Britain’s 10 Best & Most Bizarre Museums – Museum Week 2017

Brits are spoiled for choice when it comes to museums.  Whether you’re in the country or the city, you are sure to be within visiting distance of some of the world’s biggest, best and quirkiest visitor experiences.

Many of our museums offer free entry and exclusive  exhibitions and events – perfect for entertaining the kids, learning something new or just whiling away a few peaceful hours.

In honour of Museum Week 2017,  here are our picks for the UK’s 10 best museums.

1. The British Museum – London

The British Museum is one of a kind. When it opened in 1753 it was the first national museum in the world, and it is still considered to be one of the most important centres of human history and study.

The iconic building houses some of the most famous and significant artefacts in history – from the Rosetta stone (the earliest evidence of linguistics), to the mummified remains of Cleopatra. Visiting exhibitions have included the Terracotta Army and a life size re-enactment of the lost villages of Pompeii and Herculaneum.

2. National Railway Museum – York

A history of locomotive travel with enough social and historical context to ensure a really engaging day out – not just for railway enthusiasts.

With 1,000,000 pieces of rolling stock alongside posters and prints from throughout the ages, you can see the impact that railways have had on our lives through engineering, leisure, the arts and more. And because the trains are waiting for you, you don’t need to worry about them being late!

3. Dog Collar Museum – Leeds Castle, Kent

Leeds castle in kent, England

Leeds Castle is one of England’s quirkier attractions; it has an actual moat, maze, falconry displays, a legitimately terrifying armoury and isn’t actually in Leeds. But its strangest feature is without a doubt the Dog Collar Museum.

The surprisingly large collection features hundreds of dog collars dating back 500 years, from medieval hunting muzzles to couture designs. The only catch is – you can’t bring your dog in with you.

4. The Roman Baths – Bath, Gloucestershire

Making far more sense by being actual baths in Bath, here you will find one of the most striking examples of Roman heritage in the UK. Alongside a tour of this amazingly well-preserved location, you can try the famous spa water – known for its restorative powers.

High tea at the Pump Room restaurant is equally restorative, and you don’t need a swimming costume! There’s also no better way to make you feel like you’ve fallen from the pages of a novel by local heroine Jane Austen.

5. Sir John Soane’s Museum – London

This tiny treasure trove of a museum is one of London’s hidden gems. Located by Lincoln’s Inn Fields on the outskirts of Bloomsbury, the building was once the home of the legendary British architect Sir John Soane. Over the course of his life he collected numerous sculptures, art works and architectural models, and he displayed each piece with meticulous precision.

In 1833, he successfully passed an act of Parliament which would preserve his home as a museum following his death (he died five years later). Today, everything is just the way he left it 177 years ago…but with fewer cobwebs than you might expect.

6. British Lawnmower Museum – Southport

Not to be confused with the smaller Lawnmower Museum at Trerice House in Cornwall, the British Lawnmower Museum is the big museum celebrating mechanical lawn maintenance. Old lawnmowers; new lawnmowers; handheld lawnmowers; motorised lawnmowers – you name it, they’ve got it.

An exhibition titled ‘Lawnmowers of the Rich and Famous’ features a Qualcast Panther once owned by Jean Alexander (Coronation Street’s Hilda Ogden), a garden stake donated by Vanessa Feltz and Alan Titchmarsh’s trowel.

An extensive gift shop is attached, and yes, you can buy lawnmowers from it.

7. Natural History Museum – London

NHM

Like the British Museum, the Natural History Museum is a national institution. Located on ‘Museum Row’ (aka Cromwell Road), next to the V&A and the Science Museum, it is best known for the life-size Diplodocus who greets you upon arrival.

‘Dippy’ is on a UK tour until 2020 and has been replaced with the Blue Whale skeleton from the Blue Zone, but there’s still plenty to enjoy – including photographs, curios and interactive exhibits.

8. National Museum of Rural Living – East Kilbride, Scotland

This vast countryside reserve features a working 1950s-style farm which is packed full of cows, horses, sheep, pigs and more. Visit in the spring to watch the sheep being sheared, and keep up to date with the latest arrivals via the farm’s own ‘LambCam’.

If the weather is against you, there is a huge indoor display spanning 300 years of Scottish farming history, while the Garden Detectives area is great fun for young children.

