Scotland has plenty of great museums but the chances are you will have already visited Kelvingrove and the National Museum a good few times. With that in mind, why not try one of the more unusual attractions across the country?

1. Denny Ship Model Experiment Tank, Dumbarton

Castle Street, Dumbarton

01389 763444

Open Monday-Saturday 10am-5pm

Adults £3.50, concessions £2, children free

William Denny and Brothers turned shipbuilding on its head when it created the world’s first commercial ship model experiment tank in 1882. The football pitch-sized tank still works today, more than 130 years after it was built, and visitors can watch it in action in this Dumbarton museum. You can also get a sense of shipyard life by scraping down a wax ship model or testing designs in a small demonstration tank.

2. The Devil’s Porridge Museum, Dumfries and Galloway

Stanfield, Annan Road, Eastriggs, Dumfries and Galloway

01461 700021

Adults £5.50, children and concessions £4.50

Open Monday-Saturday 10am-5pm and Sunday 10am-4pm

Don’t let the name confuse you: this museum is neither about porridge nor the devil. The name references the cordite propellant mixture produced by the people of Gretna to provide ammunition during the First World War, a compound that was nicknamed “devil’s porridge” by Arthur Conan Doyle. The museum tells the story of those who worked in the factory, as well as giving an insight into life in a nuclear power station, with a new exhibit that gives a virtual reality 360-degree walkthrough of nearby Chapelcross Power Station.

3. Scottish Vintage Bus Museum

M90 Commerce Park, Lathalmond, near Dunfermline

01383 623380

Adults £5, concessions £3

Open every Sunday (from April)


You don’t have to be a transport geek to enjoy this collection of more than 160 old buses, which were in operation throughout Scotland between the 1920s and the 1990s. Trying to spot all the buses you remember is a great way to lose an hour or two, with the vehicles kept in immaculate condition thanks to the enthusiastic staff. They can also give you a guided tour and, if you’re lucky, a ride on one of the buses.

4. Surgeons’ Hall Museum, Edinburgh

Nicolson Street

0131 527 1711

Open every day 10am-5pm

Adults £7.50, concessions £4, under-10s not advised to attend

Not one to visit if you have a weak stomach, Edinburgh’s Surgeons’ Hall Museum holds one of the largest pathology collections in the UK. Visitors can expect to see a range

of historical surgical instruments,

dental tools and equipment and, most

stomach-churning of all, body parts stored in jars.

5. Glasgow Police Museum

First floor of 30 Bell Street, Merchant City, Glasgow

0141 552 1818

Open Tuesday 10am-4.30pm and Sunday 12pm-4.30pm (until March 31, thereafter open every day), free

This hidden gem of a museum charts the history of Glasgow’s police force –the first in Britain – from 1800 to 1975. It may be small but it offers plenty to interest visitors, including uniforms, photographs and newspaper clippings that detail crimes that were committed and solved in the city.

6. Orkney Wireless Museum

1 Junction Road, Kirkwall, Orkney

Open Monday-Saturday 10.30am-4.30pm and Sunday 2.30pm-4.30pm

01856 871400

Adults £3, children and concessions £1

The sheer notion of a “wireless” is one that is likely to warrant blank expressions from younger generations. But for those who remember the radio in its heyday of cultural and practical importance, this museum will conjure up plenty of fond memories and nostalgia.

7. Savings Banks Museum, Ruthwell

Ruthwell, Dumfries, Dumfries and Galloway


Open Thursday-Saturday 10am-4pm (extended opening hours from March onwards), free

It might not sound particularly thrilling but this museum tells the life story of the fascinating Henry Duncan, the founder of the savings bank, who was born near Dumfries in 1774. Visitors can learn more about Duncan, and the origins of the bank, as well as admiring the collection of home savings boxes, coins and banknotes from around the world.

