FIVE years ago it was a futuristic vision held by Northumberland National Park Authority.
A scale model was transported around the district, where the authority’s top brass sought to convince town and parish councils of their grand plan to boost tourism and the local economy.
Public meetings were held, and concerns over traffic and other logistical matters ironed out, before construction work finally got under way in early 2016.
Now the dream has become reality, and at a cost of £14.8m, the Sill National Landscape Discovery Centre will officially open its doors to the public tomorrow.
Set in the heart of Hadrian’s Wall Country at Once Brewed near Bardon Mill, the Sill is located within both a World Heritage Site and the national park.
Billed as a world-class visitor attraction and education centre, the crisp and modern building was designed to blend in with its glorious surroundings.
Last week, the Courant was given a sneak preview of the Sill, which will champion Northumberland’s countryside, and show off the county’s natural and cultural heritage.
Strategically placed windows, and in some areas, almost entirely glass walls, will enable visitors to fully appreciate the grandeur of the World Heritage Site.
Accessing the Sill’s impressive green roof is easy, via a wheelchair friendly sloped pathway, and from there, views include the Whin Sill at Crag Lough, after which the new facility was named.
An impressive exhibition area at the Sill will tell the story of life within local landscapes, with big and small screen footage, and interactive features.
Other exhibitions will also take place, while dedicated classroom space will be used by school groups during educational visits.
From the Sill’s cafeteria, visitors will dine surrounded by panoramic views, while overnight stays will be offered in the 86-bed youth hostel accommodation within the building.
The national park insisted that the Sill is about more than the building itself. That’s why the park hosts education and activity days at schools and other venues across the county.
Businesses offering outdoor activities and other services which complement the Sill have also been invited to get on board, with office space available within the new facility.
National park chairman Glen Sanderson said: “It is about enabling people to taste, sense and smell the countryside, and we can do that through walks, workshops, and other activities.
“Our job is to facilitate that, both at the Sill itself and elsewhere. We want to make it possible for every school child in Northumberland to spend a day within the national park during the school year.”
Dr Sarah Glynn has taken up her post as manager of the Sill, which is expected to provide almost 120 jobs and attract 100,000 visitors per year.