9. National Football Museum – Manchester

Football Museum

The biggest football museum in the world, with a staggering array of football memorabilia, including trophies, vintage shirts and FIFA souvenirs (remember the vuvuzela?).

During school breaks, the museum hosts a series of educational events and activities, and, if you time your visit well, you could even be there to witness the latest induction into the Hall of Fame!

10. Big Pit Coal Museum – South Wales

Big Pit used to be a working coal mine until it was shut down in 1980. Now, former miners act as tour guides, taking visitors through the history of mining, the industrial revolution and a day in the life of the mine.

Wearing protective gear, you will descend down the mine shaft in a wire cage until you are 300ft below the surface. Then your guide will take you through the labyrinthine network of underground offices, recreational areas and tunnels, all of which have been preserved in their original state.

Father’s Day activities – Find the perfect one for your dad

Whether you fancy visiting Scotland’s finest whisky distilleries, saddling up and riding Britain’s best bike routes or taking a trip to a galaxy not so far away, there’s plenty of Father’s Day fun to be had in the UK!

Click on the links below to find the full article.

For the active dad:

The UK’s top 10 adrenaline activities.

Top 10 cycling routes in Britain.

For the geeky dad:

9 Star Wars locations you can visit.

The best Tolkien locations in the UK.

For drinking with dad:

10 of the best British microbreweries.

Explore Scotland’s single-malt whisky distilleries.

For the literary loving dad:

Britain’s Most Poetic Places.

8 must-visit Sherlock locations in the UK.

For the music loving dad:

A music tour of Manchester.

A music tour of London.

Southern Britain’s best musical locations.

For the history loving dad:

A selection of the UK and Ireland’s best historical attractions.

Real-life locations that inspired Game of Thrones.

10 of Britain’s Best Beaches for Summer 2017

Natural Arch, Durdle Dor, Lulworth, Dorset

1. Lulworth Cove, Dorset: Undoubtedly one of the UK’s most popular coastal locations, and with the natural limestone arch of Durdle Door reaching into the sea, it’s one of the most iconic!

Beautiful Summer landscape of Rhosilli Bay beach Gower peninsula

2. Rhossili Bay, Swansea: Located on the most westerly point of the Gower Peninsular, this is a wide sandy beach with wonderful views.

Blackpool Beach

3. Blackpool, Lancashire: While the sea and sands are lovely, it’s the additional seaside trappings that make it a must-visit. Enjoy donkey rides, fish and chips, ice-creams, arcades, amusement parks and more!

The Summerleaze beach at Bude in Cornwall, England, UK

4. Bude Beach, Cornwall: A golden sandy beach surrounded by rock pools and green hills. This beach is perfect for surfing due to the waves along the entire length of the bay.

Sandwood bay

5. Sandwood bay, Scotland: One of Britain’s most beautiful beaches, Sandwood’s remote location – with no road access it is reach by a 4 mile path – makes it a truly enchanting location on Scotland’s northern coast.

Ripples in sand on Bamburgh Beach

6. Bamburgh Beach, Northumberland: This wild and often windswept location offers miles of unspoilt heritage coastline to explore, all under the fantastically atmospheric shadow of Bamburgh Castle.

Tenby Harbour

7. Tenby, Wales: If this gorgeous little Welsh town didn’t have enough to celebrate with medieval heritage and an enviable location on the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path, there are four beautiful beaches to enjoy too!

Croyde Bay Devon UK

8. Croyde Bay, Devon: 800 feet of soft sand lying on the Heritage coastline of North Devon. Its large sheltered bay also makes it one of the UK’s premier surfing beaches!

Scarborough

9. Scarborough, Yorkshire: Scarborough remains relatively unchanged with a host of fun activities in a splendid seaside location. With the gorgeous and quiet Robin Hood’s Bay just up the coast, it offers the best of both worlds too.

Porthcurno Beach, Cove, Cornwall, England

10. Porthcurno, Cornwall: With crystal waters, white sands and the Minack Theatre carved into the cliffs, Porthcurno is one of Britain’s most scenic beaches. Spot dolphins and basking sharks during the summer months too.

Grape Expectations – Find your Ideal English Wine

English vineyard

While many of us tend to choose wines from European and New World countries, England’s wines are coming of age, rivaling – and even outshining –more established wine producing regions.

