Travelling, and visiting amazing places, is one of the best things about my job and it’s one of the things I’ve missed the most while working through this Covid19 pandemic.
It’s the absolute definition of a ‘busman’s holiday’ for an interpretation professional but, I just cannot get enough of visiting museums, galleries, and historic sites around Scotland.
I was lucky that 2020 for me started with some pretty spectacular trips in January, all on the theme of ‘Prehistory’. I travelled to Orkney for Historic Environment Scotland and Kilmartin Glen to begin working with Kilmartin Museum on their redevelopment. Followed by a little trip locally to me to visit the burial cairn at Cairnpapple Hill, again for HES, but this time only a half hour drive from Edinburgh.
My personal highlight of the series of trips was the Standing Stones of Stenness in Orkney. Maybe it was the light on the day I visited, or maybe it was the fantastic Ranger Walk I did of the adjacent site of Barnhouse Neolithic Village. Either way, the Standing Stones of Stenness was quite a special visit for me.
Another highlight was Maeshowe Chambered Cairn. This photo was taken a month after midwinter, but the sun was still low enough in the sky to imagine the last rays of the setting sun, on the winter solstice, shining right in through the entrance passage.
And I really wouldn’t be able to write about Orkney without mentioning Skara Brae. You will have seen images like these (and far better) a hundred times over. But what a photo can’t show you is that there’s nothing like being there in person. Smelling the sea, battling the wind. I would highly recommend you add it to your Scottish travel bucket list (and don’t shy away from a winter visit, the low winter sun is quite beautiful).
I must confess that I’m actually a pretty impatient skim-reader of interpretation. Even more so outside in the elements. I want to know the key message, and quick. I want interpretation that HELPS me to look at the place/site/thing rather than distracts me from it.
If I want to learn more, I can always read a book or websites while I warm up in the pub or tuck into an amazing Seafood dinner.
I’d hardly been home a week after Orkney when I drove over to meet the team at Kilmartin Museum in Kilmartin Glen in Argyll. It wasn’t my first visit to Kilmartin Glen, I first visited for the NVA and National Theatre of Scotland artwork HalfLife in 2007.
I was absolutely blown away by the whole area and the sheer quantity of amazing sites to see. I haven’t stopped telling people to go there since. Covid means I haven’t been back to Kilmartin since January 2020, but we’ve been working hard on the redevelopment behind the scenes, and some other bits we’ll be able to share soon!
If, like me, you live in or are visiting Scotland’s capital then both Orkney and Argyll may be a bit too far to drive. For a quick fix of the Neolithic just half an hour from Edinburgh have a look at Cairnpapple Hill in West Lothian (it’s a bit of a hidden gem!).