During term time, schools from as far away as Gretna travel to the Ayrshire coast to experience the Vikingar! visitor attraction in Largs, scene of the battle between the Vikings and the Scots in 1263. In the summer, "civilians" have the unique edutainment facility to themselves.
Opened some 15 years ago, within a redeveloped 1930s arts and leisure centre (it also features a theatre and swimming pool), Vikingar! looks pretty unpromising on the outside but the high-quality exhibition about the Vikings in Scotland is well worth a visit.
The experience begins in a recreated Viking long house, where a costumed guide invites visitors to take a seat on wooden benches covered in animal skins which, at night, would have served as beds for the adults. Here, you learn about Viking life - what they ate and drank, and how they seemed to spend most of their time fighting. Visitors can try their hand at grinding grain for flour; use the wooden paddles that turned dough into flat bread and find out how difficult it is to wield a sword and shield while wearing a helmet and chain mail.
In a second dimly-lit long house, lined with hand-carved wooden panels, the great Norse god Odin greets visitors from a movie screen (in a scene reminiscent of The Wizard of Oz) to deliver a brief history of Viking beliefs. Then it's on to the comfortable Vikingar! cinema for a rather gory 20-minute film about Scotland's Viking history, followed by a look around the final part of the experience - the Viking Hall of Knowledge, which offers a mix of information in a variety of forms designed to appeal to all ages.
T 01475 689777.