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Issue 55 - 10 Best Curious Collections

Scotland Magazine Issue 55
February 2011


This article is 7 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 Curious Collections

Keith Fergus takes us through the doors of some of Scotland's smaller museums

Dalbeattie Museum
81 High Street, Dalbeattie,
Galloway, DG5 4BS
Dalbeattie, which lies about 20 miles from
Dumfries in Galloway, is often referred to as ‘the
granite burgh’ because of its abundance of quality
granite. This granite has been utilised in streets
and buildings across the world including the
Thames embankment, Liverpool’s Mersey Docks
and, more exotically, a church on the Sea of Galilee
and a lighthouse in Sri Lanka. Furthermore, the
many mills that used to provide key employment
for the town, a harbour used by many vessels as
they traded between major ports such as
Liverpool, and not forgetting the strong links the
town has with the Titanic, means that Dalbeattie
has always punched above its weight.

2 Arran Heritage Museum
Rosaburn, Brodick, Isle of Arran,
KA27 8DP
One of the many appealing aspects of the Arran
Heritage Museum, which lies on the outskirts of
Brodick and only minutes from the ferry terminal,
is that it is based outside as well as inside. This
superb little museum gives a wonderful idea of
island life, its history, genealogy and geology. One
feature is the information regarding the clearances
that took place on Arran during the 1800s, a story
that is not widely known. The wonderful
whitewashed buildings are home to the likes of a
schoolroom, a post office and a cottage. The old
smiddy is evocative of a bygone age while the
garden is home to a variety of agricultural
equipment, which has been crucial to the evolution
and development not just of Arran but many
similar islands along Scotland’s west coast.

3 Dalgarven Mill
Kilwinning, Ayrshire, KA13 6PL
Across rural Scotland, particularly in the 19th
and early 20th centuries, the majority of towns and
villages had a mill, which was at the centre of the
community providing it with, not just the likes of
flour and oats, but also employment. Dalgarven
Mill, a few miles from Kilwinning in the heart of
Ayrshire, grants a superb window into rural life, its
customs, its trades and the sense of community
that had to exist for such villages to survive. There
has been a mill here since the 11th century when
Dalgarven was a Waulk Mill for Kilwinning Abbey
with a grain and flour mill being built in the 15th
century. A fire decimated the mills and
surrounding infrastructure in 1869 but were
rebuilt and the subsequent buildings are now
home to the museum.

4 Black Watch Museum
Balhousie Castle, Hay Street, Perth,
A trip to Perth would not be complete without a
visit to Balhousie Castle, headquarters of the Black
Watch regiment and home to the superb Black
Watch Museum. Several rooms accommodate a
vast array of military paraphernalia, which richly
illustrate the heritage of Scotland’s oldest
Highland Regiment, from the Battle of Fontenoy
in 1745 to the Battle for Iraq in 2003. Near to
North Inch and the River Tay within beautiful
gardens Balhousie Castle dates back to around the
12th century although the castle in its present form
dates from the mid 19th century. It houses an
amazing collection of artefacts, paintings and
photographs all illustrating the crucial role the
Black Watch has played in many battles.

5 Scottish Mining Museum
Lady Victoria Colliery, Newtongrange,
Midlothian, EH22 4QN
The history of coal mining in Scotland dates
back to the 12th century but it was the industrial
revolution, in particular the development of James
Watt’s steam engine and then the growth of the
railway, that the demand for coal increased
significantly. Scotland had numerous collieries,
one being the Lady Victoria Colliery, on the
outskirts of Edinburgh, which is now home to the
excellent Scottish Mining Museum. The colliery
was opened in the late 19th century becoming one
of the country’s finest mines and, at its peak, had a
workforce of nearly 2000. However like many of
Scotland’s coal mines in the 1980s the political
climate was not kind to Lady Victoria Colliery and
it closed in 1981. Its buildings and heritage
provided the basis of the museum which opened in
1984 and has since, through a superb visitor centre
and guided tours, revealed to thousands of visitors
the arduous life of a miner and the vital role mining
played in Scotland’s recent development.

