When life throws a curveball, sometimes all it takes is a simple glance at the world to re-establish that sense of innovation and joy. Museums are a good place to start. These wonder-cabinets preserve all facets of humanity from ancient civilisations to off-kilter pockets of society. Step away from the status quo and divert your energy towards Scotland’s more unusual museums.
HM Frigate Unicorn
Not to be outshone by Dundee’s star attraction the RRS Discovery, HM Frigate Unicorn is an absolute beauty and one of the oldest surviving wooden warships out there. Built in 1824, this ship now serves as a museum and is embellished with a unicorn, Scotland’s national animal and longtime Scottish heraldic symbol. Protected and admired, HMS Unicorn is praised for her well-preserved features.
The Devil’s Porridge Museum
Located in the Scottish Borders, the modern exterior of the Devil’s Porridge Museum houses exhibits narrating the area’s wartime past, from soldiers in the trenches to female munitions workers. Equipped with a wealth of interactives and thematic displays, this family-friendly museum places strong focus on preserving the voices of the women who worked at HM Factory Gretna. The name ‘Devil’s Porridge’ was coined by Sherlock Holmes author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and refers to the guncotton substance mixed and kneaded by the factory girls.
Ruthwell Savings Banks Museum
Housed in the original Ruthwell Parish Bank, the Savings Banks Museum is brimming with thought-provoking collections spanning historic home savings boxes to notable coins. Although the 18th century building is modest in size, the magnitude of what’s inside is rather impressive. It’s all thanks to the intuitive mind of Dr. Henry Duncan, who in 1810, opened the world’s first savings bank rooted in business principles.
The National Piping Centre
A sound synonymous with Scotland, the Great Highland Bagpipe has long been ingrained into the Scottish national identity. An esteemed hotbed of piping excellence, the National Piping Centre in Glasgow is the perfect host for the Museum of Piping. On display are artifacts from the coveted National Museums of Scotland collections, as well as bagpipes hailing from mainland Europe. The star of the show is the world’s oldest surviving Highland bagpipe chanter.
There’s no beating around the bush when it comes to Ship Space serving as one of Scotland’s more unusual museums, but the passion is wholeheartedly and undeniably there. Cleverly positioned by the banks of the Caledonian Canal at the Muirtown Basin, this quirky maritime museum boasts a mind boggling 1:10 scale Titanic model that even lets visitors explore inside. Adding to the interactive nature is the hodgepodge of other nautical exhibits, including a replica Nautile submarine and an old west coast creel fishing boat.
St Vigeans Sculptured Stones Museum
Tucked away on the lone street of the wee Angus village called St Vigeans, the St Vigeans Sculptured Stones Museum holds the key to 38 Pictish stones found in the vicinity of the village church. Beautifully displayed with ethereal rays of light and calming colours, the immense craftsmanship, time and skill surrounding each and every carving makes the mind boggle. Adding to the captivating ambiguity, this micro-museum opens its doors by appointment only, so make sure to plan in advance.
The John Buchan Story Museum
Based in Peebles, the John Buchan Story Museum plays to a niche audience with a passion for works by prominent Scots author, John Buchan. The brainchild behind gripping novel The Thirty-Nine Steps — which was adapted into film form by Alfred Hitchcock in 1935 — Buchan’s life and legacy are honoured through the cunning mix of collections.
Scotland’s Secret Bunker
Now a museum, Scotland’s Secret Bunker was custom fitted to secure the safety of the high heid yins of the Scottish government, should Scotland undergo a nuclear attack during the Cold War. Surreptitiously placed 100 feet underground beneath a quaint Scottish farmhouse, this concealed safe house amounts to the size of two football pitches placed atop each other. This subterranean museum boasts a BBC studio, complete with switchboard room, along with many Cold War safety protocol secrets.
The John M. Blundall Collection
Found living in Glasgow’s Mitchell Library is one of the world’s most diverse and respected puppet collections by globally adored puppet master, director and craftsman John M. Blundall. The John M. Blundall Collection or The World Through Wooden Eyes, was affectionately referred to by Blundall as his ‘Ideas Store’ and includes a plenitude of puppets (both antique and modern), puppet theatre books, 19th century trick scenery, masks from all corners of the globe and the necessary tools to craft such sentient beings.
The Museum Of Scottish Lighthouses
An enlightening experience, the Museum of Scottish Lighthouses is based at Scotland’s first ever mainland lighthouse dating back to 1787. The lighthouse in question, Kinnaird Head Lighthouse, is unique in that it was constructed through the middle of a 16th-century castle. This purpose-built museum divulges a whole host of tales relating to the Northern Lighthouse Board, the lighthouse keepers and the engineering brains behind the magic.