09 March 2015
Enjoy some of the country's lesser known gems in our guide to unusual museums around Scotland. ...
Enjoy some of the country's lesser known gems in our guide to unusual museums around Scotland.
1 SAVINGS BANKS MUSEUM
A museum (pictured above) which tells the history of savings banks, beginning with the story of Scotsman Dr Henry Duncan, who opened the world’s first savings bank in 1801. Collections include coins, bank notes, savings boxes, early home safes and books on the history of banks.
The museum also looks at the life and times of Henry Duncan, through memorabilia donated by his family, including a model of Ruthwell Cross, fossil footprints and drawings of the Dumfries & Galloway countryside.
Savings Banks Museum, Ruthwell, Dumfries DG1 4NN; tel: 01387 870640; website.
2 BLAIRS MUSEUM
Blairs Museum offers an insight into Scotland’s Catholic history, as told through the lives of prominent Catholics from history, including Mary Queen of Scots and Prince Charles Edward Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie). The collections span more than 500 years of history and include paintings, church textiles, Jacobite memorabilia and sacred silver and gold.
The museum is housed in the former St Mary’s College, a mansion and estate donated to the Catholic Church in 1829 as a training school for priests. Over the years, it was recognised as a safe place for Catholic artefacts, and when the college closed in 1986, these artefacts were moved to the museum.
Blairs Museum, South Deeside Road, Blairs, Aberdeen AB12 5YQ; tel: 01224 863767; website.
3 WHITHORN STORY VISITOR CENTRE
Explore the history of Scotland’s oldest Christian town with a museum site that comprises a priory, one of the country’s finest collections of early carved stones and a display of archaeological finds from the Whithorn region.
Artefacts include fragments of early imported glass, a twelfth-century bishop’s crozier and ring, a decorated antler comb and early pilgrim artefacts.
Whithorn Story Visitor Centre, 45-47 George Street, Whithorn, Dumfries & Galloway DG8 8NS; tel: 01988 500508; website.
4 CLAN MACPHERSON MUSEUM
Established in 1952 to tell the story of Clan Macpherson, this museum takes the visitor on a chronological tour of the clan’s involvement in Highlands history using artefacts, documents and text. An audio-visual presentation introduces the clan’s story and explains Scotland’s unique clan system.
Clan Macpherson Museum, Main Street, Newtonmore PH20 1DE; tel: 01540 673332; website.
5 ST VIGEANS MUSEUM OF CARVED STONES
An internationally important collection of Pictish carved stones forms the basis of St Vigeans Museum. The 38 carved stones once stood in the village’s old church and are among the finest examples of Pictish art in the world, with details including imps, beasts and saintly figures.
The displays include interactive exhibits and a touch-screen database that allows visitors to enjoy the finest details of these ancient monuments which were once a powerful way of transmitting Christian messages to the community.
St Vigeans Museum of Carved Stones, 3-4 Kirkstyle, St Vigeans, Arbroath DD11 4RB; tel: 01241 878756; website.
6 DEVILS PORRIDGE MUSEUM
Experience the history of the town of Gretna through the two World Wars in a museum devoted to the areas’s role in munitions. Devils Porridge was the name for the cordite produced here in World War One, which at over 1,000 tons a week was more than that produced by all the rest of the UK’s munitions factories combined.
The interactive museum tells the story of the ‘munitions girls’, HM Factory Gretna, and the lives of those who lived in the two townships that served the munitions.
Devils Porridge Museum, Annan Road, Eastriggs DG12 6TF; tel: 01461 700021; website.
7 MUSEUM OF FIRE
Edinburgh Museum of Fire is currently closed to the public and will reopen at McDonald Fire Station, subject to planning, in 2018.
Museum of Fire, 76-78 Lauriston Place, Edinburgh EH3 9DE; tel: 0131 228 2401; website.
8 THE COMMANDO MUSEUM
Established in 1993, the Commando Museum is dedicated to the history of the troops who trained in the nearby hills during World War Two. The unusual exhibits include donations from Commandos who have served in campaigns over the years, and items include a ceremonial sword, medals, insignia and a bully tin.
The Commando Museum, Spean Bridge Museum, Spean Bridge, by Fort William PH34 4ES; tel: 0800 619 9462; website.
9 SEALLAM VISITOR CENTRE
A museum and genealogy research centre on the Isle of Harris which tells the story of the history and natural environment of this Hebridean island. Permanent exhibitions explore the people and landscapes of Harris, whilst temporary exhibitions focus on the history and heritage of the area. Visitors can also explore their ancestry at the genealogy centre, which is staffed by knowledgeable volunteers.
Seallam Visitor Centre, Northon, Isle of Harris HS3 3JA; tel: 01859 520258; website.
10 SCAPA FLOW VISITOR CENTRE
Located in a former pump house, this museum explores the role the Royal Navy played at Scapa Flow during the two World Wars, when the area was an important military base and, in World War Two, a massive marine defence.
Scapa Flow Visitor Centre, Lyness, Stromness, Orkney KW16 3NT; tel: 01856 791300; website.
Images: Savings Bank Museum © Colin Kinnear; Clan MacPherson Museum © Ewan MacPherson; St Viegans © Otter; Museum of Fire © Callum Black; Scapa Flow © Peter Mattock