One of the Kirk’s most innovative churches is set to officially open its tourist information office on the banks of Loch Lomond.
Luss Parish Church, which already boasts a Pilgrimage centre and shares its services online in more than 50 countries, has been running the facility for a few weeks now, but the chairman of VisitScotland Dr Mike Cantlay will cut the red ribbon on Monday afternoon.
Despite the congregation having only a parish population of 400, it is estimated that 750,000 people visit Luss each year.
Minister Reverend Dr Dane Sherard explained the thinking behind the venture: “The area of Luss receives 750,000 people each year and the people who come here deserve to be welcomed. No one else is doing that, or able to do that, and that’s where we come in.
“We had some spare space in our Pilgrimage Centre, so we thought we’d give it a shot. There is a Biblical message in welcoming strangers, and I can honestly say it has enriched the life of our church community too.
“The Church of Scotland has a long history of filling in the gaps – we did it with education and social work, and there’s no reason why we can’t do it with tourism.”
Dr Sherard also explained the uniqueness of the new office: “I can proudly say we have the only tourist information centre in Scotland, which does not take any commission for arranging bed and breakfasts, but also drives people to their accommodation or campsite.
“During our research for making a successful tourist information office, we found the best ones made people feel welcome, had useful information and had a visitor attraction.
“We are very fortunate to have the Sound and Light Show, the Rossdhu book of Hours, the Glebe trail and even a small cinema. The first few weeks have been very positive and we hope this will continue.”
There are three full-time employees thanks to funding from the local authority, but also an army of volunteers who help in various ways.
Throughout 2010 the congregation has been celebrating 1,500 years of Christian presence in the area, and earlier this year a special “Pilgrimage Walk” was devised to mark the occasion.
There have also been a number of distinguished guests during their celebratory year, including the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall.
Notes to news and picture desks:
The grand opening will take place at Luss Parish Church at 2pm on Monday 30th August 2010.
For more information please contact Gordon Bell, senior media relations officer, on 07854 783 539.