David Livingstone Centre

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We visited the David Livingstone Centre on a Sunday in May and fully appreciated the beautiful parkland setting that it's in. Having arrived early – it opens at 12.30 on Sundays – we wandered round the well-kept garden and admired the statue of DL being attacked by a lion, which is pretty spectacular. We did wonder about the scale though. We've seen a lot of lions in real life and it did look pretty big! The property is owned by the National Trust for Scotland and as we have NT membership for England, we got in free. Otherwise it would have been £6.50. The building itself is quite impressive, but while DL was born here in Shuttle Row, his family lived in a one bedroom flat within it – and there were 23 other families! You start the exhibition by making your way to the top floor. We used the stairs but a lift is also available. If you are interested in diaries, records, maps and journals then you will be in your element. Case after case is waiting for you. There are also some dioramas, showing his travels as well as maps which light up to show his different routes. Much of the information is presented in its original form, so it does require a lot of reading. We found it extremely interesting and spent about an hour and a half going through all the different rooms. The actual room where David Livingstone was born is set out as it would have been and there are also 'tableau' displays with models of some of the people that he met. I'm not sure that children or young people would find it that appealing. The displays do feel a little tired and dated and it's quite a high entrance fee, when you consider that nearby New Lanark doesn't cost that much more and probably appeals more to all ages. Having said that, one of the most fascinating things was a video on the ground floor, lasting just over three minutes, which explained how technology is helping people to read David Livingstone's now-faded diaries which he wrote on newspaper, having run out of plain paper. That really was interesting. The ticket office, shop and café are all in a separate building nearby. We looked round the shop but didn't buy anything and didn't try out the café, although there were a few people at the tables. There is a woodland area that is pleasant to walk through too. We didn't try out the riverside walk along the River Clyde but it is possible to walk to the mediaeval Bothwell Castle. Parking is free and the area was generally busy with quite a few dog owners out for a stroll. By the time we left, a few more visitors were arriving, but it was notable that they were all about our age and none of them had children with them. The centre does cater for school trips and I'm sure that with an enthusiastic person as a guide children would get a lot out of it. However, the family-friendly description in the local what's on book might be stretching it a bit.

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