Top ten places to discover Scotland’s industrial history - Things to do in Scotland

17 October 2016
| Museum of Lead Mining
Explore Scotland's industrial past with our guide to ten top industrial museums, ranging from a Victorian Colliery to a 1950s farm.

Explore Scotland's industrial past with our guide to ten top industrial museums, ranging from a Victorian Colliery to a 1950s farm. 

1. Almond Valley Heritage Centre

A museum exploring the industrial history of West Lothian, and the story of the Scottish Shale Oil industry. Former shale oil plants in the area donated industrial artefacts to the museum and the museum’s collections include company histories and records and personal histories of those connected with shale oil production.

Anyone searching for ancestors in the shale oil industry can explore the genealogy records, and there is also a library of shale oil pamphlets, publications and oral histories , much of which can be viewed online.

Almond Valley Heritage Centre, Millfield, Livingston, West Lothian EH54 7AR; tel: 01506 414957; website.

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2. Museum of Lead Mining

Located in Wanlockhead, Scotland’s highest village (1,531 feet above sea level), The Museum of Lead Mining (pictured above) offers visitors the chance to find out what life was like for miners in days gone by, the equipment that they used and their working conditions.

Walk around the village and see restored miners’ cottages showing conditions in 1750, 1850 and 1910, try your hand at panning for gold and explore Europe’s second oldest subscription library.

Museum of Lead Mining, Visitor Centre, Wanlockhead ML12 6UT; tel: 01659 74387; website.

3. Museum of Scottish Lighthouses

Discover the history of Scotland’s lighthouses on the site of Scotland’s very first lighthouse, opened in 1787 at Fraserburgh in Aberdeenshire. Explore the lighthouse, which stands amid the ruins of a 16th-century castle, and discover what life was like for the lighthouse builders and lighthouse keepers in centuries gone by.

The site is also home to a museum where you can see the largest lens collection in the UK, historic equipment used by keepers, and discover the story of the Stevenson family, who built lighthouses around Scotland in the 18th century.

Museum of Scottish Lighthouses, Kinnaird Head, Castle Terrace, Fraserburgh AB43 9DU; tel: 01346 511022; website.

4. National Mining Museum Scotland

Based in a former Victorian colliery, this museum includes a guided tour of the pithead with a former miner, an interactive zone, a machinery display including Scotland’s largest winding engine, a reference library and the National Mining Memorial Centre.

National Mining Museum Scotland, Lady Victoria Colliery, Newtongrange, Midlothian EH22 4QN; tel: 0131 663 7519; website.

5. National Museum of Rural Life

This museum and historic working farm shows how three centuries of farming and rural life have changed Scotland’s countryside. Discover what life was like in the countryside in years gone by with displays of tractors, farm machinery and harvesting tools. Tour a period 1950s working farm and watch the animals being cared for through the seasons, from caring for newborn animals to bringing in the harvest.

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

6. Prestongrange Industrial Heritage Museum

An industrial heritage museum with indoor and outdoor areas, where visitors can explore the industrial history of bygone Midlothian, with remnants of industries including shipping, pottery, mining and brickmaking.

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Exhibits include pit winding gear, a brick kiln, steam crane and beam engine. Take a guided tour and discover over 800 years of history, then explore the visitor centre and exhibitions.

Prestongrange Industrial Heritage Museum, Morrisons Haven, Prestonpans EH32 9RX; tel: 0131 653 2904; website.

7. Scottish Fisheries Museum

Discover the story of fishing in Scotland at the historic buildings which make up this harbourside museum. See nineteen historic fishing boats, including the museum’s flagship Reaper FR958 which is a restored Fife sailing herring drifter.

The site is also home to the Merchant Navy Memorial, a Memorial Room to fishermen lost at sea and a large collection of fishing related paintings.

Scottish Fisheries Museum, St Ayles, Harbour Head, Anstruther KY10 3AB; tel: 01333 310628; website.

8. Scottish Industrial Railway Centre

A living history museum where steam and diesel locomotives are restored and repaired. Discover Ayrshire’s industrial railway heritage, see historic locomotives and watch some of them at work on the lines. The museum’s star exhibit is the Fireless steam locomotive which members of the Centre recently restored to full working order.

Scottish Industrial Railway Centre, Dunaskin, Dalmellington Road, Waterside, Patna, Ayr KA6 7JH; website.

9. Scottish Maritime Museum

The Museum operates to two sites – Irvine, which has examples of historic ships, artefacts, shipbuilding machinery and machine tools; and Dumbarton, home of the Denny Ship Model Experimental Tank, built in 1882 at the height of Victorian ship building.

The Museum is home to Scotland’s national maritime collection and its treasures include Scotland’s last Scottish-built puffer, a steam yacht from 1898 and a shipworker’s 1920s tenement flat. Events and exhibitions help visitors to discover more about the country’s shipbuilding past.

Scottish Maritime Museum, The Linthouse Building, Harbour Road, Irvine KA12 8QE; tel: 01294 278283; website.

10. Sumerlee Museum of Scottish Industrial Life

An industrial museum located on the site of the old Summerlee Ironworks, which has social history and interactive displays, a replica of the world’s first iron-hulled vessel, tram rides, a guided tour down the mine shaft, and miners’ row, where visitors can see how mining families lived between the 1840s and 1980s.

Sumerlee Museum of Scottish Industrial Life, Heritage Way, Coatbridge ML5 1QD; tel: 01236 638460; website.


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Images: Museum of Lead Mining © Andy Stephenson; Museum of Scottish Lighthouses © Martyn Gorman; National Mining Museum © Kim Traynor; Prestongrange © Renata; Fisheries Museum © Jim Bayn; Maritime Museum © Rosser1954; Summerlee © Thomas Nugent.

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