DEEP down below the picturesque and peaceful rolling hills of Fife lies a historic tourist attraction unlike any other.
Scotland’s Secret Bunker celebrates 25 years of being open to the public next year, and more and more people are discovering its fascinating history on a real day out with a difference. The vast subterranean complex was designed and created in 1951 to withstand a nuclear attack.
It first served time as a manned RAF station, monitoring NATO air space, then, from 1958, civil defence forces moved in to ready the bunker to become a regional seat of government in the worst-case scenario. Edinburgh-based officials would have been evacuated to the facility to run Scotland in the days and months following a nuclear attack.
The underground outpost continued in this role ascommand centre in waiting for the rest of the Cold War and was only decommissioned in 1992.
Today, as when it was originally completed, visitors suspect little on first approach. All there is to see on the surface is a traditional Scottish farmhouse, designed to disguise the bunker’s entrance. Underneath the innocent structure is a tunnel leading downwards, through mimpressive blast doors, to a large network of operations rooms.
Kirsty Weir, marketing manager for the Secret Bunker, says: “As you walk down the tunnel there is a real sense of foreboding. Fife is renowned for being a peaceful area and you can’t imagine that there are three levels, each the size of a football pitch, under the rolling farmland.
“We get people from all over the world, whether they have come specifically to see it or are holidaying in the area and fancy a day out with a difference.
“We have a lot of retired military visitors from the UK and the US too – who find it fascinating.”
Weir says that children in particular are amazed by the complex. “If kids are into video games then they love it, as it feels like they are on the set of some virtual reality game. We do actually get film and television crews using it as a location.”
The Secret Bunker closes in the off season but hosts private parties, corporate trips and even weddings – there is even a chapel in the complex so it would make for a very interesting place to get hitched.
Weir observes: “We have a mess cafe and a cinema down there, as it was designed to be lived in for months. So the facilities lend themselves to being used in all sorts of imaginative ways.”
Some 40,000 visitors a year make the journey to the Secret Bunker and Weir reveals that it is particularly busy when the weather outside is less than brilliant.
She says: “This is such a lovely area for a holiday, with beaches and golf courses, but on wet days, this is the best day out for staying out of the rain.”