6 Scottish Fisheries Museum
St Ayles, Harbourhead, Anstruther,
Fife, KY10 3AB
Like mining, the history of fishing in Scotland
dates back many centuries. Therefore villages
established themselves around Scotland’s coast
which was rich in marine life. The East Neuk of
Fife has enduring links with the sea and
Anstruther, with its historic harbour, is the perfect
place to accommodate the Scottish Fisheries
Museum, which opened here in 1969. In those 42
years this terrific museum has grown and now has
an amazing display of galleries, which detail the
many ages, and facets of the fishing industry over
the centuries. The museum also has a magnificent
78-foot Zulu fishing vessel, which, due to their
manoeuvrability and speed, was extremely
popular in the early 20th century along Scotland’s
east coast.

7 Auchindrain Open Air
by Inveraray, Argyll, PA32 8XN
As you drive along the A83 between Inveraray
and Lochgilphead there is a scattering of
whitewashed, red-roofed and thatched cottages
which go some way to giving an impression of what
much of this landscape would have looked like
around the turn of the 19th century. The buildings
make up the wonderful Auchindrain Township, an
open air museum that allows visitors to walk
through the village, enter the cottages and byres
offering a real sense of how people lived and the
hardships they endured. To visit McCallum’s
House, home of Eddie McCallum who was
Auchindrain’s last resident, or the small but
fascinating Bell Pol’s cottage offers a unique and
enthralling porthole to the past.

8 Kilmartin House Museum
Kilmartin, Argyll , PA31 8RQ
Kilmartin Glen, which lies a few miles north of
Lochgilphead near to the small village of
Kilmartin, has an amazing historical heritage with
around 350 historical monuments, including
standing stones, rock carvings and burial cairns
within six miles of Kilmartin. The glen is also
home to the fortress of Dunadd, which is believed
to be the capital of the ancient kingdom of Dal
Riata (the Gaelic Kingdom of Western Scotland).
The museum opened in 1997 to provide a centre
to focus attention on the area and to provide one
home for the artifacts, which are of international
importance. Using a variety of audio-visual
presentations and with a superb array of
archeological collections the visitor is able to
acquire a sense of Kilmartin Glen’s significance.

9 Highland Folk Museum
Kingussie Road, Newtonmore
PH20 1AY
Utilising the magnificent surroundings of the
Cairngorm National Park the open air Highland
Folk Museum in Newtonmore provides a fantastic
window into 200 years of rural communities from
the 17th to 19th centuries. The centerpiece is the
wonderful open air township which uses people,
wearing costumes from the period who provide
working demonstrations, and re-created buildings
to give an incredibly realistic idea of what life in a
highland township was like. Other aspects of the
museum include a post office from the 1930’s, a
school, a wartime kitchen and a shepherd’s bothy,
all of which give tangible evidence of highland life.
The Highland Folk Museum was opened in 1995
with its reputation growing year on year
culminating in being awarded the Association of
Scottish Visitor Attractions “Best Visitor
Experience” Award 2010.

10 Museum of Scottish
Kinnaird Head, Stevenson
Road, Fraserburgh AB43 9DU
The Lighthouse Stevenson’s, who included
Robert and his sons David, Alan and Thomas,
were all lighthouse engineers par excellence and
their magnificent lighthouse designs are renowned
worldwide including, Bell Rock, Ardnamurchan
Point and Turnberry. Circumnavigating
Scotland’s incredibly serrated coastline these
lighthouses have warned countless boats of danger
and provided crucial confirmation of a boats
whereabouts for centuries. The story of the
lighthouses, the designers and the lighthouse
keepers who kept the light turning can be
discovered at the Museum of Scottish Lighthouses
in Fraserburgh on Scotland’s northeast coast. A
collection of stories, documents, artifacts and
photographs presents an engrossing account of
lighthouses and the people who served them.