Just off the A9 between Golspie and Helmsdale, along the popular route of the North Coast 500 in the Highlands of Scotland, is Brora. Brora is home to a converted community hall now known as Brora Heritage Centre. It was only by chance that we stumbled upon the signage from along the main road through Brora on a long road trip to Orkney. This chance stop made for a very welcome break, such an interesting visit and a place with so much history! This site is not only a wonderful small museum but also a great place to rest and get refreshment whilst finding out extra information on the local area. It was a pleasure to meet Nick who was at the helm on the reception desk on the day we visited.
Within the old community hall is Brora Museum. The museum is an eclectic mix of the very old and the new. Exhibitions and displays cover three large rooms and cover the natural history, industry, local life and includes a little bit of medicine. Lots of information and extra pictures add and enhance the different stories found within the rooms.
Natural History and Mining - A small selection of geological samples including coal fossils make up the story of why Brora became a site of early mining. Mining started here at the end of the 16th century when the Countess of Sutherland sunk ‘bell pits’ to extract the coal to heat saltpans to produce salt. A whole room has been set out to give the effect of being underground and small dioramas play out the various stages in coal mining development that have taken place over the years.
Don’t miss! A modern example of a saltpan (used to gain salt from evaporating saltwater) located near the carpark.
Social History – The centre holds a beautifully relatable collection of social history material. The displays include everyday items from the 20th century and local stories from those who lived and grew up in Brora. Stories of Doctor Gilbert and Nurse Mary Macloed, ice-cream and the Capaldis and an Olympic diving medallist who dived off Brora Railway Bridge into the River Brora.
Archaeology -There are some interesting items on display. With stone tools and pottery from local sites ranging from the Neolithic to the present day. Nearby historic sites you might want to add to any visit include Cairn Laith broch and Dunrobin Castle. These feature along a coastal path that starts in Brora and heads to Golspie.
Top tip – while you are there why not take in a local walk?
You can pick up a map for the Brora Village Trail from the heritage centre. The map highlights various points of interest and is a great staring point to explore the area further.
It is an exciting time for Brora Heritage Centre with plans for a move to a new site, still in Brora, with better visibility for those travelling along the NC500. These plans include saving a local historic building and creating a bespoke home for the museum collection, more room for educational activities and additional research facilities. Clyne Historical Society have been the driving force behind this ambitious project supported by the community and many other heritage organisations and funding bodies. I look forward to returning when the new site is opened.
Summer Hours are 10:30 – 16:30 daily last admission is 16:00 (check ahead for winter hours)
Entry Charges Apply
£3 adults, children free.
Car Park, Toilets, Refreshments and Ice-Cream, Small Gift Shop.
For the latest information on opening times, events and charges head on over to Brora Heritage Centre Facebook Page https://www.facebook.com/broraheritage?locale=en_GB or Clyne Heritage Society http://www.clyneheritage.com/
The NC500 is a route of just over 500 miles that naturally follows the main roads along the coastal route around the North Highlands of Scotland. It covers the regions of Wester Ross, Sutherland, Caithness, Easter Ross, the Black Isle and Inverness-Shire.
There are lots more little museums and heritage centres located along the NC500. For more about the route and what you can do and see along the way click here. https://www.northcoast500.com/
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Helen is Cardiff born and Wales based museum and heritage professional with a BA(Hons) in Archaeology and MA in Museum Studies and a lifelong museum fanatic. Helen is the creator of ‘The Heritage Hiker’s Guide to…’ Blog which brings together archaeology, history, heritage, walking with exploration of the outdoors.
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