I’ve lost count of the number of times we’ve visited the National Museum of Rural Life now. It’s become one of our more regular, and one of our favourite places to go. The kids love it, and to be honest, so do I. (I mean, who doesn’t like patting a cow or seeing baby animals?!)
I know I’m going on about the National Trust for Scotland (NTS) again but I’m a big fan of annual membership cards (our various membership cards save us a bunch of money every year) and this is one we use pretty frequently.
Anyway, the National Museum of Rural Life is a National Museums Scotland site; their partnership with NTS means that NTS members get in free. Essentially, this makes it the closest, really fun place we can go using our NTS cards.
The museum itself is incredibly child friendly. Upstairs, when you walk across the bridge, one of the first thing you come to is a room full of exhibits specifically for children. There are lots of activities in here. There are puzzles to do, doors to open and close with facts and tiny animals in them, holes to peep through, a little tunnel to crawl through, bits of paper to colour, camouflage activities plus a whole bunch of other stuff.
The little lady particularly likes the pyramid puzzles and the colouring in. The little man really enjoys opening and closing all the little doors over and over and over and over again, and clambering through the wee tunnel.
Along the corridor a little you’ll find the bit all about bees. There is a bumble bee (and bee keeper) dress up box and a little video about bees here. The kids love this part. We always end up spending ages here.
Downstairs is a room full of tractors. The little lady was rather enamoured with this part of the museum the first few times we went but we’ve barely made it past the bumble bees more recently.
Those are the bits we always end up in and the bits that the kids both love. I’m not even sure what the rest of the museum is like. To be honest I haven’t had the chance to read or look at the rest of it despite having been there many times in the past year. I’m usually there with the two kids on my own, and as I’m sure you know, reading stuff doesn’t really happen when you’ve a 1 year old to chase!
Speaking of chasing, the main corridor where all the exhibits feed off goes round in a big square and is basically one giant slope. Running up and down little sections of this is 100% the little man’s favourite thing.
When you go to the admissions desk to get your tickets, you’ll be asked if you want to book a time for a tractor ride to go up to the farm. The ride on the tractor ride takes less than 10 minutes.
You can walk up; it’s not that far to walk up the hill, but the tractor is pretty fun. (Though notably bouncy when you’re heavily pregnant and your bladder control isn’t quite at peak performance.)
The farm has some pigs, chickens, cows, a couple of lovely wee cats, some horses and a bunch of sheep. You’ll see some of them from the tractor on the way up.
Depending on the time of year, some of the cows/calves/sheep/lambs/ducks are housed in one or two of the shelters amongst the farm buildings. You can get up close and personal with them in there.
Both my kids absolutely love the cows. They’re very friendly, and incredibly cute. A bit like a really big labrador. The calves do like a taste of a jacket or a jumper though so you are quite likely to get cow slabbers on your clothes.
If you go in the afternoon you might see the cows getting milked. If not, don’t worry. You can always try your hand at ‘milking’ water out of the fake cow anyway! The little lady always needs a shot of this. Every time. And I had to remove the little man from the fake cow udder and distract him with a real cow at least 10 times on our last visit so that someone else could get a turn before his little legs could get him back as quickly as possible to the udder again.
Inside the farm house you can see what it looked like back in the 1940’s. There is always a wee quest for the kids in here. It’s normally 5 tiny soft toy cows hidden around the different rooms of the house that you need to find as you make your way around. Upstairs there is a room with puzzles, a couple of cars and a dress up box. This is where the little lady heads straight towards whenever we go inside there. She loves a puzzle.
There are a few swings, a slide and a climbing frame, as well as a little wooden train in the playpark. The playpark is not massive and the climbing frame is much better suited for older kids. But my littlest is happy on the swing while the big one has a good climb on the frame.
They both love a seat on the tractor that’s in the playpark too.
The cafe here – Sheilings Cafe – is really nice. It’s one place I don’t mind taking the kids for lunch. Because I like the food, they like the food, and it’s not so overpriced that I resent the sandwich I’m eating. They also offer kids baked potatoes rather than just a sandwich box or something with chips. Quite different from a lot of other attractions! The cakes are lovely too. It does occasionally take a little while to get your food, but everything always tastes nice.
During term time, and even during the summer school holidays, it’s not normally too busy. Last week when we visited though, it was insane. A 40 minute wait for food; no kids lunch boxes left; no gluten free bread left (my aunt is a coeliac so without waiting the 40 minutes for food with a screaming 18 month old, her single food option was soup). Not their finest hour, I think. Especially judging by the stress level of the poor guy behind the counter.
Generally though, (every time except our latest visit) the cafe is very child friendly. They have plenty high chairs and the staff are usually pretty helpful. The tables aren’t all crammed together, so you can fit a buggy in too.
The Extra Bits
During school holidays the museum usually has some crafty activities on for kids. On our last visit they were decorating little envelopes which they then put a few scoops of pollinator friendly seeds into for planting in your garden later. A lovely wee activity which both my kids absolutely adored doing.
A few months ago, the little man fell face first into a puddle of mixed rain and pig slurry, so I’d say wellies and waterproof onesies are an absolute must on a rainy day. Or if it’s been rainy at all in the past week or so and the ground is a bit wet. I had to rinse him in the sink in the ladies toilet that day. The waterproof-welly combo saved us having to leave immediately and go home with a pig slurry smelling car.
Prams can go on the tractor. Until this week I always took the little man in the carrier on the tractor – I just found it simpler. The staff at the main desk are really helpful and you can leave your pram behind there if you don’t want to take it up to the farm. The tractor drivers are incredibly friendly though and will help you get on the tractor with your wheels.
As you might expect, the farm is pretty muddy. It’s buggy friendly; there are no stairs, though you won’t be able to take buggies into the farm house. You might just want to wipe the wheels before you put it back in your car!
You can pick up a clipboard by the front desk and choose an activity sheet to complete during your visit. The little lady’s favourite is the one for the tractor & farm visit; there are 9 pictures on the sheet and you tick each one off as you find them at the farm. We have to do this one every time. She loves it.
Entry costs £7 for adults and £4 for children. Under 5’s go free. National Museums Scotland members and National Trust Scotland members get free entry.
The National Museum of Rural Life is an excellent day out. It’s one of our favourite places to visit. There are lovely farm animals to see (and probably to give a wee pat to), lots to keep kids entertained in the museum, a little playpark, and a decent cafe as well. The tractor ride is fun for everyone, and the staff are all great with kids (and great with parents) too.
The National Museum of Rural Life is located at Wester Kittochside, Philipshill Road,
East Kilbride, G76 9HR.