“Excuse me, is there a bathroom I can use?”
The lady behind the till rolled her eyes at me. “It’s doon there.”
Doon there was 40 metres underground. We were at Scotland’s Secret Bunker, one of Scotland’s best kept tourist secrets.
“So you’ll just have to wait,” she concluded, holding her hand out for the admission fee.
My friend Jenny came to stay in the summer of 2008 (hurrah for timely blogging) and after taking her to the Isle of Skye and the Highlands (where it rained endlessly, of course), we were determined to show off the local treasures of the Kingdom of Fife.
After a brief photo stop at Methil power station, the jewel of the Fife Riviera…
… it was onwards to the Secret Bunker.
Shh, don’t tell anyone.
This innocuous farmhouse is the front for the Cold War paranoia lurking beneath. Down a 140-metre sloping tunnel lies the bunker, 24,000 square metres of secret accommodation. It was built during the 1950s as a place for important government people to duck and cover in the event of a nuclear war.
On paper the Bunker sounded rather cool. You’ve got the Cold War, the threat of Armageddon and a secret bunker way down underground. But as we pushed our way through the creaky turnstyle (just like the ones at council pools) and descended down the dark mould-and-mothball scented tunnel, it started to feel a wee bit creepy.
First there was a room playing a spooky 1960s public service film about life after a nuclear war. Then there was a room full of nothing but old telephones. The message seemed to be, “We’ve got a lot memorabilia and we’re going to show you all of it, no matter how random!”
There were also a lot of mannequins, carefully arranged to depict bunker life. In the sleeping quarters, they lay in bunk beds and stared up at the ceiling.
In contrast, the control room next door was a hive of activity…
At the big map, the man with the stick explained the current situation to the lady with the apparently dislocated arm.
Another lady with tinted legs warned us of various things.
She liked to break the rules.
In the next room was a truly baffling ashtray display.
Then in another random room we learned that during the 1960s the bunker was staffed by the Civil Defence Corps. Boldly led by VANILLA ICE.
In the final room, perched on the back of an armchair and bathed in an eerie glow was a skeleton in a white coat. Doctor Skeleton MD, apparently, was determined to conduct business as usual despite the inconvenience of losing all his flesh and organs.
There was also a coffee shop, from which came the aroma of burning bacon. It smelled a little too much like the end of the world, so we scurried back up to the surface.