A CENTRE dedicated to Scotland's most famous explorer is to be transformed into a leading heritage attraction thanks to £3.5 million of lottery funding.

The David Livingstone Centre in Blantyre has been given an initial grant of £334,000 to help develop the project to the next stage.

It's part of a bid to raise the profile of one of the country's most unsung heroes, who is better known in Africa than in his native Scotland, for his missionary and health work.

The building in Shuttle Row, where Dr Livingstone was born in 1813, will be completely refurbished as part of the project, managed by the DL Trust and supported by its partners, the National Trust for Scotland and South Lanarkshire Council.

As well as opening up the existing collections and creating a dynamic new tourist attraction, the aim is to turn the museum into a centre for research supporting community regeneration and international development.

Chairwoman of the David Livingstone Trust, Dr Isabel Bruce, said: "David Livingstone was a remarkable man who lived his life of education, exploration and missionary endeavour to the full, and is warmly known by many Africans as a visionary because of his views on their potential for self-development and his respect for their human rights.

"In spite of the recent bicentenary events to mark his birth, it is still fair to say that today he is better remembered in Africa than he is in Scotland.

"This project gives us the opportunity to reawaken his story and provide the memorial he deserves in Scotland, while enhancing his international legacy."

Colin McLean, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund in Scotland, said: "The life of David Livingstone is both incredible and inspirational yet his pioneering work is recognised more in Africa than it is in Scotland.

"Thanks to National Lottery players, we are delighted to support the development of a project which will allow us to celebrate this rich heritage. It will put David Livingstone's birthplace on the world's stage as a tourist destination and valuable education resource."

South Lanarkshire Council Provost Eileen Logan said: "This is a centre of excellence at a local, national and international level, preserving the history of an area and a time in which David Livingstone's character and international standing was cultivated."

Rev Kenneth Ross of the Scotland Malawi Partnership said: "Since David Livingstone first arrived in what became Malawi, our two nations have enjoyed a close relationship.

"Scotland's many civic links with Malawi date back 156 years and more than 94,000 Scots are now involved so we are absolutely delighted to learn of this Heritage Lottery Fund support for the David Livingstone Centre."

Today, an estimated 46 per cent of Scots personally know someone with a link to Malawi.

Rev Ross added: "These contemporary civic links with Malawi are the living legacy of Dr Livingstone and for this reason Livingstone is warmly remembered in both our nations."