Festive decorations have transformed many museums into a feast of colour. Deedee Cuddihy says now is the ideal time to visit.
LIKE IT or loathe it, everybody has a strong opinion about the new National Museum of Scotland, in Edinburgh. If you haven't visited it yet, the Christmas holidays are an ideal opportunity.
The National Museum and its sister establishment, the Royal Museum, in Chambers Street, will be open at all times - even Ne'erday, apart from Christmas Day. The Discovery Centre, a hands-on gallery for children, should be up and running by then and the long-established children's art competition will take in this venue. Admission is free for children and pound;3 for adults. Tel: 0131 225 7534 for further details.
There's a scarier exhibition in Glasgow at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, where decorated Christmas trees and colourful hanging banners create a festive atmosphere.
"Dialogue in the Dark" takes visitors on a spooky tour of a house, garden, street scene and cafe - all in the pitch dark, with a sight-impaired guide. Everything is perfectly safe and lots of fun once you get the hang of it. It's proved so popular that many people have been back several times. The gallery is closed on December 25, 26, and January 1 and 2. Admission is free, but it's not recommended for very small children. Tel: 0141 287 2699.
In Aberdeen, there's a Christmas stocking full of exhibitions at Provost Skene's House museum, a restored 16th century building which has been transformed for the festive season with traditional decorations, including a tree in the toy-filled nursery.
One hundred years of party frocks feature in the costume gallery. Elsewhere you can see the combs with which medieval Aberdonians kept their hair tidy and head lice at bay, and a curious and sometimes gruesome collection of local nursing and medical objects. Admission is pound;1. The museum is open during the holidays on December 29 and 30, and from January 5. Tel: 01224 641086.
Stranraer Museum in Dumfries and Galloway will open during the holidays from December 28 until Hogmanay and January 4 onwards, with quizzes and museum trails. From December 29, there is a major new exhibition on the traditional winter sport of curling. The fact that children from local primary schools are currently taking curling lessons in the local North West Castle Hotel, shows how popular it still is. Museum entry is free. Further information on 01776 705088.
For traditional Christmas atmosphere families could hardly do better than Callendar House, the restored Georgian mansion museum within walking distance of Falkirk town centre.
A huge tree and other decorations will be up and costumed staff will be turning out old-fashioned recipes for visitors in the candle-lit kitchen. There will be a festive air in the museum's other recently opened interpretation area, where a printer's shop, watch repairer's and general store can be visited. Admission is pound;2.50 and pound;1. Callendar House is closed on Sundays as well as December 25, 26 and January 1 and 2. Tel: 01324 503770.
The Smith Art Gallery and Museum in Stirling is also in festive mode with the family-style Victorian Stirling exhibition. Its excellent children's activity area has quizzes, trails and clothes for dressing. The museum has a cafe and a shop that sells everything from Smith yoyos to William Wallace beer. It will be open from December 29-31 inclusive and from January 5. Admission is free. Tel: 01786 471917.
Staff at Summerlee Heritage Park in Coatbridge have created a magical Witches' Wood for young visitors to explore during the holidays. The many other attractions at Summerlee include a coal mine, workers' cottages, trams etc. Entrance is free and the park is closed only on December 25, 26 and January 1 and 2. Tel: 01236 431261.