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Creetown Gem and Rock Museum (Newton Stewart)

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Chain Road, Creetown, Newton Stewart, Dumfries and Galloway, DG8 7HJ, Scotland.

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      12.10.2009 23:15
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      If you are in the area, go in and spend a couple of fascinating hours!

      Creetown Gem and Rock museum is hidden away in Creetown, Galloway, in the South West of Scotland. It is one of the largest privately owned collection of rocks and minerals in the UK! It is also one of my favourite museums of all time. I have been visiting this gem of a gemstone museum for about 25 years. Everytime I go up to Galloway in fact. I brainwashed my children into wanting to see it and we just kept going back because they loved it too. It's one of those places that you see something new every time you go. ~~~Finding the Museum~~~ It is easy to find because it is well signposted off the A75 and as you enter Creetown. Parking is ample and free. The carpark slopes a bit, so if you are unsteady on your feet try to park close to the entrance gates. The museum was the family home of the Stephensons who have been the creators and curators for three generations. Because of it's size it has an intimate feel to it and the staff are really good at answering questions. Before you enter the front porch, take some time to have a look at the fossils that have been sunk into the pathway and surrounding walls. They are a small foretaste of what to expect. Coming in you are greeted by the little ticket and information desk. Entrance is not expensive and the ticket is valid for two weeks. I like this because if it's rainy you can go back and see what you missed the first time! The staff are unfailingly pleasant and will tell you anything you need to know about the layout etc. ~~~The Museum~~~ From the entrance lobby you walk straight on into the main exhibition room. If, like me, you are fascinated by minerals and geology, this is like walking into a treasure trove. The rocks and crystals are exhibited in cases and shelving, well lit and grouped in 'families'. The only criticism I would make is that sometimes the labelling of what you are looking at, could be improved. I would have liked to see more information. Particularly about geographical distribution. Some of the exhibits were unlabelled and this was a bit frustrating, having said that, there was always someone around to ask. It must be nigh on impossible to label that many specimens anyway! I was particularly taken with the displays showing different forms of the crystals and gemstones. One cabinet might house samples of say, Amethyst in it's raw form, polished, carved into an artefact or ornament. This made it easier to appreciate the qualities, potential and beauty of the stone. There are so many beautiful carvings and sculptures it is always difficult to know where to look next. Some of the specimens are tiny and some are massive. In the main room there are some specimens displayed with special lights which demonstrate their special luminescent qualities. The cabinets of jade are spectacular. Here you can see the may different colours and uses of jade. I love jade and tend to spend a lot of time at this particular spot in the museum. There is an interesting display of life size copies of the largest diamonds in the world. It is possible to understand the sheer size and carat weight of the real ones as you look at these. (I tend to hide my engagement ring in embarrassment when I compare the puny stones I wear, to these whoppers!) There is also a display of real meteorites. One of which weighs a massive 3 kilos. Can you imagine that crashing through your roof? It is hard to describe the sheer range and quality of the minerals on display. It is impossible not to be fascinated and educated as you gaze from one natural wonder to the next. ~~~The Professor's Study~~~ My Mum was with me last time I was there. She is 82 and she soon got tired so I showed her into the 'Professor's Study'. This is a large and very comfortable room which is a replica of a victorian gentleman's study. It is well furnished with large comfortable leather chairs and sofas. There is very interesting and informative film to watch about gemstones and their history and formation. The film wasn't showing when I was there but I had watched it before. My mum was quite happy to sit and rest and leaf through the magazines that were provided. Whilst I went and feasted my eyes for a while longer! ~~~The Crystal Cave~~~ This is another large room made into a 'cave', where larger formations and crystals are displayed. This is a great place for children because the lighting makes it particularly magical. Some of the exhibits in here are stunning. The only problem I could see with this area is that sometimes children would have to be lifted to see into the 'caverns'. I think some of those little footstools would be handy here, to save parents from having to lift chunky toddlers up! The toilets are well maintained, clean and spacious. I don't think there would be any problems there for wheelchair access. ~~~Watching the experts~~~ Off the corridor is another little room where it is possible to watch the expert gemologists working with the stones. As an amateur I find it particularly fascinating to watch experts at work cutting and fitting stones. A glass partition seperates the visitors from the workers. It's probably just as well because people like me would have so many questions they would never get any work done! I have to confess to gazing enviously at all their expensive gadgets and tools. Tearing myself away I decided it was time to take my Mum for a cuppa in the ....... ~~~Prospectors Pantry Tea Room!~~~ The tea room is a fairly new addition and is built onto the back of the museum. It is light and airy and smells absolutely delicious! You don't have to be a visitor to the museum to go in and have a meal. It is used a lot by walkers and bikers too. Provision is made for bikes (and dogs) by the ramp at the door. The food is home made and tastes good. Portions are generous and not expensive. I think I paid about £6.50 for good sized sandwiches, cakes and tea for the two of us. I was warmed to see one member of staff finding a particularly comfy seat for my Mum. ~~~Confession Time Again!~~~ I have to confess to being a bit sneaky when I took my mum to the museum. I purposely didn't tell her that there was a fantastic shop there too, until after we had seen around the museum exhibits and had some food! My Mum could look in shops until her legs drop off and I knew that she wouldn't want to do anything else if she knew it was there! So, after we had finished our lovely lunch I casually asked this poor tired old lady if she would like to see the museum shop. She was instantly and miraculously rejuvenated and got to the shop so quickly she probably scorched the carpets on the way! ~~~The Museum Shop~~~ The shop is quite beautiful with glass display cabinets all around the walls and a central display and purchase area. The range of gem set jewellery is fabulous. It is expensive though! Some of the jewellery and ornaments are made on site or by local craftworkers but most of it is bought in. My main (and only real) criticism of the museum would be the prices of some of the pieces in the shop. As someone who buys and sells and makes jewellery as a hobby, I know what it costs. The prices in the shop for some of the pieces were greater than I have seen anywhere. On the plus side, they were extremely lovely to look at and the displays were very well set out. There is also an extensive range of mineral samples and specimens, with a good range of fossils too. So it is not simply a jewellery shop. As in the rest of the museum, the staff in the shop were extremely courteous and charming. (I have to say, I have never come across a citizen of this area of Scotland that wasn't a pleasure to be around.) The museum is open every day except for a week over Christmas. School parties can be catered for and I imagine that they would find it fascinating. There is more information on their website. http://www.gemrock.net/index.asp?sec=home ~~~ADMISSION CHARGES~~~ Concessions - £3.25 (OAP's, Students & Disabled) Adults - £3.75 Children - £2.25 (5 - 15 Years, Under 5's Free) Family - £9.75 (2 Adults & Up To 3 Children) I thoroughly enjoy this place, if you are interested in the natural world you will too. I was debating whether to deduct a star because of the naughty prices in the shop. I decided not to because you don't have to buy things there and the quirky little museum is what you go to see anyway.

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