Striking Moffat counter helps Kelpies visitor centre cope with huge popularity of new attraction

The Kelpies’ counter is part of bold design statement

Nicola Sturgeon gave her New Year address from Scotland’s newest visitor centre – at The Kelpies near Falkirk. The iconic horses’ heads are a bold statement, too, and form part of The Helix, a £42million project which is regenerating an 800 acre park and is co-partnered by Falkirk Council, Falkirk Community Trust and Scottish Canals. Original expectations were that they would attract around 330,000 visitors a year. In the first 14 months over a million came – so a visitor centre was clearly a top priority. The popularity meant that the centre would have to be able to cope with big numbers, but would also have to reflect the Kelpies’ striking design.  At the heart of the servery area is another bold design: a bespoke counter supplied by E&R Moffat. 

“It was important that the visitor centre fitted into the landscape,” says Ben Mardell, Team leader for The Helix at Falkirk Community Trust.  “Of course, from the inside, it had to make the most of the vista.”  A competition to select the design was won by architects Nicoll Russell from Dundee. The centre’s seeded roof and wood clad walls, both inside and out, have realised the ‘landscape’ vison and the design is carried on into the striking Moffat servery, which is also wood clad. 

The Centre currently has 80 covers – in quiet periods it will cater for 150 a day.  At busy times, the figures can go up to 600.  “Clearly we need to be able to get people through as quickly as possible, while delivering a quality experience,” says Ben.  “The Moffat counter plays a huge role in achieving that.” 

Ceran hobs set into the counter provide stylish hot food stations and, along with the drop-in soup dispenser, are easy to keep clean. The two cold displays house sandwich, snacks and pastries behind striking curved glass. 

“We are part of Scotland’s Taste our Best food initiative, so ingredients are locally sourced and we focus on quality of choice rather than going for a huge range of options,” says Ben.  “The counter’s open design is a big benefit.  Of course we have queues at peak times, but the counter allows us to process customers quickly and the traffic flow is well managed.” 

Both the counters and the kitchen went through a wide range of iterations before the final designs were selected.  “We have limited space and we needed to find the best way to look after the volume of visitors.”  As well as supplying the counters, Moffat built the fabrication for both the kitchen and servery areas. “Given the numbers we are coping with, the fabrication had to be quality – it needs to be tough as well as good looking.” 

Sustainability is key to The Helix project and it’s in the process of applying for the Green Flag award.  Every aspect of the operation is carefully managed and specified, from the food waste to the underfloor heating, which is provided by a heat source system. E&R Moffat ticked the sustainability boxes for a variety of reasons. It’s a British manufacturer, in fact it is a local company, based in Bonnybridge, and the counters use a variety of ‘green’ features, such as high performance insulation and energy-saving fans. 

“It’s one thing to see the design on paper, where it can look great, it’s another to see it in situ,” says Ben. “Moffat delivered.  Despite the space we have, the Moffat counter works very well indeed and it looks great.” 

The Moffat counters were supplied through Lockhart Catering Equipment.  They were installed by Moffat – on time and within budget.