“ Address: Kilmartin / Argyll PA31 8RQ „
Review of Kilmartin House Museum, Kilmartin, Argyll, Scotland.
I visited this museum in May 2012 whilst on a touring holiday of Scotland.
Kilmartin House Museum is in the centre of the village of Kilmartin. The village is approximately 2 hours' drive from Glasgow, on the A816 road, 8 miles north of Lochgilphead and about 30 miles south of Oban.
It is easiest to reach this museum by car; however there are around 3 coaches from Glasgow that each day stop at Kilmartin village.
**The Museum and its Aims**
The museum is run by the Kilmartin House Trust, a Scottish registered charity. The trust has brought together archaeologists, artists, musicians and scholars to create an award winning museum and research facility. Private donors and funds from national and local agencies have also enabled the Kilmartin House Trust to continue with their work.
The area around Kilmartin is rich in history. There is evidence of people living in the area for thousands of years. More than 350 prehistoric and historic sites can be found within six miles of Kilmartin village, these include burial cairns, standing stones, stone circles, ancient grave stones, castles, deserted croft houses and early Christian crosses.
Kilmartin House Museum is home to many artefacts sourced from local sites, the museum is unique in that you can view ancient relics within the museum and then glance out of the window to see the cairn that the items in front of you came from.
Entrance is via the car park, this car is not spacious but there are alternative parking facilities close by.
As you approach the entrance of the museum on foot; you pass a beautifully constructed 'beehive' hut. This has been scaled down from the original size and it is a remarkable structure. Two little children were happily sitting down inside the hut as we passed by and no amount of coaxing by their parents seemed to encourage them to move from their prehistoric Wendy house!
As you enter the actual museum, the route first takes you the into the gift shop and past the restaurant. This is because both these facilities can be enjoyed by people who do not wish to see the museum itself. A little reception desk is located in the gift shop and this is where you buy your tickets.
Tickets include a video film show as well as the museum. Visitors are advised to see the film first. The tiny theatre is situated up a winding wooden staircase. This is very steep and really unsuited to anyone with mobility issues. The theatre is small, it is very stark and seating is a mixture of hard wooden benches and a miss match of dining chairs. I may be painting a pretty horrid picture of this area, but to be honest, the décor is totally irrelevant to the film visitors are about to see.
The film is called 'The Valley of Ghosts' and it is an audio visual time travel experience. The film is a haunting piece of cinematography, the images of historic events, people and places are beautifully portrayed. The soundtrack is amazing and complements the film very well. To be perfectly frank, I cannot tell you how long the film lasts; I lost all track of time and was totally absorbed in the film. What did impress me was the sound level and quality of sound. My partner has limited hearing and often struggles to hear anything at all in a situation such as this film show. He was able to hear the commentary and to enjoy the musical element of the show.
After watching the film, we headed towards the museum itself. Entrance is through a conservatory style building. In this conservatory are several touch and try exhibits, these are of course mainly aimed at children, but both myself and my partner both enjoyed having a go at grinding grain on a quern stone with a stone pestle! We also tried wool carding and honing a flint blade with a whetstone.
The route through the museum is easy to follow and there are so many interesting exhibits to catch your imagination. The interactive exhibits were well thought out and pleasant to take part in. Several families had young children with them and they seemed to be enjoying the museum. It amused me to see how all the children wanted to handle deer antlers and animal bones.
I loved the displays of prehistoric domestic finds such as cooking utensils and pottery and the rough cast jewellery and bone grooming aids. It seems head lice were a problem in those days too, judging by the fine toothed combs found in the area!
As you walk through the museum you are led through the developments and changes that have taken place within the local area through the ages.
The museum trail ends in the gardens of the building, these are pretty and although you cannot wander at will, there is a pleasant terrace where you can stand and admire the view. From this terrace you can see one of the many burial cairns. This is not open to the public; however I understand that the cairn is often featured in educational tours the museum offers to schools.
**Opening Hours and Entry Prices**
Kilmartin House Museum is open to the public from March until Christmas. Opening times are 10:00 am-5:30pm from 1st March - 31st October. Reduced opening hours are in operation from 1st November until Christmas. The museum is not open to the public between Christmas and March 1st.
Entry prices are:
Family ticket (2 adults + up to 3 children) £12
Once you have purchased your tickets you can come and go as you please throughout the day of purchase.
Concessions are available for groups and senior citizens.
**My Thoughts and Conclusion**
I have always been interested in archaeology and history, so this museum was really right up my street. My partner is not quite as keen on this type of thing, but there was enough at Kilmartin House Museum to keep him entertained and interested.
I found this museum fascinating and would happily re-visit. The gift shop offers the usual type of tourist-y tat but it also has some very good quality goods such as silver jewellery in the Celtic style, pretty stone set brooches and some lovely carved wooden items.
The restaurant looked very cosy, we didn't have anything to eat or drink ourselves as it was packed, being lunchtime, and I was concerned that we would have to wait a long time if we decided to eat there. This decision wasn't because I am impatient, it was because we had had to leave our dog in the motorhome while we visited the museum and do not like to leave him for very long in a vehicle. (I will reassure any dog lovers reading this that he had adequate ventilation, shade, fresh water and food available, plus his bed to curl up in, and, as is his want, he was fast asleep when we arrived back!)
To conclude, I consider this museum to be excellent value for money. Found it very interesting and I feel it is well worth a visit should readers be in the area. None of the exhibits are frightening or disturbing, so in my opinion this museum is ideal for families. The biggest drawback in my opinion is the steep staircase leading to the little theatre; this would be quite unmanageable to anyone. with walking difficulties and they would miss out on a remarkable experience. For this reason I am giving Kilmartin House Museum a 4* rating.
Thank you for reading
©brittle1906 July 2012
N.B. My reviews may be found on other sites under the same user name.