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Jailhouse rocks!

Press Release   •   Nov 18, 2016 10:57 GMT

A unique museum housed within a former notorious Aberdeenshire jail has achieved its Four Star Visitor Attraction Quality Assurance award from the national tourism organisation.

The former HM Convict Prison at Peterhead – now Peterhead Prison Museum (within the Admiralty Gateway complex) - achieved the award at its first ever grading visit after only opening its doors in early June. The prison originally opened in 1888 and closed as a working prison in 2013.

This fascinating attraction, which has already welcomed more than 45,000 visitors, offers them the ‘inside story’ of the brave personnel that staffed the first convict prison in Scotland from August 1888 to December 2013. People can visit and interact with volunteer guides in period costumes and see the cells and other key components of this renowned complex.

Visitors can learn about the prison’s history through a high quality audio headset, or registered groups can pre-book a tour guide who will talk them through the entire attraction, offering stories, interesting facts, key dates and information about the prison through the years. Built to originally house 208 prisoners but at one time holding 450, they would initially be punished with a number of devices including using a cat o’nine tails and birch rods.

The new prison museum offers visitors the chance to experience life in a cell, visit the medical rooms, solitary confinement and exercise areas and hear the grim tales of prison life through the decades, including an infamous visit by the SAS who were called to end a siege at the prison in 1987 in which a prison officer had been taken hostage on the jail’s roof.

As well as the tours, Peterhead Prison Museum includes an array of prison memorabilia, historical photographs, call and punishment block displays, recreation of convict working areas, traditional displays and a historic Peterhead RNLI lifeboat exhibit (currently under renovation).

Since opening, the museum has successfully hosted a Jailhouse Rock concert, a ‘haunted’ Halloween tour and a Christmas craft market.

Peterhead Prison Museum received its Four Star Historic Attraction award within the Visitor Attraction category of the Quality Assurance scheme. It has also joined VisitScotland’s VIP (VisitScotland Information Partners) scheme, which allows the national tourism organisation to work in partnership with businesses to recognise the work they are already doing in enhancing the visitor experience and bringing the Spirit of Scotland to life, including the provision of visitor information.

Developed and improved for over 30 years, VisitScotland’s Quality Assurance (QA) schemes are world-leading and provide a trusted, independent and impartial source of information for visitors. They allow businesses not just to meet visitor expectations, but exceed them.

QA can open the door to new customers. It is a powerful marketing tool and works well with online review sites in using an independent perspective to measure visitor experience against tried and tested criteria, so visitors know exactly what to expect.

Jo Robinson, VisitScotland’s Regional Director, said:

I would like to congratulate Alex Geddes and his enthusiastic staff at Peterhead Prison Museum on this well-deserved achievement following their first ever grading visit. They are providing a fantastic, interesting and unique visitor experience, which is reflected in this 4 Star award.

“This business is also a perfect fit for 2016 - Scotland’s Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design – as it is a fantastically innovative use of the former prison, giving it a new and sustainable lease of life, whilst also incorporating and embracing the history specific to the building.

“I hope the prison museum’s success sets an example to other businesses to join VisitScotland’s Quality Assurance scheme, which benefits tourism businesses and visitors alike. It is vital that everyone involved in tourism works together to offer visitors a fantastic experience when visiting and staying in Aberdeenshire, to strengthen our tourism offering.

Our Quality Assurance scheme helps businesses to reach their full potential and truly shine. The scheme is about more than just the ‘stars’ on the door - it’s about the entire visitor experience, about investing in your business and making it as economically sustainable as it can possibly be.”

Conrad Ritchie, spokesman for the Admiralty Gateway, said:

Peterhead Prison was an important part of local and national history. Its creation went hand in hand with the creation of Peterhead’s harbour of refugee in the late 1800’s.

“It is beneficial to preserve this and in doing so we are able to boost the local economy in as many ways as possible. We wish to thank VisitScotland for their support and we are delighted with the Four Star accreditation - something that we wish to improve on moving forward.”

For more information, visit

For more information on VisitScotland’s Quality Assurance scheme, please

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      2016 Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design

  • 2016 will shine a spotlight on Scotland’s achievements in innovation, architecture and design through a wide-ranging, variety of new and existing activity.
  • The Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design started on 1 January 2016 and will end on 31 December 2016.It will build on the momentum generated by the 2015 Year of Food and Drink as well as previous years including Homecoming Scotland 2014, the Year of Creative and the Year of Natural.
  • Through a series of exciting events and activity, the year will showcase Scotland’s position as an “innovation nation”, its outstanding built heritage, and its thriving, internationally acclaimed creative industries sector.
  • The Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design is a Scottish Government initiative being led by VisitScotland, and supported by a variety of partners including Creative Scotland, Architecture + Design Scotland, Scottish Tourism Alliance, Scottish Enterprise, The National Trust for Scotland, Historic Environment Scotland, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and The Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS).
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