Great Scottish Museums

Great Scottish Museums

Great Scottish Museums

National Museum of Scotland

Chambers Street, Edinburgh, EH1 1JF

Opening Hours: 10am - 5pm

Local residents are rightly proud of their museum, which is not only one of the top ten in the UK but also one of the top 20 most visited museums in the world.

It is hardly surprising that so many visit this site - they've packed a lot in under one roof. Here you can explore the diverse wonders of the natural world and the human one. As if that was not enough, this museum also allows you to delve into world cultures.

Here you can dabble in the world of art and design, puzzle out scientific and technological endeavour and get to grips all the varied strife and progress of Scottish history. 

It may be a hackneyed phrase, but this museum really does have something for everyone - even if that something is just a cake or a cup of tea at the Balcony Café.

If you would rather eat something a bit more substantial, that too you can do here. This museum has also become something of a destination for food-lovers too.

You can get an informal lunch or snack at the Museum Brasserie or a more formal sit-down meal at the Tower Restaurant, which has (rather surprisingly, considering this is a museum eatery!) become the hottest table in the city. 

The food is as good as the views at this dining destination, which is definitely a place to see and be seen! J K Rowling, Kate Winslet, Helena Bonham Carter, Catherine Zeta Jones and Joanna Lumley are all said to dine here when they are in Edinburgh.

The very best seasonal Scottish produce is prepared here - to rave reviews. Reservations are most definitely recommended! 

The restaurant is open from 10am -11pm, so you could enjoy a leisurely day looking at all the treasures downstairs before you come upstairs for a meal in the evening. 

If you have the little ones in tow, you may not be up for any fine dining. But this museum certainly knows how to cater to the needs of families with young kids and does a fine job of enthusing those of all ages and keeping them entertained.

You can put your little ones to work on a human hamster wheel to tire them out, for example. They can race a formula one car, ask a robot to spell their name, or try on some cool historical costumes. 

So, whether cultural interest and dining refinement, or a fun-filled family day out is on the cards, this is certainly one to bump up from the maybe pile and make sure you have time for while you are in Edinburgh. 

National Museum of Flight

East Fortune Airfield, B1347, North Berwick EH39 5LF 

April - October: 10am-5pm daily, November - March:Saturday and Sunday 10am-4pm

Up, up and away! Let your thoughts and imagination soar as you explore this fascinating museum, dedicated to the history and drama of aviation throughout the ages. Exhibits and experiences for the whole family cover the history of Scottish aviation from the First World War to the present day.

Here you can see a range of different aircraft, all of which have played their part in the history of powered flight since the early 20th Century.

The two transformed hangars that form the exhibition space also have a number of interactive exhibitions and experiences, all of which tell the story of aviation over the past hundred or so years. 

Visitors are free to explore the site on foot, though it is also possible to tour this expansive area aboard the Airfield Explorer. However you choose to get around, you will be treated to views of one of Europe's best collections of aircraft. 

One of the stars of the show is Scotland's Concorde, with its iconic nose cone. Forty years have passed since this Concorde took to the skies in the first BA Concorde fleet commercial passenger flight.

This is your chance to get up close to this iconic aircraft and to either imagine or re-live those early decades of jet-setting. This is of course just one of the many aircraft, both commercial and military, on display. 

Civil aircraft represented in the show are as diverse as the jobs they have done and the people or goods they have transported. Civilian aircraft have been used for many different purposes in Scotland over the last century.

The uses to which aeroplanes, autogyros and hang-gliders have been put are all represented by the various aircraft on display.

The military aircraft collection is also impressive. It charts the changing technology of aerial warfare throughout this century and the last. A new dedicated Military Aviation Hangar now tells the stories of military aircraft and air-to-air weapons from their first use in 1914 to drone attacks of the 21st Century.

A sobering yet fascinating reminder of the history of conflict, and the amazing rate of progression in the aviation industry, this museum offers a fun day out for the whole family.

National Museum of Rural Life

Wester Kittochside Philipshill Road East Kilbride, Glasgow G76 9HR 

Opening hours - 10am-5pm.

Come on down to the farm to enjoy a hearty and wholesome look at countryside living in the middle of the 20th Century at this award winning museum of rural life. Here you can take  trip down Scotland's collective memory lane and step back in time to take in the sights, sounds and smells of a working farm of the 1950s.

This farm is almost as busy as 'old MacDonalds' and houses  range of livestock: Aberdeen Angus cattle and Ayrshire cows, Tamworth pigs, Blackface sheep and Clydesdale horses can all be seen here.

As well as meeting all the animals, you will also get the chance to get to know how the other inhabitants of the farm lived - the period farmhouse is set out just as it would have been in the 1950s and you get the impression that the farmer and his wife have just popped out to do some chores and will be back in a jiffy.

Touring this building will give you a much better sense of what it was really like to live on a farm during the mid 20th Century. 

The site also has a purpose built museum building which sheds more light on how farming and rural life have changed over the last 300 or so years, and how Scotland's landscape has altered as a result of those changes.

All too often, we see the agricultural landscape around us as nothing more than a backdrop, forgetting how much of our lives and cultures are shaped by how and where the food we eat is grown and reared.

Fascinating at any time, it is also worthwhile looking out for special events that occur at the Museum of Rural Life throughout the year. Events celebrate nature and typical Scottish country crafts and traditions.

For example, in the run up to Christmas there are events showing you how to make your own wreath, or other Christmas decorations. There are  not only special things going on at Christmas - there are also always events for Easter and Halloween, as well as the annual Heavy Horse Show and Country Fair. 

