The Edinburgh Castle is the largest and most famous tourist attraction in Scotland’s capital. But in its shadow, almost literally, there’s another must-visit destination: The Camera Obscura and the World of Illusions. Operating since 1835, it’s part unusual art gallery, part interactive science museum, part surreal funhouse — and entirely entertaining.
As an attraction, Camera Obscura and the World of Illusions consists of two parts. It will surely come as stunning news that these are: 1) the Camera Obscura and 2) the World of Illusions.
The Camera Obscura
The Camera Obscura is a sort of projecting telescope located in a dark chamber on the top of a tower. That’s where light that has traveled into a periscope and through three lenses projects a live image of Edinburgh onto a white concave table. A guide explains how it all works while turning and tilting the Camera, providing different views.
On a bright, sunny day the effect of the Camera Obscura is rather cool — like getting a magical glimpse into another dimension. (See pic, below.) The catch for travelers is that on overcast days, and especially on dark and rainy overcast days, the Camera doesn’t work so well. But dark, rainy, overcast days are exactly when you want an indoor activity like the Camera Obscura and the World of Illusions. Bright sunny days in Scotland are meant to be spent outside.
The World of Illusions
Fortunately, the World of Illusions isn’t dependent on the weather (except for the rooftop viewing terrace). Among the World of Illusions more than two dozen attractions:
• Optical Illusions — Images suddenly appear, parts of people disappear and size is thrown out of proportion. This is the section of the World of Illusions that Spot Cool Stuff likes best!
• Holo-Portrait Gallery — Surreal laser-created 3D portraits meet surreal subjects. Among the portraits on display: Count Dracula, Boy George and British artist Margaret Benyon turning into a tiger!
• Giant pinhole camera — Watch as people appear upside down.
• Vortex Tunnel — Try to stay on your feet as a tunnel of light spins around you.
• Morph Machine — Take a photo of yourself and then see how you’d look at a baby and a chimpanzee.
• Moving Pictures — 19th century optical toys get a 21st century treatment in an interactive exhibit about the start of the movie industry.
• Bewilderworld — Finding your way through a mirror maze isn’t as easy as it looks.
We’d suggest planning two~ish hours to visit the World of Illusions plus whatever extra time you’d like to check out the Camera Obscura, take in the rooftop views and poke around the gift shop. An admissions ticket allows for re-entry, so feel free to pop in and out throughout the course of a day. Just remember to bring your camera. And not to trust your eyes.
Planning your trip
When: Camera Obscura and the World of Illusions operates throughout the year, though exact times vary depending on the month.
How much: The standard price for adults is £11.95 for adults, £8.75 for children aged 5 to 15. (That your 16 year old now qualifies as an “adult” will likely be news to you.)
Family friendly? Very much so. Camera Obscura and the World of Illusions is the sort of attraction that has something to appeal to all ages.
Where to say: Hotels, apartment and B&Bs around Edinburgh are bookable through venere.com. Narrow your search to accommodations in the “Old Town” for options within walking distance of Camera Obscura and the World of Illusions.
While in Edinburgh: According to The Guardian, Edinburgh is the new capital of cool. See their slideshow for other area travel ideas.
Other cool museum ideas from Spot Cool Stuff:
Elsewhere on the web: