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National Museum of Scotland Review

Updated on March 1, 2018
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Lynsey enjoys travelling, and is sure to have a camera and a notebook with her wherever she goes, even in her home country, Scotland.

Edinburgh- view from the roof terrace
Edinburgh- view from the roof terrace

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As one of Edinburgh's free attractions, The National Museum of Scotland is popular with tourists and residents alike. There is something for the whole family to enjoy, and it plays host to some of the most spectacular views across the city.

The building exterior is a mix of new and old, with modern architecture meeting victorian styling, it certainly stands out. Inside, there is a vast amount of space, with lots of sections to explore. Victorian features are dominant throughout the interior, particularly within the Grand Gallery, which is built of beautiful, decorative cast iron beams which support multiple levels.

The museum is made up of 7 floors, with the top giving access to a roof terrace with spectacular city wide views. There is a free viewfinder that allows you to see many of the famous attractions all in one go! You can also see the sea on the horizon if you look for it!

There are over 20,000 objects on display within the staggering 26 galleries, and there are ever rotating special exhibitions. While I was there, there were two special exhibitions. One on Vikings, and one on the story of Dr David Livingston. I was fascinated with the Livingston exhibition as it displayed the doctors travelling equipment, as well as many of the finds he brought back from Africa.

There are various tours available to guide you through the building, and you can either choose to go it alone with a map, or take a guided tour.

If you want to take a break from all the walking, you can either relax in one of the many cafes or have a browse in the library. Either way, there are plenty of spots to take the weight off your feet!

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Weaving & TextilesIndustrial scale weavingDr Livingstone's pocket knivesOld money
Weaving & Textiles
Weaving & Textiles
Industrial scale weaving
Industrial scale weaving
Dr Livingstone's pocket knives
Dr Livingstone's pocket knives
Old money
Old money


The exhibits themselves are varied and well laid out. The whole museum has a flow through the ages, particularly when it comes to Scottish history and heritage, and I was fascinated throughout. The Museum has, by far the largest collection of artefacts of Scottish history.

From prehistoric times, the gallery is host to great examples of fossils, as well as geographical data to show how Scotland has evolved throughout the ages. You can meet your ancestors, and get a glimpse of what every day life was like in prehistoric Scotland, as well as the religeous beliefs of the time. There is also the evolution through to more recent history, such as the declaration of arbroath, and the British Union, and how all of these changes through time affected the people in Scotland. The Jacobite rising, and various battles for freedom are well documented in tapestries and pottery of the times, and there are hundreds of amazing pieces to see.

I would definitely recommend this museum to anyone who is visiting Scotland to learn of their origins and history. It is all laid out in order, in an easy to understand format, and will save hours of reading on the internet!

On the other hand, I would also recommend this museum to anyone interested in Art, Science or Architecture, as there really is something for everyone! The Ancient Egypt section is wonderful, and there is a genuine Egyptian Queen's coffin on display.

If that doesn't interest you, The Natural World section explores natural history, and looks at precious metals and gems, as well as fossils and dinosaurs!

There are various interactive exhibitions in the Science and Technology section, such as interactive robots that you can program to spell out your name, or go around an obstacle course.


Scary Stuff

Speaking of obstacle courses. One criticism that I will make about the museum, is it's utter disregard for people with a fear of heights and/ or vertigo. I have never been so scared in my life!

None of the stairs are "solid." Now, only someone with this phobia will understand what I mean: there are gaps at the edges of the stairs. Now, in any regular, non terrified mind, this won't be an issue, because you will know that the steps are structurally sound and can take your weight. In my mind, they are not stuck to the wall fully. They are held on by a steel rod, and the rest of the space shows a DROP for many floors! So, I can't use them. I physically froze when i attempted to go near them. Also, there are huge gaps in between the steps that make me utterly terrified that I might slip through the gap and plummet to my death!

Similarly, there were sections of the floor that were made of wire mesh that I could SEE THROUGH, and i certainly felt movement when I walked over it.

There were also balconies that you could walk out onto and see one of the entrances below, which was 3 floors down! The worst part is, there is no warning you are walking onto a balcony. This had my heart in my mouth!!!

There were various other design features such as glass panels on walls, and "slotted" wood panels with gaps that i totally did not appreciate! Especially when I had to sit down every few minutes from the nausea and dizziness caused by the vertigo.

While I do not in any way question the structural soundness of the building, I will say that if you have a fear of heights or vertigo, AVOID. Unless you are trying to desensitise yourself to the phobia, in that case, go ahead! But, you have been warned!

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The Grand GalleryThe more modern section of the building- scary heights!
The Grand Gallery
The Grand Gallery
The more modern section of the building- scary heights!
The more modern section of the building- scary heights!


All near death experiences or abnormal thoughts (you decide) aside, The National Museum of Scotland is truly a family friendly attraction that doesn't cost the Earth! It will entertain adults and children alike, and is a great place to spend a rainy day!

I would recommend a good couple of hours at least to give yourself plenty of time to thoroughly explore the building and it's offerings. Longer, if you have kids, because there are tonnes of exhibition pieces that will fascinate them, and I'm sure you'll have trouble dragging them away!

I would also recommend this attraction to tourists who want to discover more about the History of Scotland and it's people, as you will find all of the information here, under one roof.

Scottish History- Jacobites

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Jacobite FashionJacobite attire, complete with targe and sword
Jacobite Fashion
Jacobite Fashion
Jacobite attire, complete with targe and sword
Jacobite attire, complete with targe and sword

© 2013 Lynsey Hart


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