Costumes at the Museum

Costumes at the Museum

Arran Rowing Boat

Arran Rowing Boat


Museums come in all shapes and sizes. Seen from the road it is easy to assume that the Isle of Arran Heritage Museum is not particularly large. The reality therefore comes as a surprise. This is an extensive museum comprising a number of distinct parts, and as a result you are likely to find yourself staying longer, and learning far more, than you expect. A visit to the Heritage Museum really should be considered an essential part of any visit to Arran: all the more so given the very modest admission charges. Your visit to the Heritage Museum begins in the visitor reception and shop, a wooden building at the northern corner of the twin-level car park (which itself offers rather more space that seems possible from the main road). From here you emerge into the gardens behind the museum, and your decision about which parts of the museum to explore first will probably be driven by the weather as much as anything else. At the risk of over-simplification, the museum can be though of as having three distinct areas: the gardens, grounds and outdoor exhibits; the core exhibits in the stable block; and a range of additional exhibits, usually in recreated rooms or buildings, most of which lie between the gardens and the stable block.


As you emerge first into the garden, this seems as good a place as any to start a description of the museum. Ahead of you is a wooden shed which is home to a wide range of agricultural machinery, while nearby is the picnic area, definitely a fine weather option. Around the grounds are a number of outdoor exhibits including several tractors. One of these, the red-painted Tommy's Tractor, is intended as a hands on exhibit for younger visitors. Part of the fun of some of these exhibits is guessing their purpose before reading the information about them: and getting it wrong a surprising amount of the time. Standing against a hedge near the reception is an upright aircraft propeller with a single battered blade. This is the British American Memorial, erected by the Arran Junior Mountain Rescue Club in memory of all the airmen killed on Arran between 1939 and 1945. While the dangers of operational flying in wartime are obvious, it is easy to forget that training was also extremely hazardous. As an island rising to nearly 3,000ft, Arran became the location of a number of fatal aircraft crashes during WWII, and the crews of those aircraft are remembered here.


En route from the gardens to the stable block you pass a number of buildings. The most obvious is Rosaburn House, which backs onto the garden itself. This contains an exhibition about schooling on Arran in the 1940s, and is also where you find Café Rosaburn. At the far end of Rosaburn House you turn right through a gate positioned in front of a red phone box and walk down what feels like a short street of whitewashed buildings. These are home to a number of self-contained recreations of aspects of life in bygone Arran. Perhaps the most spectacular of these is the smiddy. This functioned "in real life" as a smiddy for a century until the 1960s and comes complete with three forges, two of which are for blacksmithing and the third for maintaining masons' tools. Pride of place in the centre of the smiddy goes to the anvil, while other important tools include a beam drill, a hydraulic punch and a guillotine for cutting metal sheets. Part of what was originally a school building adjoining the smiddy has been fitted out as a shoeing shed: with the objects being shoed including both horses' hooves and wooden cartwheels. The smiddy is maintained in working order and twice each summer a blacksmith gives horse shoeing demonstrations here.


Close by is a shed that houses the Board of Trade's wagon number 575. This is identical to one that was based at the Coastguard Station at Kildonan on the south coast of Arran in the early 1900s. Its role was to fire rockets with lines attached to ships in distress on coastal rocks. Once a line had reached the ship the crew would haul in steadily increasing thicknesses of rope until the link between ship and shore was strong enough to allow those aboard to reach safety in a breeches buoy apparatus. Opposite the smiddy is the 19th century cottage, fitted out as it would have appeared at the beginning of the 20th century. This has three main rooms. The parlour is the day to day living area of the family, while the kitchen was where most of the domestic work was undertaken. Upstairs is an attic bedroom with a single bed. Beyond the kitchen is a wash house in which you find an amazing collection of laundry equipment. Nearby is a fully equipped milk house or dairy.


