“ Address: Castle Wynd / Inverness / IV2 3EB / Scotland / Tel: 01463 237114 „
It was such a miserable day when I was recently in Inverness that we were playing a game with the dark threatening clouds that kept appearing and trying to time our indoor activities to miss the worst of the rain. The problem with Inverness unfortunately is that the majority of the attractions are outdoor so the Inverness Museum and Art Gallery was an obvious place of refuge and thankfully the rain held off until we reached it. To be honest you can't really miss this place, Inverness is a small compact town and it is well sign-posted but just in case you're struggling to locate it, it sits directly beneath the Castle, which is the most prominent landmark for many miles around, so there really is no excuse for failing to find it.
The exterior of the museum is very modern and quite striking. We had already looked down upon it from the castle above earlier in the morning and commented on its appearance so it was inevitable that the promise of "free admission" stamped on the front of the building would entice us inside. The front of the building curves like a snake and consists mainly of glass panels interspersed with concrete blocks and the entrance inside is via a revolving glass door. As I walked through the entrance it felt more like entering a modern shopping centre than a museum. Apparently the original museum on this site closed in 2006 and the new glass front was added during a million pound refurbishment prior to it re-opening at the beginning of 2007.
The museum is set out on two floors with the lower floor being the museum and the upper floor the art gallery. All visitors have to pass a small reception area where two friendly women smiled and greeted us and then left us to our own devices. We ignored the flight of stairs to the art gallery and headed straight into the museum.
The main principal of this museum is that it is a local museum so as you would expect it tells us about the history of Inverness and the surrounding area but since Inverness is the "Capital of the Highlands" it also covers some more general aspects of the Scottish Highland region as well. Since Loch Ness is a mere stones throw away there is an exhibit dedicated entirely to this popular attraction and likewise the Caledonian Canal is covered in detail as is Inverness Castle.
The museum is very bright and modern inside and it is very easy to navigate. The building is fully accessible by wheelchair users so the aisles are nice and wide (there is a lift to the upper floor as an alternative to the stairs) and there is no clutter anywhere at all. Most of the exhibits are stored in large glass cages with multi lingual information placards describing the artefacts in English, French, German, Spanish and Japanese but the largest text at the top was always in the local language Scots Gaelic. This language is synonymous with the history of the area and the folk in this region are very proud of their culture. As one of Europe's threatened languages it is heavily promoted here. In fact the Gaelic language even has its own exhibit within the museum where visitors can not only read about its origins but also watch TV footage or press buttons to hear phrases spoken in the local tongue.
The articles on display within the museum cover a huge range that include pottery, metalware, weapons and textiles and there are also some original paper documents too but the two displays that take up the largest floor space are those that cover geology and the natural history.
The geology section includes samples of various rock types as you would expect but this is incorporated into a more general display that describes how the region has been shaped over the last few million years. Apparently the shallow hollow in which the town sits was created by a tsunami several thousands of years ago. This region is littered with Neolithic stone circles so these are also discussed including some of the legends and myths that surround them.
The natural history section includes several glass cages filled with stuffed animals that either still exist in the area or once existed. As a nature lover I'm always a bit uncomfortable with such displays but I take some comfort that the fact these items are very old and I'm well aware that much of the knowledge that we have today is from the fact that the Victorians were such avid hunters (and taxidermists).
The museum isn't very big and we walked around it all in about half an hour but I enjoyed my visit and I would recommend it to others whether it is raining outside or not. Sadly it was getting late and I didn't actually get a chance to check out the art gallery upstairs so I'm afraid I can't comment on what that is like.
Despite its relatively small size there is a small gift shop downstairs and a coffee shop and there are also toilets.
The Inverness Museum and Art Gallery is open Monday to Saturday from 10am until 5pm.
Inverness Museum and Art Gallery