Now while there may not be anything at all unusual or quirky about a maritime museum, the Merseyside Maritime Museum in Liverpool is home to a rather peculiar and completely unique collection. ‘Seized! The Border and Customs Uncovered’ is a permanent gallery displaying the methods used to smuggle drugs, weapons and other contraband across our borders. They range from the slightly weird (drugs inside a garden gnome), to the highly ambitious (over a ton of cocaine concealed in drums of bitumen!). You can even try your hand at playing border patrol with an interactive console that lets you control your own Cutter, while the kids can go ‘rummaging’ through a ship to see if they can spot any signs of smuggling.
Merseyside Maritime Museum
0151 478 4499
The Dinosaur Farm Museum near Brighstone on the Isle of Wight makes a welcome stop for all. Housed in a former cattle shed, it has a huge selection of bones and fossils, including some that were first discovered in that area. Children can spend hours digging in sand to find and identify dinosaur parts and guided tours are led by locals who really know their stuff. A great place to visit that costs less than a tenner for a family pass.
Military Road, Brighstone, Isle of Wight
The Museum of Amusements, hidden in the Cheshire countryside, was under pressure to deliver when I visited it. There was no timely bus from Tattenhall to Burwardsley, so I ended up walking several miles in drumming rain. This doggedness was rewarded with an enchanting afternoon in the company of dozens of carefully restored vintage penny arcade amusements, many dating from Edwardian times. Bagatelle and pinball; laughing sailors and fortune tellers; haunted houses, shooting galleries and saucy peepshows...you can play them all, clutching a margarine tub of old English pennies. An unassuming jewel, this museum is a haunted portal into the funfairs and pier shows of an almost vanished Britain. Roll up, roll up!
This family-run museum is magical. It seems tiny, but after paying your £2 entrance and a brief friendly chat you are pointed at a door leading to a corridor lined with dolls houses, Pelham puppets and strange Beatles memorabilia. I was transfixed by a Sherlock Holmes house and thrilled by the discovery of a long lost frog puppet from my own childhood. The wonders continue as you realise there is a whole house to explore. Room after room is filled with the most detailed and wonderful exhibits from model soldiers, circuses, railways, dolls, puppets and a very exciting science fiction room. The stairwell which is lined with miniatures from doll's houses. When you emerge back into the little shop at the entrance you feel you have returned from a Mr Benn-like adventure.
111 Main Street, Callander, Perthshire
This is an interactive museum about lead mining in Derbyshire. There is something for all ages: tunnels to climb and crawl in; tours into a real mine; stunning mineral collections and impressive artefacts from the industrial revolution. There are also artefacts from prehistory and the Roman period and interesting minerals and books for sale in their shop.
The Pavilion, South Parade, Matlock Bath peakmines.co.uk
This is a strange hidden gem of a museum. It doesn't really inspire you when you walk through the door but then you begin to look around. It's a free local museum run by volunteers, and kids love the strange and wierd Victorian display, from bugs, cobra skins, lions' teeth and a mummified cat to the man trap and the golden eagle. They can touch and play on a huge victorian stone instrument like a xylophone. It's in a great park with a kids playground so we had well over two hours of fun. It's on the quiet side of Keswick and it is easy to miss but its a great discovery.
Fitz Park, Station Road, Keswick keswickmuseum.webs.com
I recommend it because it is where eccentricities and esoteric objects are the norm. A shop/gallery/museum so densely filled with Victorian taxidermy, animals floating in jars, shrunken skulls and stuffed animals that even the shopkeepers still stumble upon unseen items.
More than just a shop, this is a display of Viktor Wynd’s personal collection inspired by his genuine interest in animals, skeletons and the thrill he gets from chasing, finding and purchasing rare and one-of-a-kind objects.
As much as the store can freak people out with jars of two-headed mini skeletons, human fetuses and just the general mass amount of dead, it is also full of inappropriately placed objects that let the humour shine through…a book titled Sex Instructions for Irish Farmers will be among a collection of fake, bloodied fingers and the books Wind Breaks, Coming to Terms With Flatulence and Whose Bottom is This?
This bus tour takes in 20 stops and lasts about an hour and a half. The tour takes in the Shankill and Falls Roads, as well as the Titanic Quarter, city centre, Stormont parliament building & the university quarter, with a live commentary.
Departures every 20 mins in peak season.£12.50 for adults, £6 for kids.
Pick up this red sightseeing bus from the High Street near the Albert Clock Tower.
The 'in your pocket' series of guidebooks are well worth recommending. The list of places is limited, but they are written by locals and are updated every two months. Even better, they are free and can be downloaded from the website.
The Belfast edition in booklet form is also free in the airport and other tourist locations.
In the light of the possible flight disruptions due to ash, it's worth knowing about the 'rail & sail' offer between Belfast and Scotland. You can book a train & ferry between Belfast and Glasgow/Edinburgh for £25 each way. Separate train and ferry tickets will almost cost double.
Train to other parts of the UKwill cost a little more but again far cheaper than if you get the tickets separately.
