Military Museum Scotland can be found in Linburn, just over four miles west of the Edinburgh City Bypass on the A71. Regular travellers of the road will be familiar with the traffic lights in Wilkieston with, to the left if you are heading away from the city, the Linburn Centre for Scottish war blinded. To reach the museum you turn into the Linburn Centre, then follow roads to the far end of the site.
Scotland has a long military tradition. So much so that the very mention of the kilt or the bagpipe tends to evoke images of Scottish soldiers engaged in battle somewhere far from home: whether at Waterloo; in the Crimea; in the service of Victoria's empire; on the Somme; in the deserts of North Africa; in Aden; or in Basrah or Helmand. Military Museum Scotland covers the last century or so of this long history of conflict. Items on display extend from World War One, through World War Two and into more recent wars. (Continues below image...)
What you find is a large and ever-expanding collection of items displayed in an informal but often poignant setting. Whatever your area of interest, there's something that will surprise you here. The museum had its origins in a mobile military museum that toured schools, and found a permanent home once it had outgrown its mobile roots.
The main focus remains educational, but education is for everyone of all ages. The approach is very much "hands-on", and visitors are able to handle many of the items on display: though, for obvious reasons, not others such as the magnificent scale models that dominate the centre of the room. Our not very random sample of one seven-year-old found the WW2 Bren Gun fascinating, but drew the line at donning a modern gas mask.
The exhibits inside the museum are only part of the experience at Military Museum Scotland. In the grounds you find a section of recreated World War One trench. This is above ground rather than below it, but it still succeeds in giving a strong sense of what many of our ancestors experienced a century ago. Back in the museum a separate area is home to an other ranks' canteen, which offers refreshments and houses more exhibits.
The museum's educational remit extends to an extensive archive of research material, including books, training manuals, war diaries and more. This is available for visitors to view for research or enjoyment.
The real fascination of the museum is that its informality allows you to explore and discover for yourself, depending on your own interests. We were highly impressed by the large scale model aircraft on display, and of a model WW2 motor torpedo boat in the act of firing a torpedo. An extensive exhibition of artefacts created by soldiers from recycled and reworked shell cases is also amazing.
Uniforms, weapons, documents, personal items, medals awarded to individual soldiers, it's all here. For us the real surprise of the visit was seeing a Fairbairn–Sykes fighting knife, developed in WW2 by two ex-Shanghai policemen for use by Commandos and other special forces. We'd read about these in the past and seen pictures, but found it amazing just how small - almost dainty - the real thing is. But no less lethal for it: or perhaps even more so.