They say the best things in life are free… and that’s especially true when it comes to museums. Particularly when you are bringing children, entry prices can soon rack up, so it’s a relief to have so many excellent free museums across Scotland. Here’s a round-up of the best.

1. Rozelle House Galleries, Ayrshire

Rozelle Park, Ayr

Open Monday-Saturday, 10am– 5pm, Sunday, 12pm– 5pm

01292 445447

This imposing mansion was once home to the Hamilton family, who made their fortune in sugar and tobacco. The house now serves a much more altruistic purpose: as a gallery gifted to Royal Burgh of Ayr for local people to enjoy. The exhibitions inside change on a regular basis, featuring art, sculpture, photography and local history displays, and a permanent section dedicated to the legendary story of Tam O Shanter.

2. Aberdeen Maritime Museum

Shiprow, Aberdeen

Open Monday-Saturday, 10am-5pm and Sunday, 12pm -3pm

01224 337700

Situated on the historic Shiprow, this museum charts Aberdeen’s relationship with the sea – and has a great view of the harbour to boot. It has exhibitions about fishing and shipbuilding, as well as an interesting section devoted to North Sea oil and its place in the life of the city. There are touchscreen consoles and hands-on exhibits on display, so younger visitors should be kept busy.

3. Broughty Castle Museum

Castle Approach, Broughty Ferry, Dundee

Open Monday-Saturday, 10am-4pm, Sunday, 12.30pm-4pm

01382 436916

This castle is one of the most enduring images of Broughty Ferry, and so it is fitting that the museum pays homage to the history and spirit of the area. Standing at the mouth of the River Tay, the castle has an observation point that gives great views of the water below – and even the chance to spot a dolphin or two.

4. Highland Folk Museum

Aultlarie Croft, Kingussie Rd, Newtonmore

Open every day, 10.30am- 5.30pm

01540 673551

As the first open air museum in Britain, this experience allows you to wander around buildings showing the history of the local population: starting with a 16th century Highland township and ending with a working croft. You can take at least a few hours to explore the site, soaking in the atmosphere with live actors and a beautiful surrounding area. There is plenty of space for children to run around in, and also a playground to keep them occupied. One for all the family. There's even a working historic train line.

5. Museum of Childhood, Edinburgh

42 High Street, Royal Mile, Edinburgh

Monday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 10am- 5pm, Sunday 12pm-5pm

0131 529 4142

This newly refurbished museum is a real walk down memory lane, with toys and games from decades gone by to give you a sense of nostalgia (and make you feel old). Highlights include a Fisher-Price Chatter Telephone from 1979, a hands-on puppet theatre and an original Gameboy.

6. St Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art, Glasgow

2 Castle St, Glasgow

Open Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday 10am-5pm, and Friday and Sunday 11am-5pm

0141 276 1625

Named after Glasgow’s patron saint (who brought Christianity to Scotland in the sixth century), this museum captures the importance of religion across the centuries. Expect works of art and objects that reflect a variety of different religions – aiming to promote understanding and respect between people of different faiths.

7. Shetland Museum and Archives

Hays Dock, Lerwick, Shetland

Open Monday-Saturday, 10am-4pm, Sunday, 12pm- 5pm

01595 695057

A great introduction to the island, this museum gives a round up of the rich heritage and culture of Shetland. The exhibits are detailed and informative – the hanging boats are particularly good – and exploring them can easily fill a couple of hours. There is an excellent cafe on the first floor too, with views across the sea.

8. Paisley Museum and Art Galleries

High Street, Paisley

Open Tuesday-Saturday, 11am- 4pm, Sunday, 2pm- 5pm

0300 300 1210

Housed in an impressive Victorian building, there are plenty of objects to admire in Paisley Museum: but a particular highlight is Buddy, the huge stuffed lion who looks a lot fiercer than his name suggests. The rest of the museum is dedicated to the industrial and social history of the town, with a collection devoted to the famous Paisley pattern and the looms that it was produced on. There is also an impressive art collection on display, with over 800 diverse paintings that include work by locally-born artist John Byrne.

9. National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh

Chambers Street, Edinburgh

Open every day, 10am-5pm

0300 123 6789

Voted as one of the Top 10 visitor attractions in the UK, the hugely diverse collections should have something to keep everyone happy. There are over 20,000 artefacts charting the history of Scotland: from nature, to art, to scientific discovery. Until August 4 there is a special display of the Soyuz spacecraft used by astronaut Tim Peake during his return from the International Space Station.

10. Maid of the Loch, Balloch

Pier Road, Balloch, West Dunbartonshire

Open Monday-Sunday, 11am-5pm

01389 711865

Tucked away at the side of Loch Lomond Shores, this is one of those museums that you would be excused for not having visited. You can tour the lower decks of the boat (with recreated rooms to give a sense of on-board life), admire the pistons of the engine, and recreate a Titanic moment on the ships bow. The views across Loch Lomond aren’t bad either.

11. Gallery of Modern Art, Glasgow

Royal Exchange Square, Glasgow

Open Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday, 10am-5pm, Friday and Sunday 11am-5pm, and Thursday 10am-8pm

0141 287 3050

Known as the GOMA, the location of this museum – just off busy Buchanan Street – means that it makes modern art accessible to many people. The exhibitions change frequently and while they might not all be to everyone’s taste, they are always thought provoking and conversation-starting. The building is striking from the outside (particularly at night) and has the bonus of Glasgow’s famous ‘cone-head’ statue on its front steps. See Inner City in Gallery 3 which explores questions about the modern city, hidden communities and cultural identity and has a multimedia installation by Michael C McMillen – a detailed and atmospheric fictional depiction of a Los Angeles slum, which is on display for the first time in 15 years

12. The Stirling Smith Art Gallery and Museum

Dumbarton Road, Stirling

Open Tuesday-Saturday, 10.30am-5pm, Sunday, 2pm-5pm


Football fans will enjoy a visit here – to see the world’s oldest football on display (and also the oldest curling stone). Opened in 1874 for the artist Thomas Smith, his aim for this museum and art gallery was to celebrate the story of Stirling and attract visitors from far and wide.

13. University of Aberdeen Zoology Museum

Tillydrone Ave, Aberdeen

Open Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm

01224 274330

This gem is great for animal-loving children (and adults alike). It features taxidermy, skeletons and models of some of nature’s most impressive animals, and snakes and fish in gory glass jars. There are also Botanical Gardens at the back of the museum, which are lovely to walk around on a sunny day.

14. Dumfries Museum

The Observatory, Rotchell Road, Dumfries, Dumfries & Galloway

Open Monday- Saturday, 10am-5pm, and Sunday 2pm-5pm

01387 253374

Set within an 18th century windmill, this picturesque museum tells the story of Dumfries and its people across the ages. You can examine fossil footprints left by prehistoric creatures, the carvings made by the country’s first Christians, and the rich and varied wildlife of the local area. There is also a Camera Obscura within the museum – the oldest of its kind in the world – that allows you to enjoy panoramic views across the town. While the museum is free, there is a small fee for the camera obscura – but visiting it is not compulsory.

15. Inverness Museum and Art Gallery

Castle Wynd, Inverness

Open Tuesday-Saturday, 10pm-5pm

01463 237114

In a great location at the foot of Castle Hill, this modern museum (renovated in 2007) hosts an array of collections about the history and traditions of the Highlands. Starting with the geological creation of Scotland billions of years ago, the displays then detail the archaeological history of the area – before moving on to recent artefacts found around Inverness. These range from Jacobite weapons to bagpipes and even Scottish board games: so there’s something to keep everyone happy.