Last week I wrote about the latest visitor figures for the country’s leading attractions, with the National Museum of Scotland top of the pile north of the border, closely followed by Edinburgh Castle. In that post I wrote about the places on the list I hadn’t been to, all five of them. In this post, which could be a lot longer, I will write a wee bit about the ones pictured in the BBC News story and some of the others higher up the list, beginning with the National Museum.
National Museum of Scotland, Chambers Street, Edinburgh:
NMS is quite simply the best museum in Scotland and a place I’ve spent many happy hours over many years. I know people who go to spin the prayer wheels or to see particular objects but nothing else. For what it’s worth, I make a point of seeing the Millennium Clock, even though it’s now a bit more hidden away than it used to be. When I go, due to the sheer size of the place, I plan to see one floor or one section at a time. Any more and I get a sensory overload. My last visit was on a busy January Sunday and my best moments were in the quieter Scottish section, in the midst of steam engines, lighthouses and Pictish stones.
Edinburgh Castle, Castlehill, Edinburgh:
I have a love-hate relationship with Edinburgh Castle. It is always absolutely jumping and is also done to death by our tourism industry. There are nicer and more interesting castles in Scotland, even in Edinburgh. But it’s the location. It is home to the Crown Jewels, the Scottish National War Memorial and the National War Museum. It also has a fine cafe where I used to sit and study, taking advantage of my Historic Scotland membership to get one of the best views in town.
Stirling Castle, Esplanade, Stirling:
I like Stirling Castle a lot. It is still quite touristy but it is far and away the best big castle in Scotland. It is, like Edinburgh, made by its setting. The view is stunning from every angle for on a good day you can see for miles to mountains, lowland towns and much else in between. It also has the Palace with its fine sculptures, a Great Hall with yellow harling and the Chapel Royal. Mostly it has the best perspective over central Scotland. Argyll’s Lodging, formerly a military hospital, is just down the hill and is worth a look too. You can get a tour from the Castle.
Another Stirling-related post from the blog archives is the handily-titled Stirling.
Urquhart Castle, Drumnadrochit:
Urquhart has a tower house and some ruins. Anywhere else in the country it wouldn’t be of much interest. But it is right by Loch Ness and so it is mobbed year round. It is beautiful, mind, and I love ruined castles so it would never be bad. The last time I was there a fighter jet flew low overhead and I instinctively ducked, owing to the massive sensory overload I was getting and also as it was extremely low. Some Germans laughed.
Skara Brae, Sandwick, Stromness:
I first heard about Skara Brae when I was in first year at high school. It is a prehistoric village with some houses built around 5000 years ago. It was lost for centuries until it was revealed by a particularly bad storm in the 1850s. Orkney is amazing but Skara Brae even more so, revealing how earlier societies lived and how they weren’t so dissimilar to us, even while some of the details remain obscure.
National Museum of Flight, East Fortune:
East Fortune is about 12 miles from Dunbar so I know it well. There was a market on the airfield each Sunday which I visited often as some of my relatives ran a snack van. The Museum of Flight is interesting. It isn’t a place I would visit every year but it has a lot of intriguing exhibits, including a Concorde. My one East Fortune story is when they brought the Concorde up from Heathrow. They brought it on a barge up the Thames then up the east coast of England, landing it at Torness. It was brought along the new A1 then across the fields to East Fortune. It made the national news, this exciting spectacle, though famously the never knowingly overfilled East Lothian Courier said it would only cover the Concorde ‘if it had space’.
At some other point, I will write up wee reviews of some of the other places lower down the list, the likes of St. Andrews Castle, Culzean, Fort George and Gladstone’s Land. We are blessed in Scotland by how many interesting places we have on our doorstep, or near enough our doorstep. I look forward to renewing my acquaintance with more than a few of them and getting to know some new ones along the way.