The real heart of the museum lies in the large stable block at the far end of the complex from the entrance. This is home to a series of themed exhibitions about aspects of life on the Isle of Arran, and about the island itself. Important exhibitions cover the geology of Arran, which is significant because it mirrors in miniature that of Scotland more widely; and the archaeology and history of the island. Elsewhere in the stable block you can find out about the little-known clearances on Arran in the 1800s, and what became of those who emigrated as a result. And as you'd expect on an island, the history of ships and shipping receives particular focus. The Isle of Arran Heritage Museum is also home to an extensive collection of archives about the island, now housed in a purpose built extension and looked after by the museum's archivist. The museum's genealogy department shares the new extension with the archives and offers public search facilities and genealogical services for those wanting to trace their Arran ancestors.


Around 10,000 years ago the ice-age finally came to an end, temperatures were rising, the environment was gradually improving and from then on Scotland became an attractive place for “hunter gatherer” settlement. These first Mesolithic settlers arrived on Arran around 8,000 years ago and survived by exploiting animals, sea mammals, fish, shellfish, birds, seeds, berries and fungi etc. So far, the only Mesolithic site to be excavated on Arran was at Auchareoch, in the 1980’s, and proved to be one of the earliest. Since then, sites have been found at Machrie, Kildonan and Glenshurig and lithic scatters have also been found in several other locations. It is likely that the first thing to catch your attention when you enter The Archaeology Room will be the flicker of a television screen and a voice telling you the story of the Clachaig Man. The video tells the story of the reconstruction of his face from the original skull, found at Clachaig, through the combination of the skills of Professor Peter Vanezis and the marvels of computer technology. Local sculptor Marvin Elliot then translated the video into the head you can see in the special display case. Although 5000 years old, the Clachaig Man comes alive in the Museum today. Of outstanding interest archaeologically are the Neolithic (New Stone Age) and Early Bronze Ages sites. The chambered tombs of the Neolithic Age are famous and are illustrated on the left of the door.


The island of Arran hosts a superb range of rock types that can be viewed in the field. It is a world class geological location, with fascinating geological outcrops, including the all important Hutton’s Unconformity. At the Arran Heritage Museum, there are displays on the geology of Arran, with samples of the rock types that can be found on the Island, fossils and palaeontological exhibits about Arran. There is a short DVD that can be viewed as a simple introduction to the geology of the Island. There are mineral samples from the Island and images of Arran rocks, taken using a specialised petrological microscope. In the near future they hope to expand the geology section to give a more illustrative geological history of Arran. You can take a virtual field trip to some classic geological localities on Arran. If you do decide to visit Arran to look at some rocks, please remember to consider safety in the field and follow the Geological Field Work Code, and remember to enjoy Arran’s wonderful geological heritage. The main rock types found on Arran were formed during the Cambrian (The Upper Dalradian) (590-505 million years ago or Ma), the Ordovician Period (505-438 Ma) , the Devonian Period (408 -360 Ma) , the Carboniferous Period (360-286 Ma), the Permian Period (286-248 Ma), the Triassic Period (248-213 Ma) and Tertiary Period (65-2 Ma), see the simplified geological map below for their distribution. There are also some special outcrops of rocks formed during the Jurassic ( 213-144 Ma) and Cretaceous ( 144-65 Ma) periods. There are no rocks on Arran from the Pre-Cambrian (4600- 590 Ma) and the Silurian (438-408 Ma) periods. There are wonderful examples of moraines and glacial tills, as well as beautiful U-shaped and hanging valleys produced during the Quaternary Period (2 Ma to present).


Parking is available. The museum is fully wheelchair accessible. There are a number of objects which may be touched. Assistance dogs are welcome. The Cafe Rosaburn serves excellent meals and snacks. There are toilet facilities. The museum also host a number of special events each year. Brodick Castle is nearby for a combined visit. External Exhibits, Gardens & Cafe - admission price for adults is 50p (children are free).


Location : Isle of Arran Heritage Museum, Rosaburn, Brodick, Isle of Arran KA27 8DP

Transport: Ardrossan Harbour (ScotRail) then Ferry. Ferry: Caledonian MacBrayne from Ardrossan to Brodick then connecting bus. Bus Routes : 322 and 324 stop outside.

Opening Times :29th March through October, daily 10:30 to 16:30

Tickets : Adults £4.00;  Seniors £3.00;  Children to 16 years £2.00;  20% discount on 8+ groups

Tel. : 01770 302636