Top ten rural life museums in Scotland – things to do in Scotland

01 August 2023
Restored farm building at Auchindrain Township
Find out more about the rural lives of our ancestors with our guide to ten top farming museums in Scotland.

Find out more about the rural lives of our ancestors with our guide to ten top farming museums in Scotland.
For thousands of years, farming has been a way of life across Scotland and before the coming of the Industrial Revolution, the majority of people were involved in farming and agriculture, whether as farmers, tenants or agricultural workers.

Our guide to farming museums shows you the different places where you can get a taste of rural life in bygone Scotland and find out more about the machinery our ancestors used and what their homes and farms would have been like.

1 Aberdeenshire Farming Museum

A museum which aims to bring to life farming in bygone north east Scotland. The attraction is part of the Aden Country Park and covers the history of farming through exhibitions and living history.

Weel Vrocht Grun (which means well-worked ground) is the museum’s main exhibition and tells the story of how farming in the north east developed from the 1700s onwards. You can also learn the story of the estate’s farmers, landowners, tenants and groundsmen in the Aden Estate Story exhibition. Finally, the Horseman’s House is a re-creation of a 1920 horseman’s home, a gable end house which, although it looks basic, was considered to be substantial accommodation at the time it was used.

Aberdeenshire Farming Museum, Aden Country Park, Station Road, Mintlaw, Aberdeenshire AB42 5FQ; tel: 01771 622807.

2 Auchindrain Township

Auchindrain is a rare surviving example of a way of life which was common in Scotland for centuries. The country was once home to thousands of townships, where groups of families worked together to farm their land. Auchindrain was the last such township to survive, until 1963, and now visitors can explore the township and find what life was like here. You can wander around and explore barns, outbuildings and houses, and also visit the tearoom.

Auchindrain Township, Auchindrain, Furnace, Inveraray PA32 8XN; tel: 01499 500235.

3 Aultlarie Farm

Aultlarie Farm is an early nineteenth century building which has been transformed into a farm of the 1930s, as part of the Highland Folk Museum. Explore the dairy, stable, cattle byre and barn as you absorb the story of the Grant family, who lived on the estate for almost a century.

Highland Folk Museum, Kingussie Road, Newtonmore, PH20 1AY; tel: 01540 673551.


4 Corrigall Farm Museum

A traditional ‘but and ben’ house which portrays farming life in Orkney in Victorian times. Visitors can explore the working barn, grain kiln and horse-drawn machinery, and see the farm’s livestock.

Corrigall Farm Museum, Harray, Orkney KW17 2JR; tel: 01856 771411.

5 Ellisland Farm

Ellisland Farm has connections to Robert Burns as it was here that the poet lived from the age of 29, at the height of his literary career. The farm provides a look back at farming life two centuries ago and you after exploring the farmhouse and museum (which holds some of Burns’s writing and possessions), you can wander the countryside that inspired some of Burns’s best loved nature poems.

Ellisland Farm, Holywood Road, Auldgirth, Dumfries DG2 0RP; tel: 01387 740426.

6 Kirbuster Farm Museum

Opened to the public in 1986, Kirbuster is northern Europe’s last remaining example of a traditional firehoose. The house has a unique stone neuk bed, Edwardian parlour and Victorian garden whilst farming implements are on display in the farm shed.

Kirbuster Farm Museum, Birsay, Orkney KW17 2LR; tel: 01856 771268.

7 Laidhay Croft Museum

A 200-year-old rush thatched Caithness crofthouse which shows visitors what crofting life was like centuries ago. Visitors can enter the croft house and also see the stable and byre, as well as a barn with original cruck roof. The museum also houses a large collection of farming implements.

Laidhay Croft Museum, Laidhay, Dunbeath, Caithness KW6 6EH; tel: 07563 702321.

8 Museum of Farming Life

Located within the Pitmedden Garden in Aberdeenshire, the Museum of Farming Life shows visitors what life was like for Aberdeenshire farmers and labourers, through a collection of farming implements and domestic and agricultural artefacts from a bygone age.

Museum of Farming Life, Pitmedden, Ellon, Aberdeenshire AB41 7PD; tel: 0844 493 2177.

9 National Museum of Rural Life

A museum and historic working farm which is open throughout the year and runs a round the seasons event programme of indoor and outdoor events. The attraction comprises a museum dedicated to 300 years of farming and a working 1950s farm. See how machinery such as combine harvesters, threshers and tractors transformed rural life and then tour the period farmhouse in the 1950s farm which is home to a herd of dairy cows as well as Aberdeen Angus cattle and Tamworth pigs.

National Museum of Rural Life, Wester Kittochside, Philipshill Road, East Kilbride G76 9HR; tel: 0300 123 6789.

10 Skye Museum of Island Life

A township of preserved homes on the island of Skye, each of which depicts island life at the end of the nineteenth century. These croft houses were built to withstand even the harshest winter weather and despite their basic nature, offered welcome shelter to the people of the township, who spent much of their days outdoors.

The barn contains a large collection of farming implements, many of which are over 100 years old and some of which would have been made by the village blacksmith.

Skye Museum of Island Life, Kilmuir, by Portree, Isle of Skye IV51 9UE; tel: 01470 552206.

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(Originally published September 2014. Reviewed August 2023)