Best events at the Festival of Museums
Meet a Roman, drink like a Viking or sound like a dinosaur
History steps into the present this weekend as the Festival of Museums arrives at historic venues up and down Scotland. Taking place over three days from Friday 15 to Sunday 17 May, smaller museums step out of the shadow of the big city sites to show off their local charms with an eclectic array of events.
Best family events
Know some small people fond of prehistoric creatures? Celebrate the birthday of Andrew Carnegie's dinosaur, Diplodocus carnegii, with a dino egg hunt, 3D dinosaur mask crafts and the chance to make some dinosaur noises with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra. If they’re more the swashbuckling, pirate type Aberdeen Martime Museum is open for a night of nautical sleuthling after a murder is committed on the high seas. Or if it’s adventure they’re after, head to Dundee’s Discovery Point to meet a polar explorer, check out the specialised equipment for Polar expeditions and try on some explorer clothing.
Best boozey events
If you thought museums were a rather sober affair, think again. The festival has a host of adult events combining history with a cheeky tipple. Robert Burns’ cottage is transformed into the Burns Heid Inn, travel back in time to experience a night of brews at the Bard’s with music, local characters and a pub quiz. Cheers Rabbie. Travel further back yet and visit the Viking Tavern complete with Viking lounge music, traditional drinks, pub grub and, instead of a round of pool, Viking games. Over in Perth celebrate World Whisky Day with a tasting of Perthshire whiskies. Whisky production objects from the museum’s collection add the necessary historical element to proceedings.
Best historic character events
History comes to life for the festival with characters from days gone by. Meet Roman soldiers at Low Parks Museum and try some Roman training techniques at or watch live re-enactments of life as a French soldier at Eyemouth Museum. Over at The Museum of the Black Watch hear battle stories from soldiers, the gory details of medicine in the trenches from a WWI nurse and watch Waterloo re-enactments including a musketry display and an officers’ duel. Don’t want to choose a particular time period? St Johns Castle is brimming with characters from the Middle Ages right through to Victorian times with titled gentry up in the tower and common criminals languishing in the prison.
Best military events
In Shetland The Shetland Bus remembers a WWII special operations group that operated between the islands and Norway, ferrying agents, weapons and supplies across the U-Boat-infested North Sea. Montrose Air Station Heritage Centre commemorate the end of WWI with a chance to check out vintage military vehicles; you can even hop in a Spitfire cockpit for an ‘aerial’ selfie. Gateway Galleries commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain with From Balloons to Typhoons: RAF Leuchars' Big Day Out, a family friendly gala set in the 1940s. There’s homefront entertainment, film footage of the period, a vintage hair salon and performances from the Royal Air Force Pipes & Drums Central Scotland.
Best music events
For history with a beat, ReSound Musical Heritage Festival offers a day of live bands, drumming workshops and a chance to make your own musical instrument. Edinburgh Renaissance Band perform hits from the middle ages and renaissance with period instruments including cornets, sackbuts, nakers, crumhorns and bagpipes. Or if you fancy a historical knees up there are ceilidhs taking place at Almond Valley Heritage Centre with the Livingston Fiddlers, the Museum of the Scottish Shale Oil Industry with Mac-a-Story and a Victorian/Steampunk themed affair in Surgeon’s Hall.
Festival of Museums, various venues Scotland, Fri 15–Sun 17 May. Check out some of the other events below.