Museum Of Islay Life – Port Charlotte, Scotland - Atlas Obscura

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Museum Of Islay Life

A former church that has been chronicling the Scottish island of Islay's rich history since the 70s. 


The Museum of Islay Life is a fascinating attraction on the remote Scottish island of Islay, the southernmost island of the Inner Hebrides of Scotland. Located in the small village of Port Charlotte, this museum illustrates the remarkable history of Islay from prehistoric to modern times over a period of around 12,000 years. Located in what was once the old Kilchoman Free Church, the museum opened in 1977 with the aim of conservation and education to represent the history of life on Islay.

The Kilchoman Free Church was last used as a place of worship in 1929 and after being purchased for a nominal sum, the Islay Museums Trust took on the task of transforming this disused building into a museum. The museum holds a large variety of old photographs, books, and interesting objects, many of which were donated by local islanders. It’s said that the collection now holds over 2,700 objects.

Islay is an area steeped in history and this is reflected in the story that the museum tells. The first inhabitants were from the Mesolithic period, settling around 8,000 B.C. The next major settlers were Celts, and it was in the 6th century that Islay formed part of the Gaelic kingdom of Dál Riata.

The museum holds many items of nautical significance, informing viewers of the history and tragedies of the sea.  One interesting item is the ship bell from the SS Tuscania, a luxury liner transporting American soldiers to Europe which was sunk off the coast of Islay by a German U-Boat in 1918. 

There is a small section of the museum that displays and educates viewers about the history of carved stones. Some of these standing stones date as far back as the 1500s, and their carvings create enchanted mysteries about the history of these remote Scottish locations. 

Know Before You Go

The current opening hours of the museum are 10:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m., Monday to Friday. Entrance for children is free.

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September 8, 2022

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