Kildonan Museum is part of the cultural centre on the island of South Uist in the Outer Hebrides.
The Museum collection includes over 10,000 exhibits from South Uist’s past across a wide range of themes from religion to fishing, crofting, and everyday life.
In addition to the museum, the centre has a cafe and a gift shop and is well-placed on the A865 for pit stops by cyclists on the Hebridean Way.
Isle of South Uist,
|Opening Hours:||April - 31st October, 10am - 5pm|
7 days a week
|Admission Price:||Adults: £3|
|Parking:||There is free car parking at the front of the museum.|
|Contact:||Tel: 01878 710343|
|Facilities:||Cafe, gift shop, toilets, wheelchair access, disabled toilets.|
South Uist lies west of the Isle of Skye and the Small Isles on the west coast of Scotland.
To the north are the islands of Benbecula and North Uist and to the south is the island of Eriskay, all of which are joined by a road that has become an increasingly popular touring route thanks to the long-distance Hebridean Way.
Though this wild and remote route is one of the main draws for visitors to South Uist, many more come to the island to enjoy its powder-soft white sand beaches that thread their way along much of the western side of the island.
In addition, adventure-seeking hikers can roam across heather-covered hills on the east side as well as clamber along the rugged coastline that’s one of the most scenic in Scotland.
But what is there to do if you’d rather not head outdoors, for instance, if it’s raining (which it does a lot in the Uists…).
One option is to head to the Kildonan Museum on the A865, more or less in the middle of the island.
This museum is part of a larger community centre that houses a performing arts venue, a cafe, and a gift shop, and it’s a real gem for anyone that wants to learn about the history of the island and the people that have lived there throughout the ages.
The thousands of artefacts in the Kildonan Museum retell the stories of crofting, fishing, religion and the lives of the hardy islanders that made South Uist their home.
During a visit you’ll find a number of displays and exhibitions throughout the building inside separate rooms that are all based around a different theme.
There is, of course, a good-size section dedicated to the Scottish heroine Flora MacDonald and the subsequent Clearances, but there are equally large sections about crofting, the tools the islanders used in peat cutting and seaweed collecting, as well as other industries such as fishing and weaving.
Finally, there are display cases that explore the island’s association with religion (unlike most of Scotland, South Uist is Catholic), its diverse landscapes, and its rich flora and fauna.
1: This is an interesting wee museum that’s a great place to learn about the life of the islanders of South Uist in days gone by.
Kildonan Museum is home to lots of artefacts – over 10,000 in fact – so you’re guaranteed to walk away having learnt something new about this remarkable island.
2: Kildonan Museum is a good place to stop for a cuppa and a sandwich for those tourists that are enjoying the island’s beautiful beaches. Kildonan beach (postcode HS8 5RZ) is just 1.5 miles down a single-track road north of the museum.
1: Kildonan Museum has one of the few cafes on South Uist which means it gets rather busy in the peak season – especially around midday. I ate there a few times during my time on the island and I can confirm it’s much quieter before 11 am and after 2 pm.
2: There aren’t many indoor attractions on South Uist so this makes a good place to head to when the weather closes in.
Afterwards, visitors with an interest in history might like to take a look at Flora MacDonald’s House which is located half a mile to the south, or you can always go for an outdoor adventure on the remote Isle of Eriskay which is situated 12 miles to the south (a 20-minute drive).
While this isn’t the largest museum in Scotland by a long way (expect to spend an hour in Kildonan Museum at the most) it’s interesting enough to be good value for money considering the entry fee is just a few pounds.
As mentioned earlier, options for indoor attractions on South Uist are very limited so this attraction is your best bet on a rainy day, especially if you’re hungry.
The cafe next to the museum is a decent size and serves generous portions of good home-cooked food and it’s one of the few places on the island (that I found) that serves a decent cup of coffee.
The cakes are pretty good too and the staff are friendly, so all-in-all it’s worth visiting even if you have no intention of popping into the museum.
There’s also a shop that sells a good selection of books about the island as well as tourist maps and various works by local authors, so if you’re struggling to find a memento of your visit to South Uist you have a good chance of finding something you’ll like in the gift shop.
As far as access goes, it’s actually very good and the entire centre appears to be wheelchair and pushchair friendly.
The car park, meanwhile, is large enough to take a few motorhomes as well as tour coaches and cars, but from what I could see, overnight parking is not permitted.
Finally, if you’d like to spend extra time in the area after visiting Kildonan Museum I recommend a short drive west to Kildonan beach which is a haven for otters and has lovely walks along the coastline in both directions.
Flora MacDonald’s house (well the remaining foundations of it) is nearby and there’s also an ancient Neolithic cairn located 1.5 miles to the south (postcode HS8 5RY).
Things to do
Explore the Local History: Dive into the past at Kildonan Museum by exploring its unique collection of artefacts. From Iron Age relics to displays that reflect the island’s crofting, fishing, and maritime history, each piece tells an intriguing story about the life and culture of the South Uist people.
