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Issue 40 - 10 Best Museums

Scotland Magazine Issue 40
August 2008


This article is 10 years old and some information provided may be time sensitive. Please check all details of events, tours, opening times and other information before travelling or making arrangements.

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10 Best Museums

Scotland has more interesting museums than you can shake a stick at, but which ones to visit? Liz Pickering reports

Aberdeen Maritime Museum Housed in a building that melds traditional and contemporary architecture to perfection, the Aberdeen Maritime Museum is situated at the 16th century home of Provost Ross on the historic Shiprow; no better place to celebrate the city’s long-standing love affair with the sea.

From its vast collection of ships to its displays on the craft of ship-building or the human stories surrounding the port and fisheries, this museum captures all of Aberdeen’s maritime past and inspires visitors and locals alike.

Shiprow, Aberdeen AB11 5BY Open all year, Mon to Sat 10am-5pm Sun 12noon-3pm Admission free Tel: +44 (0)1224 337 700 Argyll and Sutherland Regimental Museum Scotland has a long and bloody military history, both at home and abroad. The Argyll and Sutherland Regiment (formally the 91st Argyllshire Highlanders and the 93rd Sutherland Highlanders) has seen action around the world, including South Africa (Zululand), Palestine, Korea and India.

Based at Stirling Castle, the museum proudly acknowledges more than 200 years of the regiment’s service to its country. The collection provides a rare insight into this service and the lives of the soldiers, brought to life through its displays of uniforms, pipe banners, medals, weapons and much, much more.

The Castle, Stirling FK8 1EH Open daily, 9.30am-5pm, Easter – Sept Open daily, 10am-4.15pm, Oct – Easter Admission free Tel: +44 (0)1786 475 165 Montrose Museum Agrand and imposing building, the Montrose Museum is a wonderful example of Victorian pomp and ceremony. It was one of the first purpose built museums in Scotland, and its classical proportions and ionic columns proclaim its status as a true temple of learning.

The museum is beautiful inside as well as out, giving the visitor an old-fashioned and dignified learning experience.

The collections span thousands of years, taking you through the Neolithic and Bronze Ages, to the Pictish settlement and the local industries of Montrose Silver and Dryleys pottery. There is much to learn about the Marquis of Montrose, the Jacobite rebellion, the local militia and the whaling industry.

The art and history of Montrose are laid out for all to see, as a large and intricately woven tapestry.

PanmurePlace, Montrose DD10 8HE Open all year, Mon to Sat 10am-5pm Closed 25th/26th Dec and 1st/2nd Jan Admission free Tel: +44 (0)1674 673 232 Shetland Crofthouse Museum What was once an unexceptional and average crofthouse is now a rare example of a perfectly preserved homestead, very much of its time, offering the visitor an up-close view of crofting life on Shetland.

The crofthouse is thatched and divided into living quarters and a byre for the livestock. The man of the house would often work away at sea, fishing or whaling, while the rest of the family worked the land. The accommodation could be cramped for the three or more generations living there, pointing to the hardships and also the closeness of the families who made their home on this bleak and beautiful island.

Boddam, Dunrossness, Lerwick ZE2 9JG Open daily, 10am-1pm and 2pm-5pm, Mid Apr – 30 Sept, Closed Oct – Mid Apr Admission free Tel: +44 (0)1950 460 557 Dumfries and Galloway Aviation Museum With its focus on World War II aviation, the Dumfries and Galloway Aviation Museum is a treasure trove of flight-related war memorabilia and restored aircraft, very much at home in the control tower of the former RAF airfield at Dumfries.

The collection includes the legendary Spitfire, De Havilland Vampire and North American F- 100D, among many others. In fact, the whole museum has grown out of just two Bristol Hercules engines recovered from a crash site nearby.

Visitors get a close up view of the planes and other artefacts, and can even sit in some of the aircraft cockpits. In such a perfect setting – the control tower and the surrounding airfield with its planes and vehicles lined up – you could have stepped back in time to the 1940s, though most of us can only wonder at what the real experience would have been.

Heathhall Industrial Estate, Dumfries DG1 3PH Open Sat and Sun, 10am-5pm, Apr – Oct Open Wed-Sun, 11am-4pm, July and Aug Closed Nov – Mar Admission: Adults £3, Children and concessions £2, families £8 Tel: +44 (0)1387 251 623 Fife Folk Museum To get a real sense of the community and history of the ancient Kingdom of Fife, visit the picturesque village of Ceres and its Folk Museum.

