Scotland's Secret Bunker, Fife
Scotland’s Secret Bunker is near St. Andrews, Fife and it’s exactly the place to visit if Scotland’s weather turns momentarily inclement. You laugh at the irony of all the large signs pointing at Scotland’s Secret Bunker, you park at an unprepossessing farmhouse, near a slightly miscellaneous collection of military vehicles, you pay your fee, pass the barrier and a long, sloping tunnel leads you down into the cheap, paranoid world of the 70s.
Built in the 1950s as a safe place for government bigwigs from Edinburgh to hold Cold War pow-wows, the bunker is 40m underground. The air is purified to weed out radioactivity, gas and biological warfare and can be refrigerated/heated, ozonated/deozonated, humidified and de-humidified - whatever that means. There are so called "hot beds" in the 6 dormitories, more luxurious accomodation for the ministers, an RAF control room, and the piece-de-resistance, a telephone switchboard with 2,800 outside lines enclosed in a "Faraday cage" which is built to withstand an atomic blast. And if the red telephone should ring, there's a BBC Sound Studio for broadcasting the news of a nuclear strike to lesser-protected mortals in the outside world.
All in all, it’s an intriguing place which you expect to feel like a museum but which actually brings out a few thoughts and fears you might not have wanted to have on holiday. The slight half-heartedness of the dressed-up dummies manning the consoles and computers seems to suit the collection of shabby technology which must, once, have been state of the art, and which we presumably relied on. Part of you can’t imagine the idea that a bureaucracy would hide down here while the rest of us fried, but the bureaucracy itself seems oddly quaint; the Minister of State has generously appointed quarters, the scientific advisors have white coats and pipes, the typing’s all done by female secretaries, the café has nice checked tablecloths. One tends to think of nuclear war has something big, dramatic and American, either Dr Strangelove or some sc-fi fantasy; but this place evokes the apocalypse as administered by Reggie Perrin.
It’s well worth a visit, but it’s not exactly jolly. There’s some thought-provoking looks at the recent past – of society and technology, there’s a nice café and it doesn’t rain underground. But don’t go expecting a laugh.
Scotland's Secret Bunker photos
More of Russell's Secret Bunker photos
How to get there
Scotland's Secret Bunker is in Troywood, near St Andrew's in Fife. Map and opening times.