Fort William in Scotland has the tagline: The Outdoor Capital of the UK and with Ben Nevis, and lochs and skiing and walking etc etc there sure is a lot of outdoors to explore.
The West Highland Museum is certainly worth a bit of time though, try it out while waiting for better weather or between browsing for yet more hiking gear. Having been there last year, I popped back in recently to distract myself from nerves before starting the Three Peaks Challenge (my colleagues shopped for boots, ate lunch and drank beer) Yes, I am quite a nerd...
The museum combines that wide collection of stuff and things that are the local museum's stock in trade, traditional homewares, crafts, war memorabilia, local history relics, Victorian costumes, stuffed animals... Yet the range is very broad, and by covering (of course) big themes in Scottish history and the Jacobites with such local and personal items, you get a real feel for how people dealt with these nationally discussed issues and conflict in everyday life.
The themes across the rooms take the objects and provide logical groupings to what could otherwise be a very packed and disparate collection. Moving from a mountain rescue stretcher to carved Celtic stonework feels natural, as each is within a distinct display, and you see the connection from one display to the other of man working with/against the landscape. A light touch with the interpretation signage in places also allows you to admire objects in their own right (or get a bit gleefully freaked out, as the Americans with the display of charms) Perhaps this is largely to do with not being able to afford a lot of new signage, but it works well.
Returning meant I spotted things I overlooked last time, and I feel I'll head back whenever I'm in the area, to no doubt find other curiosities or get other slants on the local and national history. A star in the collection may be the Secret Portrait (see above) but the one of the nude lady caught my attention this time!
The staff are a credit to them, warm, welcoming, informed and as I joyfully discovered; willing to share 'daft tourist' stories. The museum became free to enter about 4 years ago, and chatting to staff they happily explain that attendance went up massively, and clever use of the gift shop maintains a good income, but they are still struggling a bit. It's the kind of place where being asked to pay £3.50 to get in you might pass it over and head to the shops, but having looked around for free you gladly drop £5 in the donations and wish them well.
Take a few minutes away from the scenery, and explore the West Highlands through its artefacts and stories, and the great local people.
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