Gairloch Museum recently relocated to a stunning new building - a former nuclear bunker in the centre of Gairloch. The museum opened to rave reviews and been described by visitors as ‘the best museum in Scotland’ and ‘better than the V&A in Dundee’.
The redesigned industrial interior of the building lends itself perfectly to the thoughtfully arranged displays. A combination of modern museum technology and traditional displays tell the story of the people and landscape of Gairloch and the surrounding area from the oldest rocks in Europe to the modern day. The museum also celebrates the Gaelic culture of the area.
Highlights among the displays include the original lens from Rubh Re lighthouse, a replica croft house showing how people used to live and an interactive gallery about our magnificent natural world, midges and all! Also on show are the first Pictish stone found on the West Coast mainland and the Poolewe Hoard – a rare Early Iron Age bronze hoard found locally.
Gairloch Museum is a member of Visit Scotland’s ‘Ancestral Welcome’ scheme. If you have ancestors from the Gairloch area, the museum is the place to explore your family history. As well as the usual genealogy records, the archive holds copies of the family papers of the Mackenzies of Gairloch dating back well before the first census. There is also a wealth of research on local families undertaken over the years by museum volunteers, and a library of more than 4000 photographs.
The Museum shop stocks a specialist range of books and CDs of local interest and crafts by local makers. The in-house art gallery hosts a rotation of exhibitions. A café with wonderful views down the loch will open in 2020.
Describe the impact of your location on your business
The museum is inextricably linked to its location. The purposes of the museum are to promote and encourage interest in, and care for, the history, culture, beauty and character of the Parish of Gairloch, for the benefit of all, be they locally resident, visiting the area or in contact from afar. We restrict our collecting area to Gairloch parish, so our collection contains only objects, books and archival material of local provenance and relevant to the Gairloch area.
The cultural heritage of Gairloch is firmly rooted in the Gaelic world and our display reflect this fact. We have a Gaelic language policy and use the vernacular Gaelic where we can in our displays and activities.
Since we moved, our location within Gairloch is more central than previously and we attract more passing traffic. Tourism in Gairloch is seasonal so we are busiest between the months of April and October, especially during school holidays.
What would you list as your biggest achievement(s)?
In 2019 we moved to a new building – a repurposed nuclear bunker. The innovative transformation of this building from village eyesore to landmark visitor attraction was the result of tireless effort, enterprise and determination by the Board, our volunteers and the wider community. Since opening in July 2019, we have received praise for the originality of our building and the excellence of our permanent displays. The new museum has successfully won the support of our community, raised our profile nationally and attracted enthusiastic new visitor audiences.
Prior to COVID-19, this redevelopment of the museum had changed the Museum’s fortunes – literally. Reliance on diminishing public funding had been replaced by a thriving business model incorporating retail income from quality local crafts and rental income from like-minded tenants. We look forward to getting the business back on track and are still aiming to get our café open in 2020.
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