Edinburgh: National Museum of Scotland, Scottish National Gallery, Scottish National Portrait Gallery

Today was a culture and education day for me in Edinburgh. It included visits to the National Museum of Scotland, the Scottish National Gallery, and the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.

But, before I went into the National Museum of Scotland, I paused across the street to look at and photograph the small statue memorializing Greyfriars Bobby.

Greyfriars Bobby
Greyfriars Bobby

That’s a picture of Bobby’s statue on the right. I thought two or three readers of this blog might particularly appreciate it.

According to Rick Steves’ Great Britain tour book, legend has it that Bobby was a Victorian Skye terrier that stood by his master’s grave in the nearby Greyfriars cemetery for 14 years.

Apparently, Disney made a movie in the 1960s about the story. I wasn’t aware of the movie or, possibly, I didn’t remember it, but that sounds exactly like the sort of movie that the Disney of the ’60s would make.

Steves goes on to say that more recent research suggests that the legend is false. It’s now believed that 19th-century businessmen lured a stray dog to hang out in the cemetery to attract sightseers. True or not, it works today. Notice Greyfriars Bobby’s very shiny nose? It must get rubbed a lot.

National Museum of Scotland

Grand Gallery of the National Museum of Scotland
Grand Gallery of the National Museum of Scotland

The National Museum of Scotland is large, multi-storied and spreads over two confusingly connected wings. It’s exceptionally easy for a navigation-challenged person to get lost in there. Normal people probably find their way through quickly, easily and intuitively. I wouldn’t know about that.

If you enjoy looking at and learning about old stuff, you’ll probably enjoy the National Museum of Scotland. I should clarify that. When I say “old stuff,” I’m generally considering only objects at least 100 years old, more often hundreds or thousands of years old, and, in the case of rocks and fossils, sometimes many millions of years old.

If, on the other hand, your idea of old stuff is something, say, 66 years old, sorry. You’re on your own. I don’t take selfies.

Then again, there are some newer objects in the museum that date from within my lifetime. (Notice, for example, the “old” cellphone in the photo gallery below.) But I’m still not going to take a selfie. Nobody wants to see that. Least of all, me. It’s my travel blog and I won’t selfie if I don’t want to.


One wing of the museum focuses on the history, geography, fauna and anthropology of Scotland. The exhibits cover an exceptionally long timeline. They include a brief mention of the land that’s now Scotland once being part of Pangea, a supercontinent that included all of today’s continents before they split apart about 175 million years ago.

(Of course, it wasn’t called Pangea back in the time of Pangea because there was no one around to call it anything. But, unless you believe Earth is less than 7,000 years old, you probably knew that. If you do believe Earth is less than 7,000 years old, I can’t help you. Please go read a book. And not that Book. Another one.)

The exhibits in the Scotland wing extend from Pangea right up to modern times.

Everything Else

The other wing of the museum houses an eclectic mix of galleries. These include technology, animals (ancient and current), fashion, ancient Egypt, ancient and modern Asia, and a miscellaneous collection of other galleries.

Between the two wings, you could spend from opening to closing in the museum exploring its exhibits and learning what it has to teach. I didn’t. I spent less than three hours there, including lunch in the Museum Brasserie. But you could spend all day. I’m not the boss of you.

Scottish National Gallery

Scottish National Gallery
Scottish National Gallery

The Scottish National Gallery is pretty much the perfect size for my taste in art galleries. It’s a little larger than the size below which I tend to mutter under or, sometimes, over my breath, “Jeez. That’s it? I walked all the way over here, and that’s it?”

Entry is free so, even if it were smaller, I wouldn’t mutter, “Jeez. That’s it? I spent good money to get in here and that’s it?” So, there’s that.

At the same time, the Scottish National Gallery is small enough that I never reached the eyes-glazed-over, stupor state that comes over me when I spend too much time in a large gallery.

However, be warned. The gallery displayed signs saying they’re in the process of enlarging the facility. If all goes according to schedule, in 2021 the Scottish National Gallery will be three times its current size. That’s likely just the perfect size for people’s eyes to go blank as catalepsy overcomes them before they finish with the museum. But maybe that’s just me.

The Scottish National Gallery exhibits mostly paintings, but also a few sculptures. The paintings encompass works of artists with names known to even plebeians, such as me. Included are Rembrandt, Rubens, Titian, Tintoretto, Monet, Degas, and Gaugin, along with a number of old master wannabes.

Scottish National Portrait Gallery

Scottish National Portrait Gallery
Scottish National Portrait Gallery

It should come as no surprise that the Scottish National Portrait Gallery displays mainly portraits. If it did come as a surprise, you really need to work on your basic reading skills. That having been said, the gallery didn’t strictly enforce the portraits rule. It also displays some painted tableaux.

The permanent collection of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery focuses primarily on Scottish painters and portraits of Scottish notables. The media include sculpture, painting, engraving and photography.

When I was there, a temporary exhibit veered from the Scottish theme to display photography by three deceased American photographers, Diane Arbus, Francesca Woodman, and Robert Mapplethorpe.

But, Wait. There’s more.

To cap off today’s post, here are some pictures I took along the way. In truth, a few aren’t exactly from along the way. A couple of times I thought I saw something interesting in the distance and made detours to check it out.

Oh, by the way. See those two pictures of a park below? I’ve never seen anything like it. The park was one block wide and three blocks long. A wrought iron fence completely surrounded each block of the park. There were locked gates at a few points on each block. A sign on each gate told readers who to contact to arrange to rent a key to use the park.

Hedges behind the fence blocked much of the view of the park’s three sections. There were gaps in the hedges at the gates and at a few other points. The pictures below were taken at those gaps. All three sections of the park looked lush and gorgeous. I looked in every time the park afforded me an opportunity to do so. I saw one couple in one of the blocks and one individual with a dog in another block. That was it. Such a waste of a beautiful park.


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