Cold-war military bunker in Scotland wins UK’s Museum of the Year Award


Cold-war military bunker in Scotland wins UK’s Museum of the Year Award

Gairloch is a village of 2,300 inhabitants on the western coast of Scotland; the nearest town is Inverness, 120 kilometers away. Yet, in 2020, Gairloch shares with other four UK museums the prestigious Art Fund’s Museum of The Year Award.
The story of the Gairloch visitor center is that of a small community pulling together to create a museum to tell the history of the village.
The home of the museum was created by refurbishing an old bomb-proof concrete bunker built during the Cold War to track Soviet nuclear bombers; happily, they never came and the bunker has been transformed into a place to defend and preserve the community’s heritage.

The trustees of the museum were able to convince the Highland Council to sell them the bunker, which was used previously as a road maintenance depot, for 1 pound; thereafter, they started a fundraising campaign to collect the £2,4M required to refurbish and convert the building; about 10% of the total sum was raised by the small local community.

Cover image, an exterior view of the Gairloch Museum, picture source:

gairloch-esterno-bunker-the guardian-3276

Gairloch-museum-bunker-exterior-view-via Gairloch-museum

The bunker exterior before the renovation.
up, image source: The Guardian, photo by Marc Atkins/Art Fund 2020
down, image source: Gairloch Museum

The museum’s collection comprises local geological specimens – including some of the oldest rocks in western Europe -, textiles, working tools, furniture, and a large archive focused on Gaelic culture.
In order to convert the bunker space into a gallery, the interior partitions were removed and some windows were opened through the 0,6 meter-thick concrete of the exterior walls, while the original explosion-proof steel doors were retained.

In 2020, the Art Fund increased the number of winners of the Museum of the Year Award in response to the coronavirus crisis; the prize money for each winner was also increased to £40,000. The other recipients of this year’s award are the Science Museum in London, the Towner Eastbourne art gallery, the Aberdeen art gallery, and the South London gallery.

An interior view of the Gairloch Museum. Image source: North Coast 500

For further information on Gairloch Museum and Art Fund:   –

sponsored links

copyright Inexhibit 2021 - ISSN: 2283-5474