Housed in the 17th century tollbooth and adjacent weavers’ cottages, the museum looks at all aspects of life in Fife across the ages. The collections explore the prehistory of the area, the lives and homes of the people, local crafts and craftspeople, transport and communication and the importance of agriculture.

The Fife Folk Museum exudes a strong loyalty and love for the heritage and culture of the people of Fife. This museum is not to be missed.

High Street, Ceres, Cupar, Fife KY15 5NF Open daily, 11.30am-4.30pm, Mid Apr – end Sept Closed Oct – Mid Apr Admission: Adults £2.50, concessions £2, children free Tel: +44 (0)1334 828 180 Scottish Fisheries Museum Fishing has been an essential part of life in Scotland since the first settlers arrived, and it is still inextricably connected to many towns and villages along the coast.

The 19th century saw a roaring trade in herrings, coupled with improvements in fishing techniques, boat design and other means of transport. Scotland made a lot of money from the humble herring.

Who could have predicted back then, that 200 years later the herring would be largely forgotten, and ‘worthless’ seafood like oysters and prawns would be bringing in the cash?

The museum encompasses a former fisherman’s cottage, merchant’s house, 16th century abbot’s lodge, boatyard, fishing boat gallery and courtyard. Everything about Scottish fishing is explored here, and it is well worth a visit.

St Ayles, Harbourhead, Anstruther, Fife, KY10 3AB Open Mon – Sat, 10am-5.30pm, Sun 11am – 5pm, Apr – Sept Open Mon – Sat, 10am-4.30pm, Sun 12 noon-4.30pm, Oct-Mar Admission: Adults £5, concessions £4, children under 16 free Tel: +44 (0)1333 310 628 St Mungo’s Museum of Religious Life and Art Tackling sectarianism and seeking to enhance mutual respect and understanding between the major world faiths and those with no faith at all, St Mungo’s explores and celebrates Glasgow’s diversity and the role of religion in the west of Scotland.

There is nothing quite like this anywhere else in Scotland. Across three floors and four exhibition areas, the museum displays great works of religious art such as the figure of the Hindu god Shiva (Lord of the Dance), and the Mexican Day of the Dead skeleton.

Religion and spirituality have been instrumental in shaping Scotland’s unique character, and St Mungo’s Museum of Religious Life and Art offers a fascinating insight into how Scottish beliefs have developed, and what those beliefs encompass today.

2 Castle Street, Glasgow G4 0RH Open Mon to Thurs and Sat, 10am-5pm Open Fri and Sun, 11am-5pm Admission free Tel: +44 (0)141 276 1625 National Museum of Rural Life Most museums are found in cities and towns, and visiting them might be something you do on arainy day. Not so for the National Museum of Rural Life, which is best seen in fine weather and is a great example of a 1950s farm in the countryside, complete with Georgian farmhouse, traditional farmyardand fields aplenty.

The museum’s collection explores the development of farming in Scotland, in particular the upheaval of the 18th century.

Learn about the impact the Clearances had on the landscape, the people who had been at home there, and the role of new machinery as farming fed the Industrial Revolution.

Farming is integral to Scotland, both past and present, making the National Museum of Rural Life a must-see attraction.

Wester Kittochside Philipshill Road, East Kilbride G76 9HR Open daily,10am-5pm Admission: Adults £5, concessions £4, children free (12 and under) Tel: +44 (0)131 247 4377 Scottish Mining Museum This has got to be one of the most exciting visitor attractions for anyone with an interest in huge machines, engineering brilliance and real human stories.

Just nine miles from Edinburgh, the former colliery is a fine example of a Victorian colliery building, maintained and still surviving today through its reuse as a museum.

All the guides are former miners, having abundant hands-on knowledge and colourful anecdotes to pass on. Think of whole families of Scottish mining men, who descended 500 metres into the darkness, day after day and year after year.

This museum has what all other museums have, but it also has the stamp of authenticity.

This is where it all happened, and that sense of immediacy makes the museum truly impressive.

The Scottish Mining Museum, Lady Victoria Colliery, Newtongrange, Midlothian EH22 4QN Open daily, 10am-5pm, all year Big Stuff Tours, Wed and Sun, 11am, 12.30pm and 2pm Admission: Adults £5.95, children and concessions £3.95, children and concessions group £3.50 per person Tel: +44 (0)131 663 7519

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