8. Montrose Air Station Heritage Centre

Waldron Road, Broomfield, Montrose, Angus

01674 678222

Open Saturdays 10am-4pm and Sundays 12pm-4pm (extended opening hours from April onwards)

Adults £5, concessions £4, children free

The first operational military airfield established in the UK, Montrose Air Station played an integral part in the RAF’s operations throughout the Second World War. It is staffed by volunteers who ensure that visitors get a sense of life during the war – with a 1940s room full of memorabilia, an Anderson air raid shelter and even a room replicating a pilot’s bedroom from 1940. There are plenty of planes, both real and replica, with visitors encouraged to interact with any exhibits that don’t explicitly say otherwise.

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9. Scotland’s Secret Bunker

Underground Nuclear Command Centre, Crown Buildings, Troywood, St Andrews.

01333 310301

Adults £12.95, children £8.95

Open every day 10am-5pm

Hidden under an innocuous farmhouse in the middle of rolling Fife countryside, this museum certainly lives up to its secretive name. The 24,000 square feet of underground bunker was intended to host the government during the Cold War in the event of a nuclear catastrophe. The command control centre, dormitories and even chapel that are contained within it demonstrate just how readied the British government was for such a calamity – and how only a precious few would have been spared.

10. St Vigeans Sculptured Stones Museum

3 Kirkstyle, St Vigeans, Arbroath, Angus

Open by appointment – phone 01241 878756 to arrange

Adults £5, children £3, concessions £4

The village of St Vigeans might have just one main street but that street plays host to a remarkable museum of Pictish carved stones – 38 of the imposing stones were found in the village, and visitors can try to decipher their meaning through a variety of audio and tactile displays.

11. The Writers’ Museum, Edinburgh

Lady Stair’s House, Lady Stair’s Close, Lawnmarket, Edinburgh

0131 529 4901

Open every day 10am-5pm, free

Easy to miss off Edinburgh’s bustling Lawnmarket, the Writers’ Museum pays homage to the lives of three of Scotland’s greatest literary figures: Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson. Its collection includes manuscripts, portraits and personal items from each writer – as well as a plaster cast of the Bard’s skull.

12. Museum of Scottish Lighthouses, Fraserburgh

Kinnaird Head, Stevenson Road, Fraserburgh

01346 511022

Open Wednesday-Sunday 10am-4.30pm

Adults £8.80, children £3.85, concessions £6.60

Kinnaird Head Lighthouse was the first built on mainland Scotland, so it seems a fitting place to host a museum dedicated to lighthouses. Visitors can learn about the engineers who built the lights, try on a keeper’s uniform and enjoy a guided tour of the lighthouse itself.

13. Scottish Fisheries Museum, Anstruther

Harbourhead, Anstruther, Fife

01333 310628

Open Monday-Saturday 10am-4.30pm and Sunday 12pm-4.30pm

Adults £9, concessions £7, children free

Children will love this hands-on museum about the history of the fishing industry, with “do touch” signs that encourage you to interact with the exhibits. It highlights the struggles that come with the job, with audio from a trawler skipper, a replica fisherman’s cottage and preserved boats that give you a feel for a life spent at sea.

14. Shetland Textile Museum

Bod of Gremista, Gremista Industrial Estate, Lerwick, Shetland

01595 694386

Open Tuesday-Saturday 12pm-5pm (from April 30 onwards), entry £3

The quality of Shetland wool is

world-renowned and this museum pays homage to knitwear, lace and taatit rugs that are native to the island. Visitors can admire the quality of craftmanship on display, with frequently changing exhibitions and demonstrations that showcase the importance of textiles to this community.

15. Inveraray Jail, Argyll

01499 302381

Church Square, Inveraray, Argyll

Open every day 10am-5pm

Adults £11.95, children £7.25, seniors £10.75

This 19th-century jail was used to try, sentence and imprison criminals of the day – some as young as seven – before it was closed to make way for prisons in larger towns across Scotland. Visitors can view historic torture weapons, walk around the cramped cells of the old prison and enter the county courtroom, listening to extracts from trials held there. There is also a “modern-day” cell to give a sense of what prison life is like today.

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