Scottish Maritime Museum, Irvine & Dumbarton

The Scottish Maritime Museum hold’s Scotland’s maritime collection with emphasis on shipbuilding.  Spread across two sites, in Irvine and Dumbarton, the Museum holds significant collections of vessels, art, photographs, machine tools and archives.

The Museum’s main site is in Irvine in the magnificent A-Listed 1872 engine shop of shipbuilders Stephens of Linthouse, which was dismantled in Glasgow and rebuilt in Irvine in 1991.

The Museum’s second site is the Denny Ship Model Experiment Tank – built in 1883 this is the world’s oldest commercial testing tank, with a water tank 100 metres long used for testing ship models.

History of the Museum

Spartan (c) National Historic Ships UK

The museum began life as the West of Scotland Boat Museum Association in Irvine the early 1980s, during which time it acquired the puffer Spartan, a rare survivor.  At the same time the rapid shut-down of Clyde industries, including shipyards, meant that the fledgling museum was in the perfect position to acquire some of the machinery and tools used to make Clyde ships, saving them from the scrapheap.

In the late 1980s the Stephens of Linthouse shipyard in Govan was being cleared, and the old engine shop was earmarked for demolition.  The West of Scotland Boat Museum, now the Scottish Maritime Museum, worked with funders and partners to dismantle the rare survivor and rebuild it in Irvine.  Completed in 1991, the building now houses the majority of the Museum’s collections.

Scottish Maritime Museum buildings (c) SMM
In the 1990s the Scottish Maritime Museum took on the management of the Denny Ship Model Testing Tank, the last surviving building of the former Denny Shipyard.
Scottish Maritime Museum (c) SMM

The Museum is still run as an independent charitable trust with the help of enthusiastic volunteers and is now acknowledged as one of Scotland's national industrial museums, with its collections formally recognised as being of national significance.

About the Museum
Scottish Maritime Museum (c) SMM

The Museum's aim is to tell the story of Scotland and Scot’s relationship with the seas, coasts and waters, to preserve shipbuilding’s industrial heritage, and to share that history with Scots and the wider world.

Vessels of National Significance 

Carola (c) Scottish Maritime Museum
Carola (c) Scottish Maritime Museum
Kyles (c) National Historic Ships UK
Kyles (c) National Historic Ships UK
Jane Anne (c) National Historic Ships UK
Jane Anne (c) National Historic Ships UK
Garnock (c) National Historic Ships UK
Garnock (c) National Historic Ships UK

The puffer Spartan (the oldest surviving Clyde-built puffer), steam yacht Carola, and coaster Kyles (the oldest surviving floating Clyde-built vessel) are members of the National Historic Fleet, and life boat Jane Anne and motor vessel Garnock are registered historic vessels, as is RNLB TGB, on loan from the RNLI to the museum since 1986.

Scanning the Horizons project - exploring the collections in 3D
Carola 3D still (c) Scottish Maritime Museum

In 2018 Scottish Maritime Museum began a programme of 3D digitisation of its collection.  By using 3D technology, they are bringing their collection closer to the public, engaging audiences from all around the world to explore it digitally.

Have a look at their online 3D gallery and learn about their collection! 

As part of their 'Scanning the Horizon' project, you can now enjoy Virtual Tours of their vessels from the comfort of your own home!  Move between panoramas to explore different sections of MV Spartan and SY Carola and gain access to areas usually 'off-limits'. 


The Museum established the Scottish Boat Building School in 2014 to provide education and qualification in both traditional and modern boat building and repair.

Watch YouTube videos detailing the Scottish Boat Building School here.

Working with the local community, including young offenders, long-term unemployed, and general volunteers, the school gives its volunteers transferable skills that can lead to jobs for its trainees and, through its commercial boat-building and repair arm, another source of income for the Museum.
Latest News

August 2021 Conservation work has begun on MV Kyles

August 2021 A new exhibition, Glass Ships In Bottles, opens at the museum in September. 

August 2021 The Scottish Maritime Museum will be taking part in a national campaign to help support children and young people’s wellbeing over summer.

April 2021 The Scottish Maritime Museum reopens to the public on 29th April with new exhibition Into The Maelstrom.  

January 2021 The #KeepTheKylesAfloat fundraising campaign has raised £39,835, more than double their target of £15,000 to get Kyles shipshape for 2022.

The Scottish Maritime Museum re-opens on Friday 7 August 2020 and they're ready to welcome everyone back safely, with some surprises too!  Visitors can now step inside their much loved puffer Spartan for the first time and immerse themselves in her life in their 'Inside Out' exhibition.  

June 2020 While the Museum doors are closed during the Covid-19 pandemic you can view their collection and the inspiring stories for free online.  Why not check out their Art Collection3D Collections, our Collections Blog, or even take a Virtual Tour.  Perhaps sit back and enjoy their Oral History clips of storms, stories and explosions.

May 2020 Spartan has been awarded National Historic Ships UK's Regional Flagship award for Scotland (West).  Find out more here

Find out more about the Scottish Maritime Museum here

Scottish Maritime Museum logo