The Stewartry Museum, Kirkcudbright

Stewartry Museum, Kirkcudbright

Established in 1879, Kirkcudbright’s Stewartry Museum is full of local things for local people. In contrast to many Victorian museums this isn’t the collection of Lord So-and-So who travelled the globe plundering other cultures, it’s a charming collection of things found in and around the Stewartry, which is Kirkcudbright and the surrounding local area. Ironically, as these days other cultures are often better known than our own it ends up feeling fantastically exotic.

On the ground floor, tidily corralled into glass cases, there are various local history exhibits. They range from the organised to the fairly random in a way that makes browsing a pleasantly serendipitous experience. There are axe-heads, butter churns, fob watches and curiously an old packet of Wills’ woodbines “found in 1974 under the floorboards of a shop in St Cuthbert St”. At some points it’s less like a museum, more like the shop out of Bagpuss.

Its killer exhibit is the “Siller Gun" a shooting trophy presented to the town by James VI (later James 1st of England) in 1587 - the year before the Spanish Armada. It is still used today as the prize in shooting competitions organised by the Incorporated Trades of Kirkcudbright. Alongside, there is a more modern range of trophies, for cheese-making no less. The world needs prize-winning cheese, after all.

Upstairs on the balcony there is a natural history collection that must have kept the local taxidermists busy for years. There are birds (and birds’ eggs), animals, butterflies, insects and fish. There's something so peaceful and reassuring about stuffed things in glass cases and here they are beautifully arranged and labelled. The copperplate handwriting is an exhibit in itself and the names read like poetry - Linnet, Tree pipit, Nightjar, Stone chat.

In one corner there is a collection of World War I posters asking tricky questions like "Am I justified in using my good field glasses for pleasure when I might send them to Lady Roberts for the troops at the front?” Definitely something to think about.

For a small collection it takes a while to go through - there’s so much to see and it’s all so unexpectedly interesting. If the kids get bored they can do laps of the balcony. Ours did and the custodian was quite happy to turn a blind eye. On a Saturday afternoon we were the only visitors and as entrance is free this made me worry about its long-term future. Situated slightly off the main drag in Kirkcudbright it’s easy to miss, but well worth seeking out.

How to get there

The Stewartry Museum is on St Mary Street, Kirkcudbright DG6 4AQ.


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Core opening times: all year, Monday to Saturday, 11.00am to 4.0Opm. Also Sundays in June to September inclusive, 2.00pm to 5.00pm. Admission free.

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