top of page

Visiting The National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh

The National Museum is on Chambers Street in the heart of Edinburgh's old town. It is a treasure in Edinburgh and one of its most popular attractions. It's also free.

If, like me, you were dragged to boring museums with objects in display cabinets and not an ounce of colour or interest anywhere this is the polar opposite.

Behind its austere exterior lies light and air and entertainment. The first floor opens in the Grand Hall an atrium of light with wrought iron balconies around it.

There are times I don't want to go any further than here and just sit and soak up the atmosphere.

However, I usually find myself drawn to the display of stuffed animals. I used to bring my children who were confused by the animals - why weren't they alive? I don't know anywhere else you will see a hippo flying in the sky alongside fish. I was also struck by the elephant. So few of us will get to Africa to see a real one and they are no longer kept in zoos (which is a good thing in my view) however there is one here allowing you a chance to see its real size.

There is a Scottish wild cat and a Panda both of which are in danger of becoming extinct. Alongside these animals is a pride of lions and an anteater, so many animals that I have never seen in real life. It's eye-opening.

A most impressive exhibit is the Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton. It's immense.

After the animals, I like to visit the planes which hang from the ceiling in order of invention. They start with the highest and descend towards a smart red chitty, chitty bang, bang car.

Both these exhibits are in atriums allowing a view from balconies at different levels.

On this first level is also a whale's skull. It has been named Moby. Moby was a sperm whale who swam up the Firth of Forth instead of out to sea in 1997. He caused quite a stir at the time and tug boats tried to get him to swim back out but to no avail. Sadly Moby died on the shore however he is held with affection in our hearts and his skull is on display in the museum.

There used to be a blue whale skeleton hanging from the ceiling but when the museum was refurbished there wasn't space for it.

The last big draw in this part of the museum is the millennium clock. Love it or hate it you can't help but be impressed by it. It towers above the rest of the exhibits and is certainly striking. It resembles a Medieval structure and was built by four clockmakers. It's adorned by figures from the century before - Charlie Chaplin, Lenin, Stalin - as well as an Egyptian monkey and an ancient spirit.

The mechanisms are all on display and when it starts up it draws crowds to it. Last time I was there I had to stand on the stairs to get a view. The music is the 3rd Movement of Concerto in A minor, Allegro BWV 593, by Johann Sebastian Bach.

The museum holds so much more but that's for another post.

If you only get a chance for a quick look do take it, this is a must-visit place when wandering around Edinburgh!


bottom of page