Visiting Rosslyn Chapel 10 years after The Da Vinci Code

By Elizabeth Quigley
BBC Scotland news

image captionThe carvings inside the Rosslyn chapel are 'breathtaking and awe inspiring'

Ten years ago the phenomenon that was The Da Vinci Code was attracting a growing number of visitors to Rosslyn Chapel.

First a book by Dan Brown, then a Hollywood film, it drew thousands from around the globe to this historic, crumbling building in Midlothian.

Reporters like myself were often sent out to see what was happening and I spent a lot of time at the chapel.

A decade later, I was keen to find whether it still held the same attraction.

Tom Hanks, Audrey Tautou and the trappings of Hollywood have long gone from this corner of Midlothian but have they left their mark?

image copyrightAP
image captionTom Hanks and Audrey Tautou starred in the hit Hollywood film
image captionAround 80 million copies of Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code have been sold worldwide

I picked a day to visit to try to find out. Not a weekend or a holiday. Just an ordinary day of the week - cold and windy.

Back in the mid-2000s, the roof was covered to protect it from the elements and there was a small shop.

I remember it was always cold inside the chapel, bitterly cold, even on a warm summer's day. Once inside, the carvings were breathtaking and awe inspiring.

Now the roof is revealed after many years of being covered over for repairs.

There is now a new visitor centre and a steady stream of tourists eager to see inside.

image captionHelen, Countess of Rosslyn, is 'very grateful' to the Da Vinci Code and Dan Brown

Helen, the Countess of Rosslyn, remembers when Tinseltown came to stay - and never seemed to leave.

"For that reason we are very grateful to the Da Vinci Code and Dan Brown," she said.

"What I like to think is that this is another moment in the chapel's long history.

"It was built in the 15th century and what happened at the beginning of the 19th century is very similar to what's happening now.

"It had become rather derelict, badly needed attention and Sir Walter Scott wrote a book, The Lay of the Last Minstrel, which again took one of the chapel's legends as its main point and it had a very similar effect.

"Suddenly people wanted to come to Rosslyn Chapel and that kick-started a whole conservation programme in the 19th century too.

"So the history of the building goes in cycles like that and it's rather lovely that we are just witnessing this latest, very positive chapter."

image copyrightSony/ap

In numbers: when Hollywood comes to Scotland

  • Braveheart (1995) The Wallace Monument in Stirling saw visitor numbers leap from 80,000 a year to nearly 200,000 in 1996.
  • Skyfall (2012) The 23rd film in the James Bond franchise was great news for Glen Coe. Statistics from the National Trust for Scotland revealed that 114,298 people visited the region in 2013/14 - up almost 42% on 2012/13.
  • Outlander (2014) Doune Castle, near Stirling, doubled for Castle Leoch in the hit television series. From June to August 2015, it saw an overall rise in visitor numbers of 44%, to 32,540.

The tour guides talk of the deteriorating condition of the chapel, problems with the roof and then "a little miracle happened".

That miracle was Dan Brown and then Tom Hanks.

Visitor numbers rocketed from 34,000 in 2001 to 176,000 in 2006 - the year the film came out. Today numbers still stand at more than 150,000.

And it's not just the Da Vinci Code effect: around 40% of visitors to the UK say they were influenced by what they saw on television or film.

Silver screen

Tom Maxwell, of VisitScotland, said: "We've had so many amazing iconic scenes of Scotland on the silver screen over the years.

"You've got the Forth Bridge included in "The 39 steps", the west sands of St Andrews featured in "Chariots of Fire".

"Coming right up to the modern day you've got Glencoe which is featured in "Skyfall" the James Bond movie and also "Brave" where the main inspiration for the family castle is Dunnottar near Stonehaven."

The power of the silver screen helped repair the roof at Rosslyn and there is new heating - so the chapel I remember visiting 10 years ago is now warm!

image captionRosslyn chapel has been transformed by the Da Vinci Code

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