STUDENTS will try to unravel the mystery of the Da Vinci code on a new course at a Lothian college.
They will study the carvings at Rosslyn Chapel, in the village of Roslin, which inspired Dan Brown’s thriller and which many believe contain the secrets of the Holy Grail.
The course comes after a massive rise in interest in the ancient chapel since the best-selling novel was published. Visitor numbers have more than doubled most months compared with last year.
Visitscotland.com has also announced it will run themed holidays to Edinburgh and Midlothian for fans of the book.
Norah Fitzcharles, depute principal of Newbattle Abbey College, said the course - titled Searching for the Grail - would appeal to anyone interested in medieval history, as well as those who have read the Da Vinci Code.
Dr Neil Hargreaves, a lecturer in medieval history, will lead the weekend course at the college, which is built on the site of an 11th-century abbey.
Lecturers will include experts from the Knights Templar, a society based on the ancient order said to have guarded the secret of the Grail.
Mrs Fitzcharles said: "Our students will be visiting Rosslyn Chapel and they will be set the task of decoding parts of the carvings.
"Although we know what the symbols mean, the real difficulty is decoding the associations between them. We do not have a definite answer yet and different organisations have their own interpretations. Our students could come up with something new."
The course will run three times a year and is open to 20 students.
Mrs Fitzcharles said: "We have had a lot of interest already from local people.
Our students come from all over the world, and we expect to attract some European and American visitors. As it is only a short course, it could be part of a tour of Scotland."
Dan Brown’s book has sold 12 million copies worldwide. The thriller explores some of Western culture’s greatest mysteries, from the nature of the Mona Lisa’s smile to the secret of the Holy Grail.
The final part is set in Rossyln Chapel, which many believe contains ancient religious relics and a secret code which points to the Grail.
Mrs Fitzcharles said Newbattle Abbey was an ideal place to learn, as it is also linked with the legend of the Holy Grail. "It is built on the site of the ancient Cistercian Abbey which was founded in the 11th century," she said. "Wherever there were Cistercians, there were also Knights Templar.
"They were a lay group with deep religious beliefs whose task was to protect the mystery of the grail."
VisitScotland spokeswoman Kirsten Dalgety said: "We’ve not started marketing the holiday yet, but we have already had a number of calls and several bookings.
"We expect it to be even more popular when the film based on the book is released later this year."
Filming of The Da Vinci Code, starring Tom Hanks, is due to start next month, although it is not yet decided if the chapel will be used.
The course will run from June 17-19. For details, contact Mrs Fitzcharles or Jackie Kane on 0131-663 1921 or e-mail email@example.com .