration Ltd. For more information about the centre, visit:

Quality Assurance is the name given to Visit Scotland’s official grading system for tourism businesses and all its associated schemes. The Quality Assurance Scheme exists to help tourism businesses meet and exceed the high standards expected by customers, making Scotland a must-visit destination and one that people are keen to return to time and again. Quality assurance also gives reassurance to guests that the property has been independently assessed and the standards that have been met by each site.


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