This small child friendly musuem is tucked away - many in Newton Abbot don't even know of its existence! It is just five minutes from Newton Abbot railway station. There is a room dedicated to GWR for young and older railway enthusiasts alike and you can even change the signals at the working signal box. The other rooms here are dedicated to social/local history, and change yearly. Last year the focus was Lethbridge, an 18th-century diver, and children could experience what is was like underwater in a replica vessel.
2a St Pauls Road, Newton Abbot
'A free destination for the incurably curious' is what this small museum on the Euston Road calls itself, and it certainly is. Henry Wellcome was a Philanthropist and Collector of art and medical curiosities which are still housed in the original building. I pop in here regularly with my kids, have a pastry in the Peyton and Byrne cafe and explore the extensive collection of artefacts and interactive exhibits on display. Children get a free Wellcome pack and a friendly welcome. Oh, and they learn quite a bit too.
These are collars of the canine, rather than the ecclesiastical variety, and a pretty doggone impressive collection it is too. Centuries ago, wolves, bears and boars were repelled by the fearsome iron spikes of some; while soft aristocratic hands once stroked the hand-tooled silver and velvet of others. Over 100 intriguing collars are on display, with details of the mastiffs, gundogs, hounds and lapdogs who wore them, along with the history of their human owners. My favourite engraving runs: “I am Mr Pratt’s dog… whose dog are you?” Admission to the museum is included in the price of the entry ticket to Leeds Castle.
Four entirely different museums housed in separate buildings but easy walking distance apart. All four museums are suitable for children and each member of a family should find something of interest. The museums are : "Tutankhamum, The Exhibition" , "The Dinosaur Museum", "Terracotta Warriors Museum" and "The Teddy Bear Museum". Combined tickets for all four museums can be bought. A godsend if the weather is dreary. Unusual gifts and souvenirs for sale. Dorchester is well served with tea shops, pubs and restaurants ( I recommend "The Old Tea House" , 44 High Street West, 01305 263719 for scrumptious cream teas with home-made scones) so refreshments between museum visits are easy to find.
The museums are all situated in the centre of the town and Dorchester is a small town so it difficult to miss them. Tel: 01305 269571
Two railway stations about 10 minutes walk from town.
Pull on your brightly coloured gnome hat and leave your cool ironic detachment at the door. The Bradworthy Gnome Museum and Reserve, in the wilds of north Devon, is not for the faint-hearted, but it will give you and your childen more laughs per minute than any other small museum in the UK. There is not just an indoor museum, devoted to gnomes of the past, there are also four ares of woodland and wild flower gardens with gnomes of all shapes and sizes round every corner and lurking up quite a few trees. And when you collapse, mentally exhausted, to round off your visit with a classic cream tea, you can marvel at the fact that you have just visited the only museum in the UK to have been proposed as a candidate for the Turner Prize.
The Gnome Reserve
01409 241435, www.gnomereserve.co.uk
Fabulous mix of classical, folk and brass-band music, guided walks and activities for kids, in gorgeous Swaledale and Wensleydale. This year they've got Emma Kirkby, Carlton Main Band, the Fitzwilliam Quartet, Red Priest and dozens of lesser-known but classy performers. I've been for the last four years and can't imagine missing it!
In churches, village halls, pubs and open fields all around the northern Yorkshire Dales. 01748 880019. www.swaledale-festival.org.uk
Cafe du Parc provides an authentic taste of France in small town north Devon. French chef/proprietor Joe Monterieux serves classic lunches, to die for patisseries, & featherlight crepes at very reasonable prices - around £10 for light lunch option plus something sweet & coffee. Rather more if you opt for wine, glass or bottle, or beer. The Cafe is very child friendly - the spacious Victoria park on the banks of the Torridge is just outside with a convenient car park twixt river & park. Take in a culture break too in the Burton Gallery with its changing exhibitions & permanent ceramics display upstairs. For music buffs there are occasional jazz lunches, mid-week or Sundays for which pre-booking is essential since they are popular with us locals.
Cafe du Parc, Burton Art Gallery, Bideford, Devon, EX39 2QQ.
Nearest station: Barnstaple; buses to Bideford with stop outside the gallery.
A fantastic collection of witchcraft paraphernalia and artefacts - one of the largest in the world! Included are spells, dollies, cauldrons, chalices and broomsticks. Gives kids a great alternative view on religion and history. Very informative, and tons to keep them amused for ages. Don't be put off by the theme - it's not at all scary and spooky. Not much anyway!
Fine dining in Stornoway - a new experience and one well worth supporting. Local & Scottish produce, all sources identified, inventively and well cooked; service interested, leisurely - a very pleasant experience.
These are collars of the canine, rather than the ecclesiastical variety, and a pretty doggone impressive collection it is too. Centuries ago, wolves, bears and boars were repelled by the fearsome iron spikes of some; while soft aristocratic hands once stroked the hand-tooled silver and velvet of others. Over 100 intriguing collars are on display, with details of the mastiffs, gundogs, hounds and lapdogs who wore them, along with the history of their human owners. My favourite engraving runs: “I am Mr Pratt’s dog… whose dog are you?” Admission is included in the price of the entry ticket to Leeds Castle.
Send your feedback or queries to firstname.lastname@example.org