A Handful of Exhibits at the National Museum of Scotland

Prayer Wheel National Museum of Scotland Edinburgh


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 Doors of the Royal Yacht Britannia, Exterior Tour of the Royal Yacht Britannia, and Inside the Royal Yacht Britannia. 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.

Come check out five can't miss exhibits at The National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh. I've title this series safety, science, and religion.

Lighthouse Stevenson.

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.

Paris Exhibition.

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.

Come check out five can't miss exhibits at The National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh. I've title this series safety, science, and religion.

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.

Come check out five can't miss exhibits at The National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh. I've title this series safety, science, and religion.

Atom Smasher.

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.

Come check out five can't miss exhibits at The National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh. I've title this series safety, science, and religion.

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.

Come check out five can't miss exhibits at The National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh. I've title this series safety, science, and religion.

Prayer Wheels.

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?

Let your light shine!


Pin For Later.

Come check out five can't miss exhibits at The National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh. I've title this series safety, science, and religion.

19 thoughts on “A Handful of Exhibits at the National Museum of Scotland

  1. Enjoyed reading this and looking at your photos … Ive been to Edinburgh twice for long weekends, both last year ironically but before I started blogging. We did the traditional touristy things like the castle and drinking lots of coffee in that upstairs fabulous starbucks with the amazing leaded bay windows over looking the castle on Princes Street (is it called Princes street? Damn, I may have to look that up now)

    1. I’m glad that you enjoyed the post and photos. Ooohhh…that Starbucks piqued my interest! I’m guessing you mean the one on Princes Street since the photos seemed to fit your description. I may have to hunt that locale down on my return!! Thanks for the info!! 🙂

      1. Yes, the entrance is on the ground floor with a small takeaway option.. stairs leading up to the best view of the castle and the best Starbucks I’ve ever seen from a layout piont of view.

    1. It was quite fascinating. I didn’t have near enough time to see all the amazing things that it held! I hope that you get there! 🙂

    1. It was a great place to visit! I’m sure that I missed so much in my brief tour of it. A day or two would surely be necessary to take it all in!! 🙂 You have a fabulous day as well!

    1. I hadn’t seen a prayer wheel before, but I loved it. I’m always amazed by the lights in lighthouses. That one did not disappoint! It seems so crazy how far science has come since Dolly…and so quickly too!

  2. I love old lighthouses. We have visited a few of them on the coast in the UK, and even walked down to Point Reyes when visiting my cousin in Marin years ago (the lighthouse where they filmed “The Fog”).

    1. I have seen some lighthouses from afar and been at the base of a working lighthouse in North Carolina. I’d like to visit some actual ones though. They are quite lovely and hold so much importance in keeping those at sea safe (I’m a little panicked when I can’t see land, so my heart beats a little fast when I watch movies like “The Perfect Storm”) I have heard of the movie “The Fog”, but haven’t seen it.

  3. We only made it to the National Museum of Scotland about ten minutes before it closed, so just about all we got to see was Dolly. Happy to see some of the displays we missed!

    1. I’m glad that I shared some displays that you missed. We weren’t there for too long, but did get enough of an overview to know where I’d spend my time when I return! 🙂

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