Scottish Museums you need to know about
Enjoy a visit to a museum you haven’t yet explored with our pick of independent museums around Scotland.
Scotland is home to hundreds of museum, both large and small, many of which depend upon the work of staff and volunteers. Discover a range of museums you might not yet have visited, with these suggestions contributed by History Scotland readers and followers.
Grampian Transport Museum
Explore the history of transport with hundreds of exhibits, from 17th-century chariots to some of the fastest cars ever made. Many of the exhibits are hands-on and visitors even have the chance to ride on some of them. Events are held throughout the year, as well as a changing programme of exhibitions.
Alford, Aberdeenshire, AB33 8AE; website
Savings Bank Museum, Dumfries
This historic building is home to the world’s first savings bank, created by Dr Henry Duncan in 1810, allowing ordinary people access to a bank account for the first time. The museum tells the story of banking, with a collection of early home savings boxes, coins and bank notes from around the world. Visitors can also learn the story of Dr Duncan’s life, with displays on his achievements and interests.
2 Thwaite Cottages, Ruthwell, Dumfries DG1 4NN; website.
Leadhills Miners’ Library, Lanarkshire
Founded in 1741, Leadhills Miners’ Library is the oldest subscription library in the UK, set up by 21 miners, a minister and schoolmaster. The museum tells the story of the library and its members and visitors can see many of those first volumes acquired by the original members. As well as the book collection there is a display of rare minerals unique to the area.
Leadhills Miner's Library encompasses three organisations: The Leadhills Heritage Trust, The Miner's Library Committee and The Leadhills Reading Society.
15 Main Street, Leadhills ML12 6XP; website.
St Andrews Preservation Trust Museum
Housed in a 17th-century building, this small museum is run by St Andrews Preservation Trust and houses re-creations of old St Andrews shops and buildings, including a chemist’s shop and a grocers. The Trust runs temporary exhibitions at the museum on topics including local history, business, fashion and the fishing industry, and visitors are welcome to explore the adjoining garden.
12 North Street, St Andrews KY16 9PW; website
Tarbat Discovery Centre
Explore the story behind finds made at this site through the Tarbat Discovery Programme from University of York, excavated under the leadership of Professor Martin Carver for fourteen seasons, ending in 2007.
Carved stones and cross-slabs can be seen, along with a Viking silver hoard, plus plenty of information to help put the finds into context. The on-site discovery centre has physical and online resources to study, as well as graveyards and information on local history.
Tarbatness Road, Portmahomack, Tain IV20 1YA; website.
Museum of the Isles
Armadale Castle, Isle of Skye is the home of Museum of the Isles, exploring the history of the highlands and islands through the story of its most powerful clan – Clan Donald. Six galleries take visitors through 1500 years of history and culture in the Kingdom of the Isles and there is also an events programme for visitors of all ages.
There is also a library and archive with thousands of volumes on tartans, Highland dress and clan histories. To use the archive or for help in tracing your ancestors, please contact the centre before your visit.
Armadale, Sleat, Isle of Skye IV45 8RS; website
A museum with artefacts, printings, paintings and photographs relating to the history of Dunblane Cathedral and the town of Dunblane, as well as one of the largest collections of communion tokens in Scotland.
See documents from the 17th century through to the modern day and artefacts including Bronze Age axe heads, a 4,000-year-old cannel coal necklace and artefacts relating to tennis champions Jamie Murray and Andy Murray.
The Cross, Dunblane, Perthshire FK15 0AQ; website
This historic building on Stonehaven’s historic harbour front was once the town’s tollbooth, founded in the 16th century as a storehouse for nearby Dunnottar Castle. After 1624, the building became at the heart of life in Stonehaven with official town business carried out there, and the downstairs acting as a prison.
Today’s visitors can explore what life was like in Stonehaven in centuries and see the place where prisoners were kept.
Old Pier, Stonehaven Harbour, Aberdeenshire AB39 2JU; website
Alford Heritage Museum
Founded in 1991, the museum aims to educate visitors about the traditional way of life that operated in Aberdeenshire in centuries gone by. Discover how people lived in north east Scotland (and especially rural areas) in bygone times.
3 Mart Road, Alford, Aberdeenshire AB33 8BZ; website
Mull Museum, Tobermory
Explore the history of the Isle of Mull at this small museum, located on Tobermory Main Street. The museum has extensive archives relating to life on Mull and visitors can explore a range of artefacts including wartime, agricultural and social.
Columba Buildings, Main Street, Tobermory, Isle of Mull PA75 6NY; website
Blairs Museum, Aberdeen
The Museum of Scotland’s Catholic Heritage holds nationally and internationally important artefacts and provides an insight into Scotland’s Catholic heritage, with exhibits spanning 500 years. Paintings, Jacobite memorabilia, sacred silver and gold are some of the precious items cared for here.
South Deeside Road, Blairs, Aberdeenshire AB12 5YQ; website
Military Museum, Kirknewton
Billed as Scotland’s newest museum (as of July 2019), Military Museum is a hands-on museum where visitors are able to handle the majority of exhibits. The museum spans World War I to the present day and also offers a drop-in centre for military veterans.
Legion Hall, Louis Braille Ave, Wilkieston, Kirknewton, Midlothian EH27 8DU; website
Broughty Castle Museum
15th-century Broughty Castle has faced many sieges and battles over the years, and offers today’s visitors the chance to find out more about the people, environment and wildlife of this area. Enjoy the views from the castle tower, see more than 30 paintings by renowned artist James Guthrie Orchar and learn the story of the castle’s role in Britain’s coastal defences.
Castle Approach, Broughty Ferry, Dundee DD5 2TF; website
Kildonan Museum, Isle of Uist
The Kildonan Museum and Cultural Centre in South Uist is a heritage and cultural amenity which includes a museum, a craft shop, a Fèis room for ceilidhs, music and dance, a café and an archaeology room.
The museum (Taigh Tasgaidh Chill Donnain) is managed by South Uist Historical Trust and is fully accredited with Museums Galleries Scotland.
Isle of South Uist HS8 5RZ; website.
(image copyrights from top: Geni; Tarbat Discovery Centre, S Rae; Dunblane Museum, Graham Laird)