The Museum of Edinburgh is truly an all-in-one special among the Edinburgh Museums; you’ve got a complete picture of the history of the capital, fascinating stories of war and love, and tons of rare objects. In fact, the actual museum is a complete maze inside a 16th-century building, the Huntly House (also known as The Speaking House) on the Royal Mile.
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History of the Museum of Edinburgh
What was formerly referred to as the Huntly Museum, Edinburgh, has a long and interesting history. First of all, it’s massive! At three stories high and with endless rooms and exhibits to explore, it makes for a full day. Back in 1570, the Museum of Edinburgh was built for Clan Gordon, and Earl George Gordon lived there for a time. In 1647, the Incorporation of Hammermen (metalsmiths) bought Huntly House Museum as their new headquarters and did some renovations and expansion.
In your historical adventure to the Museum of Edinburgh, you’ll have the opportunity to explore around 220,000 real pieces of history. The museum houses spectacular collections of art including Scottish pottery and Scottish Porcelain dating from the late 1700s. It also has an original 1638 copy of the National Covenant (which was signed at Greyfriars Kirk), stunning art collections, the original plans for the New Town, special exhibitions, and more!
Old or young, the Museum of Edinburgh has something for everyone, and you’ll walk away with a sense of wonder after discovering the intricacies of Edinburgh’s history!
Details to Know About the Museum of Edinburgh
Getting ready for an Edinburgh Museum adventure? Make sure you have all the necessary details to plan your trip to the Royal Mile in the Scottish Capital, from tickets and opening hours to transportation and accessibility.
Museum of Edinburgh Tickets
When it comes to learning all about Scotland’s history in this museum, Edinburgh made sure you were sorted out on all fronts. And that means tickets are completely free! Although, the recommended donation is £3, if you feel like contributing to Edinburgh’s history.
Museum of Edinburgh Opening Times
The National Museum, Edinburgh, is open every day of the week between 10 am and 5 pm. However, it’s important to remember that the last entry is at 4:30 pm.
This free museum is closed on Christmas. Unfortunately, the Museum of Edinburgh may be closed/have altered hours on Boxing Day and New Year’s Day. It’s best to keep an eye on the website for updates!
How to Get to the Museum of Edinburgh
Plot out your route to Edinburgh Museum, based in the city centre on Canongate Road, whether it be by car or public transport!
If you’re coming into Edinburgh from Glasgow, expect an hour-and-a-half drive along the M8. From Dundee, head along the M90 and A90 for around the same driving time to Edinburgh Museum! Note that there is no on-street parking.
The Scottish Parliament bus station is only a 3-minute walk away from the Museum of Edinburgh, so if you can make your way there, you’re golden.
If you’re looking to catch a ride from Glasgow, hop on at the Buchanan Bus Station to Princes Street (this will take just over an hour). When you stop at Waterloo Place, it’s a short ten-minute walk to the Museum of Edinburgh.
If you’re coming from Dundee, head to the Dundee Seagate Bus Station that stops in Edinburgh. From there, take a Galashiels bus to North Bridge, a ten-minute walk from the Edinburgh Museum.
The ScotRail is definitely the fastest way to get to the Museum of Edinburgh when it comes to public transport. From Glasgow, it’s only an hour-long trip from the Queen Street Station to Edinburgh Waverley, a ten-minute walk from the museum. From Dundee, it’s an hour and twenty minutes to Edinburgh Museum.
The Edinburgh National Museum has made many provisions for accessibility. They have a lift/stair lift, level access (including to the dining area and reception), wheelchair access, and enough space for those with limited mobility. The upper level is only accessible through the stairs.
There is also a hearing loop, an access guide, and accessible toilets. For those with visual impairments, keep in mind that some areas in the Museum of Edinburgh have low lighting.
Attractions at the Museum of Edinburgh
The Museum of Edinburgh – or as the locals call it, Huntly House – is huge, and there is no end to the insanely beautiful objects on display, the permanent collections, the Scottish craftsmanship, and the intriguing stories you’ll hear.
These are the top attractions at the museum.
See the National Covenant of 1638 in the Flesh!
The Museum of Edinburgh has one of the earliest surviving copies of the National Covenant of 1638! Some background info: back in the day, the Covenanters signed the covenant to convince Scotland to come together against the political and religious rulings made by King Charles I. It was this very piece of paper that ultimately led to the Civil War. The Huntly House Museum owns one of these copies, signed centuries ago in Edinburgh!
Check out the Collar and Bowl of Greyfriars Bobby
Ever heard of the hero hound, Greyfriars Bobby? If this is your first time hearing the story, maybe bring a few tissues with you! Edinburgh Museum prides itself on its stunning homage to this Skye Terrier and his 14 years of loyalty to his own. We don’t want to give anything away, but the Museum of Edinburgh has a fantastic story waiting for you, and you’ll get to see the dog’s drinking bowl, dinner dish, and collar
View the Original Plans for New Town
Fun fact: Huntly House is also in Season 3 of Outlander!
Huntly House has tons of interesting stories hiding in the walls; one of the most incredible artefacts of history you can find at Edinburgh Museum is the actual original drawings and plays for the New Town, designed by James Craig. Explore every detail; you won’t want to miss a thing!
Gaze in Wonder at the Art Collection
It’s not just all artefacts and stories at the Edinburgh Museum; the building houses spectacular collections of decorative art, showing off Scottish history and craftsmanship with every intricate line! You can enjoy Scottish pottery, silver, engraved glass, and even Scottish porcelain dating all the way from the 18th century.
Discover the Courtyard
The Courtyard at the Museum of Edinburgh is the place to be if you want to escape from the hustle of Huntly House for a little bit and enjoy some solitude in a beautiful environment. It’s filled with rich history in the form of archaeological and architectural fragments.
Have a Blast With the Family!
The Museum of Edinburgh has a fantastic learning and activity space, where you and the kids can fill out artistic worksheets and even do detective quests! There’s also a reading corner and a whole bunch of replica objects to check out.
Visit the Reconstruction of Field Marshal Douglas Haig’s Headquarters
The Museum of Edinburgh shows off a host of rich history from the war, one of which is a reconstruction of Field Marshal Douglas Haig’s headquarters. This was on the Western Front during World War I! There are also collections from a World War I commander, Earl Haig, to explore.
The Royal Mile
Don’t just stop at the Museum of Edinburgh; the area of the Royal Mile has some of the best museums in Edinburgh if not the whole country! There’s the National War Museum, People’s Story Museum, and The Writers’ Museum (with items from Robert Burns and Robert Louis Stevenson!).
You should also check out the Surgery Museum and its Dental Collection, the Wohl Pathology Museum, Scotland’s oldest banknote at the Museum on the Mound, the National Museum of Scotland, the Royal College, and more!
It’s a bit of a mouthful, to be honest, but it’s worth it to see all the special exhibitions hosted by the museums and the true Scottish craftsmanship on display. Our advice? Get a hotel in Edinburgh to make the most out of your trip down history lane!
More Scottish Museums to Visit
- Black Watch Museum
- Camera Obscura & World of Illusions
- Edinburgh Writers Museum
- Glasgow Science Centre
- Highland Folk Museum
- Museum of Childhood
- Museum of the Isles
- Museum on the Mound
- National Mining Museum
- National Museum of Flight
- National War Museum
- People’s Palace
- Riverside Museum
- Royal Yacht Britannia
- Scottish Maritime Museum
- Shetland Museum & Archives
- St Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art
- Surgeons’ Hall Museum
- V&A Dundee