Production of English wine now exceeds 5 million bottles per year, spread across more than 500 vineyards. In international competitions, it’s no longer unusual to see English wines among the medal-winners. That’s something we can all drink to!

Find your ideal English wine below and raise a glass to English Wine Week!

If you like… zesty, fruity Sauvignon Blancs

Try… Camel Valley Bacchus Dry www.camelvalley.com

This fabulous and award-winning white is from Cornwall and makes the perfect complement to seafood, especially shellfish like clams and oysters.

The wine is fruity, zesty and dry, but be warned – this is a popular wine that sells out fast every year, so get your orders in early!

If you like… peachy French Chardonnays

Try…Lyme Bay Chardonnay www.lymebaywinery.co.uk

Dry and well-rounded, Lyme Bay Chardonnay has delicate buttery flavours coupled with a wonderful aroma combining peach and honey.

This wine is best enjoyed lightly chilled, and it’s perfect for drinking with chicken, calamari or soft cheese.

If you like…rosé wines

Try…Ryedale Vineyards Rosie www.ryedalevineyards.co.uk

rose rose

Yorkshire might not be the first place that springs to mind for English equivalents, but this rosé, a follow-up to a well-deserved silver medal winner, is sure to change that.

It’s a crisp but creamy with strawberry flavours on the palate as well as a subtle hint of spice. Serve well chilled and keep your fingers crossed for fine weather!

If you like… sparkling Chardonnay and Pinot Noir

Try… Gribble Bridge Sparkling White 2013 www.biddendenvineyards.com

Kent is the ‘Garden of England’ so it’s not surprising that this county’s vineyards grow excellent grapes that make for some delicious sparkling wines. This one is from Biddenden Vineyards and was a UKVA bronze medal winner in 2016.

It’s clean, fresh and has great depth and structure, and it was made using a traditional method combining Pinot Noir, Reichensteiner and Scheurebe.

If you like… a hearty red

Try… Denbies Redlands www.denbies.co.uk

The Denbies Wine Estate in Surrey has been family owned and run since 1984. This particular red wine was a bronze medal winner in 2015 and has a medium-bodied dry palate.

It’s made using a blend of red grape varieties and is smooth, rich and velvety, with hints of red berry fruits. If you’re drinking Redlands with food, it makes a great match for red meats and English cheeses.

If you like… smooth and silky European Pinot Noirs

Bolney Wine Estate Pinot Noir 2015 www.bolneywineestate.com

Pinot Noir is a tricky wine to produce in any country, so it’s particularly impressive that this English example is an award winner.

Bolney’s Pinot Noir is a fragrant, medium-bodied red with flavours of cherry and toasted oak, and it makes a great accompaniment to cheese or game.

If you like… a chilled red in summer

Try…Three Choirs Ravens Hill www.three-choirs-vineyards.co.uk

Not everyone has tried red wine chilled for summer drinking, but this red from England works a treat. Based in the Cotswolds, the Three Choirs vineyard is one of England’s oldest.

This particular wine of theirs is a deep, ruby-coloured red with aromas of blackberry and cherry. You might also pick up lightly toasted oak from the wine’s American barrel aging.

If you like… French Champagne

Try…Ridgeview Bloomsbury www.ridgeview.co.uk

Located in the South Downs, the Ridgeview wine estate specialises in sparkling wine and is the official supplier to 10 Downing Street. The region’s climate and soil helps Ridgeview produce wines that often surpass Champagne when it comes to quality.

This particular sparkling white is made largely using the Chardonnay grape, supported by Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier for added depth. It goes very well with salmon or smoked trout, and it also makes the perfect fizz for celebrations!

If you like…a sweet dessert wine

Try… Eglantine Vineyard North Star 2011 www.eglantinevineyard.co.uk

If you enjoy varieties like Beaumes De Venise Muscat, you might want to sample this indulgent English alternative. North Star 2011 is a so-called ‘ice wine’ from Nottinghamshire in the midlands.

Better still, it’s a UKVA Gold Medal and Trophy winner, offering a delicious balance of sweet and acidic notes and made from the Madeleine Angevine grape. It makes a fantastic after-dinner drink but also works well as an unusual and original gift for wine lovers.

