Scottish National Portrait Gallery

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A rainy February afternoon was the perfect time to make our first visit to this gallery, just a short walk from Princes Street. Entry to this beautiful building, refurbished in 2011, is free and even on a very chilly day it was lovely and warm! The building itself is worth a visit, with painted murals, arts and crafts style friezes, stained glass windows and very impressive architecture. As well as permanent displays, which show famous historical figures from Scotland's past, there were some excellent exhibitions running until May 2014. These include Scotland's comedy greats, ranging from Sir Harry Lauder to Billy Connolly, a display featuring pioneers of science and another about modern Scots. There are paintings, photographs, sketches, caricatures and also video clips, so portraits in the widest sense. The library is also home to an interesting collection of masks, cast from life and from death. While all the portraits are of Scots, not all are by Scottish artists, so names include Van Dyck, Gainsborough and Rodin. We spent a couple of hours there and only visited two of the three floors. On the first floor there is an interactive area, with touch screens, easy to use (and with seats!) Among the activities to try are finding portraits by keying in your own facial details or your interests, such as parts of Scotland, mountains, coast etc. Very interesting to see what appears! There is a good shop with postcards, cards, books and other items relating to material in the gallery, plus other gifts too. There is also a cafe and while we didn't visit, it seemed very popular. With a range of regular talks and children's activities there are many ways to enjoy the gallery. We noted that there will be a World War One themed exhibition coming up and, with regular changes, a return visit will definitely be on the cards.

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