About the Museum

Based in the West of Scotland, with sites in Irvine and Dumbarton.

The Scottish Maritime Museum holds an important, nationally recognised collection featuring a variety of historic vessels, artefacts, fascinating personal items and the largest collection of shipbuilding tools and machinery in the country. The buildings and sites which the Scottish Maritime Museum occupies are themselves part of the heritage collection.

The Scottish Maritime Museum in Irvine is housed within the vast, glass-roofed Victorian Linthouse. The A listed ‘cathedral of engineering’ was formerly the Engine Shop of Alexander Stephen and Sons shipyard in Govan before being salvaged and relocated to Irvine in 1991. 

The Scottish Maritime Museum in Dumbarton is located on the site of the former, influential and innovative William Denny Shipyard and features the world’s first commercial ship testing facility, the Denny Ship Model Experiment Tank.

Overview of Dumbarton

The Denny Ship Model Experiment Tank was the world's first commercial example of a test tank and was the starting point for many of the firm's great innovations. Completed in 1883, the Tank was designed to test scale models to determine the most efficient hull shape and power requirement for any particular vessel. These small-scale tests were used to predict the behaviour of full-sized hulls. More value was added to the tests in 1887 when a wave maker was installed to simulate rough seas.

Throughout its working life, the Tank tested models of a variety of vessels and explored various propulsion methods, including propellers, paddles and vane wheels. Experiments were carried out on models of the Denny-Brown stabilisers and the hovercraft to gauge their feasibility. Tank staff also carried out research and experiments for other companies: Belfast-based Harland & Wolff decided to fit a bulbous bow on Canberra after successful model tests in the Denny Tank. 

A visit to the Denny Ship Model Experiment Tank in Dumbarton is an opportunity to immerse yourself in life at the Victorian Denny Shipyard and learn how ships were designed and tested. Try your hand at smoothing and carving a real wax hull model and test hull designs in the mini tank.

Explore ship models, photographs and historic artefacts in the Propeller Workshop.  Find out about the Denny Brothers, builders of the famous Cutty-Sark and inventors of the Denny helicopter, Denny hovercraft and Denny-Brown stabilisers. Browse our well stocked retail area for that perfect memento. We have a wide selection of items ranging from pocket money goods to large maritime models.


Young people learn best through activities and experience and we have a range of different activities to support pupils of all abilities and learning styles. The Museum is pleased to be a Children’s University Learning Destination and has established connections with local schools. Museum objects can spark discussion on science, technology, engineering and mathematics, introducing the wealth of opportunity a STEM career can offer.

The Scottish Maritime Museum has clear goals for its contribution to young people’s learning and development, and aims to raise awareness and understanding of Scotland’s maritime culture and heritage. The Museum is fully committed to promoting an understanding of our rich cultural heritage, highlighting our contribution to industry, making the exhibits accessible for study and enjoyment as well as preserving them for future generations.

These objectives are achieved with the inclusion of clear themes and links across the curriculum, especially in Social Subjects, Expressive Arts, Science and Technology, engaging and inspiring pupils of all ages. The Museum provides a unique and stimulating learning environment which helps to put subjects into context and brings what is studied to life by providing the sensory experiences of handling real objects, exploring original restored buildings and artefacts.

Year Round Events, Exhibitions and Activities

A variety of events and special exhibitions adds to the diversity of the Museums annual calendar. These can include; pirate days, crafting fun, science-based experiments and ghost tours to heritage talks. Check out our changing programme of events and activities at our website www.scottishmaritimemusuem.org.

Scottish Maritime Museum

The Scottish Maritime Museum holds an important; nationally recognised and varied collection of historic ships, artefacts, shipbuilding machinery, machine tools, small vessels, canoes, lifeboats and other fascinating personal items. The Scottish Maritime Museum also has an ambitious three year programme to create an art collection of national significance.

This growing art collection, which includes works by George Wyllie, Francis Cadell, Benno Schotz and Tom McKendrick, brings an exciting new dimension to the Museum’s nationally recognised collection of maritime heritage.