Scottish National Portrait Gallery Tour, by Sarah Button

On Tuesday afternoon I ambled across the city to enlighten myself as to the significance of a certain movement of intellectuals from the 17th century onwards: The Scottish Enlightenment!

The hustle and bustle of the busy streets was quickly forgotten when I entered the peaceful interior of the gallery. Our visit comprised of two exhibitions: Citizens of the World: The Age of Enlightenment and The Age of Improvement.

We strode up three flights of stairs to the exhibition rooms, where we were greeted by many stern faces staring down at us from the brightly-lit walls of the main gallery. The first exhibition focused on well-known figures from the Enlightenment, from philosophers to biographers to historians — even members of the royal family. There was one man who every University of Edinburgh student knows, whose name is lent to a certain tower on George Square; I am speaking, of course, of David Hume. He had a modest portrait of himself in his uniform looking rather pleased with himself, but it wasn’t as gratifying as my personal favourite: a large portrait of a man standing tall on top of a hill, clad in full tartan: including but not limited to his kilt, his Tam o’ Shanter (also known as a hat) and his undershirt. Apparently he was a very patriotic man.

Even though my feet had begun to ache by the end, I had an enjoyable afternoon spending time in the gallery, and learning more about the distinguished supporters of the Scottish Enlightenment


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