5 Fang-tastic Dracula Locations in the UK and Ireland

Dracula was originally published in 1897. While this may make him a bit long in tooth (we’re here all week), when you consider all the TV and film adaptations, books, toys and costumes celebrating Bram Stoker’s creation over the years, you can definitely say he has become immortal.

To mark Dracula’s enduring legacy, here are 5 locations in the UK and Ireland to celebrate the count and his creator.

1. Dublin, Ireland

Dublin castle, Bedford tower

Bram Stoker was born in Clontarf, a coastal suburb on Dublin’s north side. He later worked as a civil servant at Dublin Castle, which inspired the occupation of lead character Jonathan Harker in the novel.

While working as a theatre reviewer for the Dublin evening Mail, Stoker wrote a positive review of Henry Irving’s Hamlet at the Theatre Royal. He became friends with the actor and later went on to work as his manager. The well-dressed but brooding Irving was also said to be the main inspiration for Count Dracula!

2. Whitby, Yorkshire

Whitbys 199 Steps

While researching his novel, Stoker visited Whitby upon a recommendation by Irving. The dramatic bat-infested arches of the ruined Abbey and the wild waves crashing against the headland all struck a chord with Stoker and Dracula began to take shape.

Whitby was featured in the novel as the site of Dracula’s entry to the UK (as a large hound running up the 199 steps no less). Interestingly, the wreck he fled from was based on a true life Russian ship that ran aground on the shore a few years earlier.

3. London

Dirt path leading through Hyde Park

Stoker moved to London to manage Irving’s Lyceum Theatre between 1878 and 1898. This was the location of the first stage performance of Dracula; it attracted two customers and was described as ‘dreadful’!

Stoker also lived at 18 St Leonard’s Terrace in Chelsea during his time in the Capital. A blue plaque now hangs on the property.

A large part of Dracula was set in London, too. Jonathan Harker researched Transylvania in the British Museum before setting off to meet the Count, and, later in the book, he visits Hyde Park and walks towards Piccadilly where he sees Dracula in the street.

4. Slains Castle, Aberdeenshire

Slains Castle Scotland

Stoker never visited Romania – instead spending years researching the country through books. It is thought that New Slains Castle in Aberdeenshire was the inspiration for Castle Dracula. Look at its imposing location on the North Sea Cliffs and you can certainly see why!

Stoker stayed in the area two years before Dracula was published, and it is thought that he may have stayed at the castle. Now in ruin since the roof was removed, the location is even spookier today!

5. Exeter, Devon

Exeter

Jonathan Harker sets off from Cathedral Close in Exeter towards Transylvania. Following a visit with the count, he and his wife Mina return to stay with Jonathan’s employer in the city.

It is thought by some that Exeter’s inclusion in the novel was to thank local writer Sabine Baring-Gould, whose work was a great influence on Stoker. While this fact is often disputed, with more hours of annual sunshine than many other places on the list, it is perhaps one of the most unlikely places for Dracula to visit and a delightful location to boot!

National Walking Month – 10 spring walks to enjoy in the UK

With winter over and warmer, sunnier weather on the way, spring is a fantastic time of year to blow away the winter cobwebs and get out into the countryside for a spring walk.

From woodland to open countryside, coastal walks to picturesque villages, the UK is home to a number of fantastic walks that will allow you to enjoy the region’s abundant flora and fauna while getting a healthy dose of fresh air.

1. Walk the Cotswolds Way

Head west and enjoy all that Gloucestershire’s Cotswold Way has to offer. The route is 100 miles in total, running all the way from Bath to Chipping Campden. Depending on which part of the route you choose to walk, you will be able to visit Snowshill Manor, the iconic Broadway Tower, Sudeley Castle and Hailes, which is home to the ruins of a stunning abbey.

2. Daffodils in the Dales

Lovers of spring flowers will enjoy the Daffodil Walk in Farndale, North Yorkshire. This one and a half mile walk sees around 40,000 daff lovers each year see the carpet of bright flowers (reputedly planted by medieval monks of Rievaulx Abbey).

3. The South Downs Way

Those looking for lowland walking may enjoy a trip to the South Downs in Sussex, and the popular South Downs Way. One of the most popular South Downs Way routes is the ascent up to Chanctonbury Ring: the remains of a hill fort from the Iron Age which is circled with a ring of beech trees.