National War Museum

Edinburgh Castle, Castlehill, Edinburgh EH1 2NG 

Opening Hours: Daily 10am-5pm

Opened in 1933, the National War Museum is one of the many, many reasons to pay for entry to Edinburgh Castle. Located in Hospital Square, the museum is accessed by heading past the Redcoat Cafe on the right and venturing through the archway in front of you. It is an essential component of any visit to the national monument.

The building in which the museum is located was constructed in the 1700s. It was once a former warehouse where ordnance was stored. Later, it became a military hospital. 

The museum is now run by National Museums Scotland and contains a large collection which includes many artefacts that were used by the Scottish forces over the centuries. There are also a number of paintings, including the well known work, 'Thin Red Line' by Robert Gibbs, and a research library. 

Here you can learn the stories of Scotland at war, from the battles lost and won, to the countless personal stories that came out of times of conflict.

In addition to the varied collection of artefacts, the museum also hosts a series of workshops that enhance knowledge on a range of different topics in a practical, experiential fashion. 

Amongst the highlights in this museum - a poignant reminder of the human side of military conflict - are the artworks created during the First and Second World Wars. From simple sketches to elaborate oils, these artworks portray and record all elements of wartime expression.

See also posters designed to attract Scottish people into the armed forces and reflect on how these have changed over the years. Delve deep into the more intimate details of conflict with uniforms, personal belongings and letters home that all shed more light on what life in the armed forces was like over the years.

Discover how military life evolved in the Highlands and Lowlands of Scotland and see the weapons, equipment and clothing specifically designed to meet the demands of war. 

It is not only the stories of those who went off to war which are told in this fascinating collection. See also what happened to those who defended the home front in times of war, and piece together a sense of how war has shaped this country in many different ways over the centuries.

This museum gives a context in which to view other intriguing aspects to this Scottish iconic landmark - the castle on the hill. 

Dundee Museum of Transport

10 Market Mews, Market St, Dundee DD1 3LA 

Nov-Feb - Wed, Sat, Sun, 10.30am-3.30pm, Mar-Oct - Tues - Sun, 10.30am-3.30pm

Centrally placed in the city of Dundee, the Museum of Transport is an ever-expanding museum which opened in 2014 after three years of building, renovation and preparation. It houses a varied collection of vehicles and showcases the work of transport pioneers and innovators.

Come here to learn about Dundee's tram network, railway and marine history and to enjoy a constantly changing collection of cars, commercial vehicles and buses. 

Here kids will enjoy getting up close and personal with Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, while those with an interest in the history of aviation will be fascinated by the recreation of Dundee's first flying machine.

Historical vehicles of all types are represented, and the collection is kept up to date with modern additions, including an electric vehicle.

In addition to seeing the vehicles on display here, visitors can also enjoy a series of events throughout the year. There is a varied program that reflects the diverse collection and the passions of those who have put it together.

Talks and demonstrations highlight some of the most interesting elements of the museum's collection of vehicles and allow visitors to gain a better understanding of and appreciation for Scotland's diverse transportation history.

The museum will ultimately be housed within the old Maryfield Tram Depot, though a lot restoration work is required to save the old building. This building was built as a tram shed in the early 1900s and was later used as a bus depot.

It has since been empty for some considerable time. The tram depot is on the 'buildings at risk' register and the museum has a huge task ahead of it to save this historic site. Visiting the museum in its current, temporary site will help them in their fundraising efforts for the project. 

Visiting the museum will not only be an interesting day out, therefore, but will also help to save an important part of Dundee's transport history. So take some time to see the old vehicles, have some tea and cake in the tearoom and browse the merchandise on sale in the museum's shop. 

Kelvingrove Art Museum

Argyle St, Glasgow G3 8AG 

Opening hours:10am-5pm daily.

One of Scotland's most popular attractions, Kelvingrove Art Museum underwent a huge restoration and re-opened to massive acclaim in 2006.

The museum truly is home to one of Europe's great art collections and is one of the most visited museums in the United Kingdom outside of London. The museum is free to enter and has been popular with local residents since it first opened in 1901. 

This large and impressive museum is home to twenty two themed galleries which between them display a staggering 8,000 objects. The collection is deemed to be of national significance and covers a wide range of themes, with works that vary considerably in type and antiquity. 

The collection includes one of the largest and finest collections of Dutch and Flemish art in the UK, and one of the most important collections of 19th Century works by French impressionists. Of course there is also plenty of Scottish Art, including galleries devoted to the works of the Glasgow Boys and the Scottish Colourists.

Another gallery showcases the work of Charles Rennie MacKintosh - one of Glasgow's most famous sons - and other artists of the Glasgow Style, which was so important to the Art Nouveau movement.

In addition to the varied artworks, the museum also houses exhibits on natural history, arms and armour, ancient Egypt, Scottish history and archaeology and world cultures.

The armoury collection is considered to be one of the finest private collections of European arms and armour in the world and is deemed to be of international significance. 

As well as housing its permanent collections, the museum also regularly hosts temporary exhibitions from their own collection, or travelling exhibitions from around the world. 

This museum is notable not only for the collections and exhibitions it houses but also for its architecture. The building is an attraction in its own right. It is a grade 'A' listed building designed by Simpson & Allen in a broadly Spanish baroque inspired style, which was completed in 1901. Many notable architectural and sculptural details are to be found throughout. 

One visit is barely enough to see all the treasures housed here, and a day out here should also include some time spend in Kelvingrove Park, the pleasant park grounds in which the museum is situated.

The Highland Games

The Highland Games

Crieff Hydro

Crieff Hydro