Summerlee Museum Scotland

{Scotland} Summerlee Museum of Scottish Industrial Life

Happy Museum Monday! We’ve got a gem of a museum to share with you today. Summerlee Museum of Scottish Industrial Life has been on my radar for a while. Situated in North Lanarkshire, I’d always thought it was out of reach for us without a car, but it’s actually fairly easy to get to by public transport. Perfect for a summer holidays day trip. Best of all, admission is free!

Summerlee Museum Scotland

Summerlee has both an indoor exhibition hall, and a 20 acre outdoor site. We decided to tour the outdoors first, whilst the weather was good. You can pick up a map from reception, to guide you round all the outdoor stops, and there are some trails to do too, including an I-Spy Challenge, and the Summerlee Family Maths Trail. The tram, which usually takes you round site (for a small fee) was sadly out of commission, so we set out on foot.

On the first leg of our outdoor tour, we passed a lot of heavy weight equipment, including a big steam crane, the Garratt Locomotive, and various bits of machinery in the Engineering Pavilion.

The boys were also very interested in the Sawmill & Timber Exhibition, which included different types of wood and tools used.

Our first highlight of the day, was a tour of a reconstructed mine. Don’t worry, you don’t actually go underground, and they’ve made it taller and wider than the tunnel would actually have been. But it is very dark, just the torches from our two guides lighting the way. There’s a feee of £2 per person, which you pay at the engine house. There’s no set times, just as and when people turn up for it, and it’s strictly for over 5s only.

Summerlee Museum Engine House

Back in broad daylight, the other big highlight was the row of miners’ houses and gardens, and I think this is where we spent the most time. The rooms were furnished to show how people’s living rooms and kitchens would have looked at different times, including the 1880s, 1910s, 1940s, 1960s and 1980s. The 1960s and 1980s living rooms also had TVs with old adverts and clips from those times playing, which was quite fun to watch – and we got Rick rolled!!

Outside the houses, there were old gird & cleek toys to play with. These kinds of hoop toys were widely used in the late 19th and early 20th century. My 12 year old turned out to be quite the pro at it, and even got complimented by one of the museum staff.

And, of course, we couldn’t leave Miner’s Row without a visit to the sweetie shop, where you can buy bags of classic sweets. It’s £2 a bag, and you can’t mix them, so choose wisely! We came away with some classic lemon sherbets and soor plums, and some Irn Bru creams.

Completing the outdoor circuit on our walk back to the exhibition hall, we passed some more trains and other bits of heavy machinery, as well as the ducks and swan at the Howes Basin. We had planned in advanced, and purchased some bags of bird food at reception, so the boys had fun with that.

We also measured ourselves against a canal horse, walked past the Vulcan canal barge (a replica of the world’s very first iron-hulled vessel), and saw the Iron Works Site.

Back indoors, we explored the exhibition hall, which is divided thematically in to different topics, including both the industrial side of things, like engineering, ironworks, and other machinery, as well as the social side of things such as leisure time, schooling, health care, and life during war times.

I hadn’t appreciated how big the indoor exhibition is, and after having spent almost three hours outdoors, the kids were flagging a bit. So we ended up only spending an hour in the exhibition, but there was plenty more to see so if we come back maybe we’ll start indoors first next time. There’s quite a few interactive things to get hands on with, including testing your strength on some pulleys, various puzzles, different materials to touch, building blocks, and a train set.

Before heading back to the train station, we ended our visit to Summerlee by spending some time on their fantastic playground. The pictures don’t do it justice, there was so much more play equipment, but it was really busy and impossible to take photograph without other people’s children in them. I think it was a good idea we’d left this to the end, or I may never have been able to get the boys away to look at the rest of the museum.

Summerlee Museum playpark

All in all, we spent 5 hours at Summerlee! I would say it’s fantastic value for money, but it’s actually free so even better (apart from the little optional extras like the mine, the sweetie shop, and the tram when it’s running, which are all fairly priced). There’s also a nice cafe, which we ran out of time to sample. Summerlee, I think we’ll definitely be back!

How to get there

Location: Summerlee Museum of Scottish Industrial Life, Heritage Way, Coatbridge, ML5 1QD

The nearest train stations are Coatbridge Sunnyside and Coatbridge Central. If coming from Edinburgh, take the train from Waverley or Haymarket to Coatbridge Sunnyside, and from there it’s roughly a 15 minute walk to the museum. Total travel time from Edinburgh is around 1hr 15 min. The First Bus service 201 also goes to Summerlee.

Visitor Info

Opening times: Open daily from 10am to 4pm. The sweetie shop closes at 3pm and the miners houses at 3:30pm. On the day of our visit, the last mine tour was at 2:30pm but check board on arrival.

Cost: Admission to the museum is free. There’s is a small fee for the tram (when running) and mine, and you can buy traditional sweets in the Miners’ Row sweet shop on site.


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