Of course, the funniest thing about "The Secret Bunker" is the name. I first noticed the sign along side the road on the way to Edinburgh. Right there in the brown color used for all the tourist attraction signs - THIS WAY TO SCOTLAND'S SECRET BUNKER. So, technically the name isn't even correct. It should be Scotland's FORMERLY Secret Bunker. Because the signs basically tell you EXACTLY how to get to the "Secret" bunker.
The bunker is located near Leuchars RAF Base, which is one of largest bases in Scotland and home to the interceptor team keeping the UK safe. It's also probably where the Russkies were going to come, if they ever sent planes this way, so it was a pretty big deal during the Cold War. But, now that we won said Cold War, the UK government is closing the base and kicking everyone out.
Which is a little bit sad for pool old Leuchars. Not only have they lost their Royal Air Force base, but they also have one of the saddest looking stations in all of the UK (see sad photo to left). It's nothing more than a building in the middle of a field next to a car park.
I mean, come on! This is where the future KING of the whole UK would have gotten off the train to go to St. Andrews (if the King ever took the train). Even Dundee at least has a pub in the train station!
Once you pass through Leuchars, all you got to do to find the "Secret" Bunker is to follow the signs.
This is where it really starts to get creepy. The access to the "Secret" bunker is through an innocuous looking farmhouse standing in the middle of a field. They've even got cows grazing around the grass to give it an air of tranquility. Of course, since the "Secret" Bunker is now a tourist attraction, not only do the signs give away the farmhouse, but also the fact that there are tanks, armored cars, portable radar installations and a Soviet SA-2 Surface to Air Missile.
The first thing that greets you upon entering the farmhouse on top of the Secret Bunker is, as you might have suspected, the gift shop, where you can buy all sorts of Secret Bunker related paraphernalia including a World War II Spitfire Manual, a Wooden Bulldozer Construction Kit, and a Winston Churchill Coloring Book.
"We will fight them on the beaches, we will fight them when they try to color outside the lines of my ample girth..."
I, however, didn't stay too longer to linger inside the gift shop as the Secret Bunker was near enough to smell. After lightening me of £9.00 (that's $15.00, American), I made my way downstairs and into the "Secret" Bunker proper....
Man, is that a hallway or what? I didn't do any kind of crazy coloration or any kind of special effects on that, either! That's how it looks. Imagine running in from the nuclear holocaust through that hallway.
The first thing that struck me about the bunker was the smell. It smelled like the '60s and a little like your Grandma's house. There was one main hallway with a number of doors leading off to either side. There was an audio tour with one of those headset thingys, but it would have cost another £5. I figured I'd get to it next time. Plus, I didn't want to look like an idiot with a half phone receiver hanging off my face.
One of the first rooms I stopped by was the "Broadcast Room." This where the BBC would have setup and broadcast from following the nuclear holocaust.
The creepiest thing is that they were playing the tape that would have been broadcast from this room had someone dropped "The Big One."
But the real, and unexpected, highlight of my entire "Secret" Bunker experience was all the creepy mannequins setup everywhere. I'm a big fan of mannequins - we had kind of a creepy old-timey western town setup near Austin called Pioneer Town that used a lot of bad mannequins in old-westerny dioramas.
Look at the way that she's reeling that top secret paper out of the tape machine in the Secret Bunker! It's like she's some kind of hand model. And the way that the hat sits on top of her hat just so....man, why can't EVERY museum have fake creepy mannequins up inside?
Most of the rooms were all military stuff - there was the communications room (complete with naughty chain faxes still taped to the wall), the main room a la Dr. Strangelove, and the RAF command center.
There was also a functioning canteen downstairs (as I've noticed with just about every attraction in the UK - these people can't seem to go too far without a cup of tea and something sweet), a chapel they rented out for weddings and even a movie theater.
The theater was probably the creepiest part, because what they were doing was showing old 1950-1980s Public Service videos for what to do in case of a nuclear war. Now, I've seen a lot of American movies of this sort, but these British ones scared the crap out of me. There was one running about how a town would react after a nuclear hit. Except that it was filmed like a documentary. Fires were burning, babies were smoldering, buildings were collapsing...just mayhem. The other film was more in the comical - "here's how to stack furniture to hide from a nuclear blast" vein. The film suggested turning your couch over upside down and stacking suitcases on top to help keep you safe from irradiation.
Filled with just about all I could muster, I headed back for the fresh air of Fife. But it was on my way out that I noticed the one sign that the secret bunker was probably closed for good.
There, right next to the entrance to the "Secret" bunker, was the comforting presence of the entrance door for the "Secret" bunker cat.
Things couldn't really be that bad if they had a cat around, right?
Don't worry bunker cat. If you ever get caught outside the bunker when the bomb's come fallin', I know how to make a shelter out of a couch and suitcases.