National Museum of Rural Life ploughs up the past

Ploughing up the Past

The changing face of Scottish farming is brought to life at the National Museum of Rural Life near East Kilbride

Fertile-minded foodies on the hunt for a way to further cultivate their knowledge of the field-to-plate journey should look no further than the National Museum of Rural Life. Situated near East Kilbride, and combining a modern museum with an historic working farm, it tells the story of agriculture in Lanarkshire and beyond from its roots right through to the present day, allowing visitors to witness farming practices old and new.

The museum explores radical changes in rural life – social, political, technological and personal – through the ages. Content ranges from farm machinery to domestic interiors, archive film footage and historic animal portraits. The working farm tracks the rhythm of the changing seasons from lambing to haymaking, and is home to pigs, sheep, horses, hens and Ayrshire dairy cows.

'Our Ayrshire cows are milked daily and this process can been seen from the visitor viewing platform in the milking byre,' explains Shirley Maciver, the museum's general manager. You might even wind up drinking a glass of their white stuff somewhere down the line. 'We sell our milk to a wholly British farmer-owned dairy co-operative,' says Maciver, 'so our milk may end up in your glass or in regional cheeses.'

Visitors can explore acres of open fields and take a tractor tour to see the Georgian farmhouse with its 1950s interior, a relic from before the property and its land were gifted to the National Trust for Scotland in 1992 by then owner Margaret Reid. 'The traditional farm had been worked by her family for 10 generations tracing back over 400 years,' Maciver explains, 'but incredibly it had never been intensively cultivated, which has resulted in the land being environmentally rich and diverse with many traditional rural features which have vanished from the Scottish countryside.'

Its story speaks to an entire near-lost agricultural history in the surrounding area. 'South Lanarkshire, and in particular East Kilbride, was mostly greenbelt with a wealth of farms,' says Maciver. 'However, when the New Town was created in 1947, much of this land was repurposed. Therefore our museum and working farm are even more precious.'

National Museum of Rural Life

Wester Kittochside, Philipshill Road, East Kilbride, South Lanarkshire, G76 9HR

The café at this rural life museum looks out over the fields and offers a range of sandwiches, filled bagels and main meals starring local produce.