4. The Three Shires

For a longer walk through the countryside of Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire, the Three Shires Way is a 49 mile walk passing through beautiful rural areas and takes in picturesque historic villages including Shelton, Knotting and Lavendon.

5. Wales Millennium Coastal Path

If you would prefer a bracing coastal walk, head to Wales and the Millennium Coastal Path in Llanelli. This 22 mile stretch of pathway is completely traffic free, open to pedestrians and cyclists only, and takes in both coastline and stunning woodland.

6.The Wyre Forest

One of the largest ancient woodlands in England, spring in the Wyre Forest, on the border of Worcestershire and Shropshire, sees the forest come to life with seas of celandines, daffodils and bluebells – there’s also a Go Ape adventure course if you fancy an aerial view!

7. The Sizergh Castle Estate

Bird watchers should head to Cumbria where, at the Sizergh Castle estate, they may be able to catch a glimpse of the haw finch. The Sizergh Wildlife Walk also gives walkers a chance to see the estate’s hornbeam trees, various woodland flowers and great views.

8. Hiking in the Highlands

Use spring as a time to enjoy the Knoydart Peninsula in the Scottish Highlands, separated from the rest of Scotland by an imposing ring of mountains. Visitors must make the sea crossing from Mallaig, with guided walks and tours for those unfamiliar with this beautiful, wild location.

9. A Yorkshire Ramble

Enjoy the Hardcastle Crags woodland wildlife walk just west of Halifax in Yorkshire. With beautiful birds returning from warmer shores, animals coming out of hibernation and trees and flowers coming back to life, you can enjoy a gentle ramble and stunning views.

10. The Norfolk Coast Path

The Norfolk Coast Path is the perfect place to dust off the winter cobwebs, with bracing sea air, sand dunes and salt marshes. The Coasthopper bus service can take you from location to location, and bird watchers can enjoy guided bird walks arranged by the RSPB.

Star Wars Day – 9 filming locations you can visit

The galaxy’s most gorgeous film locations required very few special effects; take a look at a few incredible filming locations from the Star Wars saga!

1. Thirlmere in the Lake District – The Force Awakens

Thirlmere

The Lake District appeared as the planet of Takodana in The Force Awakens, and the amazing sequence of X-Wing fighters swooping low over the water was filmed in the lovely Lake District setting of the Thirlmere reservoir.

2. Canary Wharf Tube Station, London – Rogue One

Canary Wharf

A small part of the action-packed climax on Scarif was captured at the futuristic Jubilee Line tube station in London. The crew descended at night and left as early-morning commuters arrived!

3. Mount Etna, Sicily – Revenge of the Sith 

Mount Etna

Filmmakers travelled to Sicily to capture footage from the erupting volcano, which was then used in the epic duel between Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker.

4. Lake Como, Italy – Attack of the Clones

Lake Como

The wedding of Anakin and Padme was filmed at the stunning Villa Balbianello in Italy. The gardens are open to the public from March until November.

5. Puzzlewood, Gloucestershire – The Force Awakens

Puzzlewood

The evil Kylo Ren chased new hero Rey through the tangled woods of Takodana in Episode VII – actually the unusual Puzzlewood in the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire.

6. The Royal Palace of Caserta, Naples, Italy – The Phantom Menace

Caserta

The grandiose Baroque palace in Naples was the setting for Queen Amidala’s royal abode in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace.

7. Grindelwald, the Swiss Alps – Revenge of the Sith

Panorama view of Eiger and otehr peaks

The Swiss Alps were used as the backdrop of Alderaan in Star Wars Episode III.

8. Skellig Michael, Ireland – The Force Awakens

Skellig Michael

Luke Skywalker’s hiding place in Episode VII was revealed to be the incredible Skellig Islands off the Iveragh peninsula in County Kerry.

9. Malin Head, Donegal, Ireland – The Last Jedi

Malin Head in County Donegal, the northernmost point of Ireland

The Jedi’s Irish adventure now includes the most northerly point of the Wild Atlantic Way. The crew built a replica of the Millennium Falcon on a cliff edge, and Luke Skywalker, Rey and Kylo Ren all appeared in scenes – with the veteran Jedi stopping by the local pub. Maybe that’s why he disappeared for so long?