Edinburgh holds so many treasures that on a short visit it’s hard to even scratch the surface of all there is to do and see.
National Museum of Scotland.
One such treasure is the National Museum of Scotland. The museum is located on Chambers Street and is open daily from 10:00-17:00 (except closed Christmas Day, and open 12:00-17:00 on New Year’s Day and Boxing Day).
Best of all entrance to the museum is FREE.
I love when a museum is free because then you don’t feel like you need to block off a full or half day. This is especially wonderful when you’re there for a brief visit and trying to jam in as many sights as possible (such as I was).
The day we visited the museum we had already had a busy day. That morning we had been to Leith to tour the Royal Yacht Britannia, which I’ve shared in a three-part series here, here, and here. After that, we toured the Palace of Holyroodhouse. And while I haven’t written about the full tour, I have shared about the Holyrood Abbey.
According to the map at the National Museum of Scotland website, there are 7 levels to the museum. The museum is divided into numerous galleries. We arrived late in the day and tried to see as much as possible.
Even still, we didn’t take in a fraction of all that there is to see.
Because of our pace, I also didn’t photograph nearly as many displays as I would have like to have captured.
You may recall that I shared one of my favorite pieces, The Millennium Clock, in an older post.
I do have one or two other series from my time visiting the museum, but today’s grouping I’ve titled safety, science, and religion.
The Stevenson family built or rebuilt every lighthouse around the coast of Scotland. During the time from 1786 to 1938, five generations of the family designed and built lighthouses.
The family introduced new ideas to lighthouse design. They used more powerful lenses, developed different signal patterns for each lighthouse to help sailors navigate, and also overcame the problems of building strong structures in remote and dangerous places.
The optic above was designed by Thomas Stevenson and exhibited in Paris in 1867. It demonstrated his design for the Tay Leading Light, one of two lights that guiding shipping into the River Tay.
Inchkeith Lighthouse Lens.
The Inchkeith Lighthouse lens is located in the Grand Gallery. This dioptic lens was designed by David A. Stevenson in 1889. It was designed for the lighthouse on the island of Inchkeith in the Firth of Forth.
The Inchkeith Lighthouse had been built in 1803 by Robert Stevenson and his father-in-law Thomas Smith, to protect shipping coming into the port of Leith.
This lens was in use at the Inchkeith Lighthouse until 1985, when the last lighthouse keeper was withdrawn and the light was automated.
You all know that I am a HUGE lover of science.
A small section of the particle accelerator used at the University of Edinburgh for nuclear physics research from 1950-1972 is on display. It is also located in the Grand Gallery.
This portion of the accelerator is an electric circuit which produced a very high voltage. This type of circuit was used by John Cockcroft and Ernest Walton in the first accelerator to “smash the atom” in 1932.
Dolly the Sheep.
Many of you are already aware of Dolly the Sheep. In 1996, she was the first mammal cloned from an adult cell. Out of the 277 eggs used in cloning, she was the only live lamb.
She was cloned from a Finn Dorset sheep at Roslin Institute in Midlothian, Scotland. After her death, the Roslin Institute donated her body to the National Museum of Scotland, where she continues to be a celebrity.
There were many other fascinating scientific displays that I wasn’t able to capture. One of those was a display of models of DNA. You can get a peak of the display on my cover, but the photo didn’t turn out well enough to share.
The Nobel Prize for Medicine was awarded to James Watson, Francis Crick, and Maurice Wilkins in 1962 and was for working out the structure of DNA. These models only represent a tiny section and the smaller model is believed to have been made by Crick for a lecture at the University of Edinburgh.
One of the pieces in the World Cultures Galleries that I fell in love with was the Prayer Wheel.
The Kagyu Samye Ling Monastery in Scotland made this prayer wheel house. The monastery is Europe’s oldest and largest center for Tibetan Buddhism. The copper wheels were made in Nepal.
According to signage, prayer wheels are found all over Tibet. When the wheel is turned, the prayers inside are carried into the air, earning merit – or good karma – for the person turning the wheel. Also, the more turns of the wheel, the more merit will be earned.
Turning the Wheel.
Sometimes I listen to that still small voice…to that “gut instinct”. I felt compelled to turn the wheels. However, it wasn’t because I was hoping to increase my good karma, but because I didn’t want anyone’s prayers to be left in there, just waiting to be released.
I understand that this doesn’t jive with the box of my Protestant religion, but I’m okay with that. My beliefs don’t fit into a box.
I said a prayer for the release of everyone’s prayers as I turned each of those copper wheels. For me, it was not a moment of flippancy, but of pure reverence and I felt an overwhelming sense of peace as I finished.
Since their closing time is late afternoon, we still had plenty of time to wander around Edinburgh. I decided to head over for an early evening stroll around Greyfriars Kirkyard.
As I’ve mentioned, I will be returning to Scotland in May. Since I have a few days in Edinburgh, I hope to pop back into the National Museum of Scotland to see some of the things I missed the first time.
Have you visited this museum?
If so, what was your favorite display?
Have you visited Edinburgh?
And if so, what is your favorite thing to do in the city?