Places to Visit in Scotland
- National Museum of Rural Life, Kittochside
The Main Museum
Arriving at the car park for the The national Museum of Scottish Rural Life at Kittochside (on the outskirts of East Kilbride in South Lanarkshire), the initial impression is not particularly favourable as the main museum building has been made to look like a farmyard barn (presumably deliberately). However, once inside, there is a bright, modern museum with excellent facilities. And there is even better outside, with a working farm and a farmhouse which is just as it was 50 years ago (see the illustration above and the more detailed description below).
The museum (formerly known as the Museum of Scottish Country Life) has a wide range of farm equipment on display and plenty of displays providing an insight into farming and the countryside. The displays are a combination of items from the National Trust and the National Museums of Scotland - the latter has brought its National Country Life Collection to Kittochside and is responsible for the management and operation of the Museum. Thankfully, as a result of the involvement of the Museums of Scotland, the usual prohibition on photography (which the National Trust inflicts on its visitors at its own properties) does not apply at Kittochside.
The museum organises special events to illustrate the life of the countryside. During my visit, they were displaying the winning photographs in a children's competition illustrating farm animals. The standard was very high - as you can see from this graphic of one of the entries.
One of the highlights of the museum has to be its restaurant. Good, wholesome, country fare, consumed while looking out over the countryside. I had a plate of the sort of soup that "sticks to your ribs" and although my visit was in February (not exactly the height of the tourist season) the restaurant was busy. Clearly the locals recognise good food when they see/taste it and pop in on a regular basis!
Kittochside lays on transport between the main museum building and the farmhouse on the top of a hill, which provides the other main attraction. But, in keeping with keeping the place as realistic as possible, the transport is provided by the "shooglie bus". Not only does this converted farm vehicle "shoogle" (sway from side to side) but it also has no springs - and the farm roads are full of pot-holes!
Of course, on a nice day, it is quite possible to walk alongside the farm track, up the hill to the farmhouse. That way you can enjoy the fresh air and the fields and the animals there.
Kittochside and its National Museum of Scottish Rural Life was created as a result of a gift to the National Trust for Scotland of the farm and the farmhouse (with all its contents) with its out-buildings by a Mrs M S C Reid. This philanthropic donation was made in 1992 and 12 years later Mrs Reid still sometimes pops in to see how her former home is doing. The farm had been in the ownership of ten generations of the Reid family since the 16th century. The farm continues to be worked using the techniques and equipment of the 1950s, to demonstrate this late phase of the Agricultural Revolution.
Since all the furniture, decor and ornaments have been left as they were in the 1950s, it is a nostalgic trip for those visitors who belong to the older generation - and an eye-opener for the youngsters! I was particularly struck by the equipment on display in the kitchen - including a "stone" hot-water-bottle which was filled with hot water before the days of the more "modern" rubber variety. And I'm sure I've seen that flower print on the wall of the bedroom before!
How to Get There
East Kilbride is well sign-posted along the A725/A726 from the M74 which runs north/south through Lanarkshire. East Kilbride is not the easiest of towns to drive around (the multitude of roundabouts have given rise to its nickname of "Polo City" after a well-known brand of circular confectionary!). But this Location Map should help (you can enlarge the scale of this map, if required).
While in the area, don't forget to call in at Bothwell Castle (illustrated here), Ch‚telherault Country Park (described unfairly as the "dog kennels at Hamilton"), Craignethan Castle (linked to "Tillietudlem Castle" in Walter Scott's "Old Mortality"), David Livingstone Centre, Blantyre (created at the birthplace of the missionary/explorer) and New Lanark World Heritage Centre (a village of cotton mills and homes of the former workers).
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