FORRES’ number one tourist attraction is re-opening after the winter break.
Nelson’s Tower opens for the season on April 1 to attract more visitors from far and wide through the spring and summer months.
The visitors’ book currently has hundreds of entries from August 21, 2012 to September 30 2015 which sing the praises of Forres’ most recognisable building.
“It shows just how appreciative people are of the landmark and what an important role it plays in terms of local tourism,” said Meg Mackenzie of Forres Heritage Trust (FHT).
“At the last count we had visitors from 53 countries including Australia, France, Germany, England, New Zealand, Switzerland, Slovakia, USA, Brazil, Ukraine, Lithuania, Japan, Sweden, Canada, Italy, Wales, Austria, Holland, Spain, Ireland, Finland, Denmark, Poland, China, India, Dubai, Pakistan and the Falkland Islands!”
She added: “We have 60 excellent volunteers who have a great rapport with the visitors, are very knowledgeable, and do a great job promoting Forres.
“They are very welcoming and have a wide range of insight into the tower and the surrounding area. Many of them feel they are giving back to the town that has given them so much.”
At the reopening, a model of Vice Admiral Horatio Lord Nelson’s ship HMS Victory, complete with new base prepared by FHT volunteers, will be unveiled to the public in a glass case.
HMS Victory was a 104-gun ship of the line of the Royal Navy launched in 1765.
FHT acquired the model via a silent auction, the proceeds of which went to cancer research. Model-maker Barbara Nash from Cullen will be a guest of honour at the ceremony.
“It is an excellent reproduction of Vice Admiral Nelson’s flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar,” said Mrs Mackenzie.
Nelson’s Tower’s foundation stone was laid in 1806 as a memorial to the man who won the Battle of Trafalgar a year earlier. Subscribers, The Trafalgar Club, who met annually to celebrate the famous naval victory, paid for the work to finish and the tower was opened in 1812 with a twenty-one gun salute from two four pounder cannon said to have been at the bombardment of Alexandria. They can still be seen today at the entrance.
The octagonal building which still dominates the Forres skyline from Cluny Hill, stands at 70 feet (21 metres) high with a spectacular view of the Moray Firth to the north and the Grampian mountains to the south. The spiral staircase connects three floors containing information about Nelson and the Trafalgar Club as well as artefacts including a marble memorial to the men of Forres and district who died during the Boer War.
Nelson’s Tower had been closed for many years until ownership was transferred from Moray Council to FHT and it was reopened in 2012.
Two FHT volunteers at any one time will act as guides at the tower everyday from 2-4pm until September 30. It is thought thousands of visitors have counted the steps to the top since it opened its doors once again.
FHT plan to extend advertising for the attraction further afield this season in the hope of attracting even more people.
“We currently issue posters to all the B&Bs, hotels and shops in the Forres area,” said Meg Mackenzie. “Folk also hear about us through the internet on the FHT website, Forres Tourist Information and word of mouth is great.”
Volunteers spread the news and younger visitors on school visits report back to their families and friends. Many parents and grandparents with happy memories of visiting when they were young are also taking younger family members back.
FHT have many faithful volunteers at the tower but are always looking for more.
“The tower has become a tourist attraction available for entry by donation,” said FHT chairman George Alexander.
“Volunteering there with FHT is a most fulfilling pastime and we are always on the lookout for new faces to join our charity.
“Please contact me on 01309 672679 or approach any of our volunteers if you want to help.”
The next Forres Heritage Trust AGM is in the Tolbooth courtroom on Wednesday, March 23 at 7pm. Anyone interested in volunteering at Nelson’s Tower or Forres Tolbooth should go along.
A few of the entries in the Nelson’s Tower vistors’ book show just how impressed people are with what has been described as “Forres’ hidden gem”.
“Nearly as good as Sydney Harbour Bridge but quieter and cheaper,” said M Liddle from Harrogate.
Gary Banford from Adelaide said it was lovely to see the tower open and the fantastic views from the top.
“A wonderful story of the past, present and future,” said ‘The Beageatn’ owners from near Ardesier.
Jenny Jones from Cheshire thinks the monument is amazing. “Been here several times as a child,” she said. “I loved to relive old memories.”
“Very interesting and well-maintained,” said D Gourlay from Edinburgh.
“I should have done it in 1958 when at RAF Kinloss,” said Kevin Boyle of Wales.
Lynsey Scott from Aberdeen thought the guides were helpful and the exhibits interesting.
“It’s a hidden reminder of wars past,” added Jacqueline Roberts from Portland, Maine, USA. “The personnel were friendly and helpful.”
“It should be compulsory to make a visit here once a year,” said David Morgan from Forres.
“Loved the views and it was interesting to read all about Nelson,” said Yvonne Reed from Belfast on 8/7/14
“Well done keeping it open,” said the Seaman family from Dunfermline. “A real adventure and great views.”
“Lovely panorama,” said Teresa from Connemara.
“I was last here in 1960,” said D Currie from Glasgow. “I’m pleased the tower is open again for the next generation.”
“The best view in Forres!,” said Jenny Rhylee of Drumduan.
“The tower is in excellent hands!,” said Alexander Pollock of Drumdarrach.
“The best surprise in the woods!,” said Liz Morris of Colorado, USA.