Museum of… The Staffin Dinosaur Museum, Skye
Nestled on the prehistoric Trotternish peninsula on the northeast side of the “misty isle” of Skye, off the north-west coast of Scotland, lies the Staffin Dinosaur Museum. The township of Staffin, which is about 30 minutes’ drive north of Skye’s main town of Portree, sits in a bay and is famous for its “theatre of geology”. Just north of Kilt Rock, and south of the astonishing views the Quiraing ancient rock formations deliver, the museum is ideally located to tell the story of its prehistoric surroundings.
The landscape of Skye doesn’t just look prehistoric, it actually is prehistoric. Dugald Ross founded the Staffin Dinosaur Museum in 1976 when he was only a teenager, and he still runs it now nearly 50 years later.
“I was interested in archaeology from childhood and was inspired by the discovery of six neolithic flint arrowheads on our family croft in 1972,” says Ross. “This exciting find prompted me to think about setting up a small museum and I was very fortunate to get encouragement from my parents. There was a ruin of a small black-house dwelling on our croft, which we restored and opened to the public in 1976.”
Ross has identified multiple dinosaur species in the local area, including stegosaurus, megalosaurus, cetiosaurus, hadrosaurus and coelophysis. “Although I had a small fossil collection when we opened the museum, I continued to add to it and in 1982 Scotland’s first dinosaur footprint was found nearby,” says Ross. “This was the start of many dinosaur-related finds from the Staffin area, which continue to this day.”
Ross says the museum collection can truly be described as eclectic, because it also includes objects from the early 20th century. “One of the highlights has to be a trackway of adult and juvenile dino prints,” says Ross, who adds that this item has been loaned to Glasgow’s Hunterian Museum in the past. “But we also hold a child’s shoe from the 19th century and a recent acquisition has been a tiny plesiosaur tooth found by a seven-year-old girl.”
“I’m enthusiastic about these fossil finds as they are classified as being of international importance due to their middle Jurassic age, which is found in fewer than 10 places worldwide,” he says. “I’m also conscious that they are at risk of being lost to the sea as soon as they are exposed so I keep a regular look out for them.”
“The museum continues to play an important part in preserving and recording Skye’s ancient past and the recent announcement of a new species of pterosaur has attracted international interest,” says Ross, with an air of anticipation.