The best museums outside London

From surgical secrets to archaeological treasures

London is host to an array of wonderful museums, but there are plenty of other incredible ones outside the capital to visit. Here’s our guide to some of the best museums from across Britain…

Best for history buffs

An Ashmolean exhibit (Getty)

Ashmolean Museum, Oxford
The world’s first university museum, and the world’s oldest public museum, the Ashmolean has delighted visitors for centuries. Here you can view historical artefacts from ancient Egypt and Nubia in the museum’s newest galleries, as well as the biggest Minoan collection outside of Crete and swords from the 9th Century. Entry is free.

Also try… The Yorkshire Museum showcases archaeological treasures and fossils, and an exhibition on Viking history runs until the start of November.

Best for the bloodthirsty

A set of 19th Century amputation instruments (Surgeons Halls Museums)

Surgeons’ Hall Museums, Edinburgh
An award-winning museum that’s not for the faint-hearted. The Surgeons’ Hall Museums showcases the history of surgery in eye-watering detail. Expect to see terrifying surgical instruments, a book said to be made from William Burke’s skin, displays of human tissue and artwork depicting old-fashioned tooth extraction methods.

Also try… The Museum of Witchcraft and Magic, in Cornwall, features plenty of information about the gruesome history of witch-hunts in Britain.

Best for transport enthusiasts

Planes at the Imperial War Museum (Getty)

Imperial War Museum, Duxford
IWM Duxford’s impressive display of planes, including the legendary Spitfire, Lancaster Bomber and Concorde, will keep flight aficionados very happy indeed. There’s also an airfield outside the building, so you may even get to see some planes take to the skies.

Also try…   For speed freaks, the National Motorcycle Museum, in the West Midlands, has more than 1,000 motorbikes on display, dating from 1898. The Coventry Transport Museum and the National Space Centre, in Leicester, are also worth a visit.

Best for sports fans

The National Football Museum

National Football Museum, Manchester 
This museum is a must for footy fans both young and old. There is a Hall of Fame that celebrates people who have made their name in English football (Don Revie, Gianfranco Zola and Patrick Viera are recent inductees), and exhibits include classic kits, trophies and other memorabilia. There’s even chances to test your football skills as you move around the museum.

Also try…The British Golf Museum, in St Andrews, is a treasure trove for golf enthusiasts with thousands of exhibits charting the sports development from the Middle Ages to the present day. For fans of the sport of kings, the National Horse Racing Museum, in Palace House, Newmarket, is the place for you.

Best for kids

Kids at Kelvingrove (Getty)

Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow
This huge museum is a fantastic place for children to explore with its eclectic collection of stuffed animals, artwork and historical artefacts. Activity trails and workshops will keep kids entertained – and the beehive, which allows bees to fly in and out of the building, is good fun.

Also try… There is plenty of hands-on activities for little ones at the Magna Science Adventure Centre, in Rotherham, while the Yorkshire Sculpture Park gives children a chance to get up close to large scale artworks (and have a good run around).

Best for something a bit different

Hand-coloured studio photograph of a Japanese man (Pitt Rivers Museum)

Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford 
Pitt Rivers has a little bit of everything – from exhibitions about quirky Oxfordshire folklore and children’s drawings to photographs documenting the Syrian refugee crisis. The museum hosts outdoor films screenings, too.

Also try…  If you’re looking for more unusual museums then Teapot Island, in Maidstone, has – you guessed it – the biggest collection of teapots in England, while the Bubble Car Museum, in Lincolnshire, as the name suggests, hosts a range of tiny ‘bubble’ cars.


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