The Kildonan Centre in South Uist is a heritage and cultural amenity which includes a museum, a craft shop, a Fèis room for ceilidhs, music and dance, a cafe and an archaeology room where finds can be cleaned and examined by visiting archaeology groups. The museum itself, Taigh Tasgaidh Chill Donnain, is owned by the South Uist Historical Trust. Originally a school it has been extended and developed into a multi purpose centre which is a Registered Museum. The museum now contains an archival room dedicated to the memory of Margaret Fay Shaw.
In the late 1990s Kildonan Museum was greatly expanded into what was previously a school, and it re-opened in June 1998 as very much more than just a museum. With its range of facilities, its excellent cafe, shop and nice atmosphere, the museum is an essential stopping off point on any tour of South Uist. The museum has at its heart a collection of items from and about South Uist collected by a local Parish Priest, Father John Morrison, during the 1950s and 1960s. It also sets out the background to an island that is incredibly rich in archeological remains dating from the bronze age to the Viking era. Some of the exhibits are set out thematically: tools from a blacksmith's shop for example. Others are contained within the rooms of a recreated croft house.
Kildonan Museum is also home to the Clan Ranald Stone. This is thought to have been carved to commemorate John of Moidart, chieftain of the Clan Ranald in the late 1500s. Until February 1990 it stood amid the ruins of the Teampull Mor complex at Howmore but then disappeared without trace. In March 1995 it came to light in a flat in Euston, London, following the death of a young Canadian. It was later returned to South Uist amid stories it was cursed, and now lives in the more secure surroundings of the Kildonan Museum. The stone is especially striking for the similarities between its carvings, of a galley and a castle in particular, and those found on a tomb at St Clement's Church, Rodel, on Harris.
The cafe at Kildonan Museum is worth stopping for on its own, especially on an island without a huge number of outlets for good food. It serves a range of meals, teas, coffees, home baking, and sandwiches. Another part of the building is given over to a shop run by Uist Craft Producers. This is a group who came together in the late 1980s to help market their wares, and you have the opportunity to see what they produce displayed in an excellent setting. Uist Craft Producers now has some fifty members engaged in the production of paintings and other artwork, knitwear and textiles, woodwork and much more.
Taigh-tasgaidh Chill Donnain is also home to a Feis room. This is a room designed to provide a space for year-round tuition in traditional Gaelic drama, dance, music and art. In July or August each year the Feis Tir a'Mhurain is a week long tuition-based festival held here and drawing together skills from throughout the Gaelic world. Outside the front of the museum is a sculpture commissioned from Malcolm Robertson to celebrate its reopening in 1998. The main body of the sculpture is cut from steel sheet and it is embedded in a base of locally quarried Uist stone. Cut into the sheet are two verses from a Gaelic emigrant song "In Praise of Uist".
Not part of the museum, but a few hundred yards south of it and set back on the opposite side of the main road is a plaque surrounded by stone walls that marks the birthplace of Flora MacDonald, who famously assisted Bonnie Prince Charlie avoid capture by Government forces after the Battle of Culloden. If you would like to visit as part of a large group please book in advance and they can then arrange a guided tour for your group. Having negotiated the cattle trap at the entrance the museum is fully wheelchair accessible. There are toilet facilities and there is also a wheelchair accessible toilet. Assistance dogs are welcome.
Location : Kildonan Museum, Kildonan, Lochboisdale, South Uist HS8 5RL
Transport: Oban (National Rail) then ferry (5 hours) and bus (W17). Bus Routes : W17 stops outside.
Opening Times: Daily, 1 April to 30 September, 10:00 to 17:00
Tickets : Free
Tel. : 01878 710343