Visit the Kildonan Cafe: After a day exploring South Uist, treat yourself to a bite to eat at the Kildonan Café. The café offers a range of homemade dishes made from locally sourced ingredients and the prices are quite reasonable for a tourist-centric diner.
Attend a Workshop: The museum often hosts workshops and events focusing on the local culture. From traditional music sessions to craft workshops, these interactive experiences offer a unique insight into the traditions of South Uist. Be sure to check the event schedule displayed on the noticeboard during your visit.
Browse the Museum: The Kildonan Museum shop is a treasure trove of gifts and tourist guides. The shop also sells locally-made crafts and artworks, so whether you’re looking for a special memento for yourself or a gift for a friend, you’re sure to find something special.
Visit Flora MacDonald’s house: Flora MacDonald became famous during the Jacobite rebellion of 1745 when she helped Bonnie Prince Charlie escape to the Isle of Skye at a time when British troops were hunting him down. The foundation of her house can be seen a few hundred yards down the road from the Kildonan Museum.
Historical Significance: Kildonan Museum is situated on the southwestern edge of the Isle of South Uist and is the only museum on the island.
Founded by a Local: The museum was established by Father John Morrison in the 1950s. He was a local priest who had a keen interest in archaeology and the history of the islands.
Large Collection: Father Morrison originally collected more than 700 objects that represent the cultural identity of South Uist, but it has been significantly expanded since then.
Famous Uist Stone: The museum is home to the Clan Ranald stone, thought to have been carved to commemorate John of Moidart, chief of Clan Ranald in the late 1500s.
Active Community Hub: The museum plays a vital role as a community hub, hosting local events, supporting research into the island’s history, and contributing to the conservation of the island’s cultural heritage.
Things to do nearby
Isle of Eriskay. Address: Eriskay, Isle of South Uist, HS8 5JJ. Distance: 11 miles.
Eriskay is a small island located across a short causeway on the southernmost tip of South Uist.
Though best known for the jetty which operates a regular ferry service to Barra, Eriskay is worth taking the time to explore as it has a quiet beach at Prince’s Bay and a good coastal walk at Acairseid Mhor (postcode HS8 5JP).
Kildonan Beach. Address: Isle of South Uist, HS8 5RZ. Distance: 1.5 miles.
This is a wild and rugged beach that is well known for being a prime site to watch otters. There is a rough grass area that is suitable for cars and mid-size motorhomes.
Frobost Headland & Beach. Address: Isle of South Uist, HS8 5SA. Distance: 3.5 miles.
The Frobost headland lies immediately north of Kildonan Beach. A good walk can be had by parking at St. Mary’s Catholic Church (postcode HS8 5SA) and walking west to the end of the track.
Along the way, you’ll see the remnants of a Viking settlement before reaching the headland which is home to a variety of seabirds. There’s a rough grass parking area at the headland which is suitable for mid-size motorhomes.
Flora MacDonald’s House. Address: A865, Mingarry, South Uist. Distance: 0.6 miles.
Flora MacDonald is famous for helping Bonnie Prince Charlie escape to France after his defeat at the Battle of Culloden.
The foundation walls of the house where she grew up are still intact, as is a memorial cairn erected by Clan MacDonald.
Arinaban Woodland. Address: North Locheynort, Isle of South Uist, HS8 5SN. Distance: 5.2 miles.
This arboretum is located at the end of a single-track road heading east from the A865 near Locheynort.
The woodland features a 5 km footpath that offers spectacular views of South Uist, from the moorland and hills in the centre to the remote coastline that’s a haven for marine animals.
Frequently asked questions
What is the main town on South Uist?
There are no towns on South Uist, however, the largest settlement is Lochboisdale which is located on the southeast corner of the island.
Lochboisdale has a few visitor facilities including a bank with an ATM, a cafe, and a garage with a fuel forecourt.
It is also the location of a ferry terminal which has links to Castlebay on the Isle of Barra and Oban on the mainland.
Can you drive between North and South Uist?
It is possible to drive from the Isle of Eriskay on the southern end of South Uist all the way to the Isle of Berneray on the northern end of North Uist.
The majority of the road between the islands – the A865 – is dual lane, though it branches off onto single-track roads in many places.
The route through the Uists starts at Eriskay, then South Uist, Benbecula, Grimsay, North Uist, and finally, Berneray.
How do you get to South Uist?
The main travel route to get to South Uist from the mainland is Calmac ferries which operate from Oban to Lochboisdale.
Alternatively, there is a ferry service from the Isle of Barra to Eriskay on South Uist, and another service from Leverburgh on South Harris to Berneray on North Uist.
Why is South Uist Catholic?
The Scottish Reformation of the 1500s led to a major change in Scottish society when the papacy of Rome was rejected in favour of Scottish Protestantism.
Prior to this, the majority of Scotland was Catholic. Though the new Presbyterian religion flourished throughout Scotland, due to their remoteness and lack of influence from the mainland, the Uists and the Isle of Barra remained predominantly Catholic.