THE longest-serving guide at Largs' Viking Experience says the attraction's enduring popularity shows why it must be saved.

Lesley McCormack, who has worked there since the £4.2 million facility opened its door in 1995, told the News how she has watched thousands of people come through its doors - including stars of Still Game - and says it should be invested in not closed down.

She spoke out after town councillor Tom Marshall said he believed council chiefs were looking at axing it to accommodate Largs Library.

The Viking Experience received a major boost last week after being given an extra star in its Visit Scotland recommendation rating while a petition to protect it has already gathered hundreds of signatures.

Lesley said: "The Visit Scotland recommendation is great news.

"It puts us on a par with places like Edinburgh Dungeon, Mount Stuart House and Dumbarton Castle - and firmly on the tourism map.

"Rather than considering shutting this place down, the council should be upgrading it.

"There is a big space at the cafe area that could be used for the library, rather than doing away with the Viking Experience which brings visitors from all around Scotland and around the world."

Next year will be the attraction's 25th anniversary after Changing Rooms star Carol Smillie opened it in a blaze of publicity in 1995.

Lesley said: "We have some famous faces through the doors since then. We've had both Isa (Jane McCarry) and Navid (Sanjeev Kohli) from Still Game, who both loved it. Sanjeev came with his kids and loved it, while Jane visited with her family too.

"I personally have been in the role as a Viking for 15 years and I love it.

"We help keep Largs' proud heritage and history alive."

Lesley, who also works as a part-time lifeguard at the Vikingar pool, added: "To say the visitor numbers are down is truly baffling. It seems busier than ever.

"When people come here, it's part of a wider trip to town. They go to Nardinis or take their lunch and sit at the grassy part of the Pencil. We've had schools from Stirling, Edinburgh and Gretna, it's a big draw.

"These children tell me on a daily basis that it is the best school trip they've ever been on and you can guarantee most of them will visit again with parents and the rest of the family.

"Vikingar! is much more than a visitors centre. It brings back generation after generation, boosting the local economy too.

"I agree it could do with a revamp and positive changes have already been made, including a new stage in the auditorium.That stage gets utilised by other user groups such as the comedy club and youth theatre, so this is also an important community facility."

Lesley added: "The Viking attraction has been neglected over the years - but it still has huge potential.

"Rather than close it down we should work towards a new grand re-opening to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the Viking Festival."

Within the attraction visitors have the opportunity to witness the Viking adventure first hand as storytellers recount 500 years of Largs' history. People can also experience life in a Viking longhouse, meet the Norse Gods, enjoy a film presentation and enter the Viking Hall of Knowledge with multi-media technology and exhibits.