From atom bombs to bears in Britain’s 10 magical museums: Revealing a host of historical havens – and the perfect places to stay near them
- The Sammy Miller Museum in New Milton, Hampshire, houses one of the finest collections of motorcycles
- Europe’s largest collection of decommissioned nuclear weapons are in the Hack Green Secret Nuclear Bunker
- Explore Bury St Edmunds’ grisly history at the Moyse’s Hall Museum where you’ll see witchcraft paraphernalia
Britain has a host of wonderful lesser-known museums that are perfect for curious minds.
Be they galleries devoted to motorbikes or musical instruments, when restrictions are lifted you’ll be able to explore to your heart’s content.
Even better, there are some great places at which to stay nearby.
Make a date with the world’s first factory
The Museum Of Making is set to open autumn in a former silk-production factory in Derby
Celebrating Derby’s long-standing penchant for innovation, the Museum Of Making (derbymuseums.org) is due to open in the city in the autumn, occupying a silk-production facility reckoned to be the world’s first factory. More than 50,000 objects will be on display.
Headline act: A Rolls-Royce engine which helped to power the first transatlantic flight in 1919.
Check in: The Coach House is a seven-room guesthouse with large gardens. Choose between bright chambers in the old stables or their more demure counterparts in the main house. B&B doubles from £75 a night (coachhousederby.com).
The bunker with its own nuclear missiles
Cold War relic: Inside the Hack Green Secret Nuclear Bunker in Cheshire, which contains operation rooms and labyrinth-like corridors
Europe’s largest collection of decommissioned nuclear weapons are in the vast 1950s-built Hack Green Secret Nuclear Bunker near Nantwich, Cheshire. A key Cold War site, it contains operation rooms and labyrinth-like corridors (£10 entry, hackgreen.co.uk).
Headline act: Either a Polaris warhead or weapons from the hush-hush Chevaline project.
Check in: The North Wing, a guesthouse in 12th Century Combermere Abbey, five miles away. Interior designer Nina Campbell has overseen the bedrooms, and there are lake views. B&B doubles from £150 a night (combermereabbey.co.uk).
Witches and killers in their gruesome glory
Explore Bury St Edmunds’ grisly history at the Moyse’s Hall Museum, where you’ll find witchcraft paraphernalia, pistols and execution gibbet cages
Making light of Bury St Edmunds’ grisly history, Moyse’s Hall Museum has been aided by Horrible Histories writer Terry Deary. Six Terrible Tales penned by him bring to life witchcraft paraphernalia, pistols and execution gibbet cages (£12 entry, moyseshall.org).
Headline act: A replica of (alleged) Red Barn killer William Corder’s death mask and an account of the 1827 case bound in his tanned skin.
Check in: The town’s Old Cannon Brewery pairs wholesome food and beer with seven tar tan-blanket ed rooms. B&B doubles from £99 a night (oldcannonbrewery.co.uk).
Race on down to see a Motorcycle legend
Mark of a champion: The Sammy Miller Museum in New Milton, Hampshire, houses one of the finest collections of motorcycles
‘Sammy Miller? Legend.’ That is how motorcycling enthusiasts describe the 11-time British champion. The Sammy Miller Motorcycle Museum in New Milton, Hampshire, houses his bike collection, from factory racers to one-of-a-kind vehicles (£12.50 entry, sammymiller.co.uk).
Headline act: A Moto Guzzi V8 bike used in the 1955-57 seasons.
Check in: Burley Manor marries country-house charm with modern luxuries, a pool and views of a deer sanctuary. B&B doubles from £139 a night (burleymanor.com).
It’s by fur the best Teddy Museum
The Teddy Bear Museum in Dorchester has teddies by the ton – even human-sized figures
There are teddies by the ton at The Teddy Bear Museum in Dorchester, from antiques to human-size figures via stars such as Pooh and Paddington (£7 adults/£6 children, teddybearmuseum.co.uk).
Headline act: Michael, a 1906 bear based on designs from 1902.
Check in: The Acorn Inn in the Dorset Downs village of Evershot – it features in Thomas Hardy’s Tess Of The D’Urbervilles. Excellent seasonal food and all ten rooms are ultra-cosy. B&B doubles from £115 a night (acorninn.co.uk).
2,000 ways to get in tune with the musical past
The Bate Collection of Musical Instruments has 2,000 instruments – including flutes and trombones of various vintages
Part of Oxford University’s Faculty of Music, The Bate Collection of Musical Instruments has 2,000 instruments. Some you’ll recognise – flutes and trombones of various vintage – but others, such as early keyboards or Renaissance shawms, you might not.
Headline act: Hope that the 13th Century penny whistle is on display.
Check in: Vanbrugh House in Oxford – a 22-bedroom building created by the stonemasons responsible for Blenheim Palace’s iconic bridge. B&B doubles from £198 a night (vanbrughhousehotel.co.uk).
A feast of the finest furniture
Look out for a chest of drawers made for David Lloyd George at the Gordon Russell Design Museum in Worcestershire
Elegant wooden furniture pieces were the calling card of the 20th Century designer at the centre of the Gordon Russell Design Museum in Worcestershire. Be it utility cabinets for Blitz victims or Coventry Cathedral chairs, Russell linked Arts and Crafts with contemporaries such as Terence Conran (£5 entry, gordonrusselldesignmuseum.org).
Headline act: A chest of drawers made for David Lloyd George.
Check in: Next to the museum at The Lygon Arms. Try for a bedroom up creaky stairs in the main building. B&B doubles from £195 a night (lygonarmshotel.co.uk).
Discover the secrets of highland homes
The open-air Highland Folk Museum recreates various stages of Scottish life from a 17th Century township to 19th Century crofts
Inside the Cairngorms National Park at Newtonmore, the open-air Highland Folk Museum recreates various stages of Scottish life from a 17th Century township to 19th Century crofts. Parts of the TV series Outlander were filmed here (free entry, highlifehighland.com).
Headline act: A 1930s-style railway halt and waiting room.
Check in: To the ivy-hugged The Old Manse at Blair with charming boutique rooms and a swish orangery restaurant. B&B suites cost from £375 a night (theoldmanseofblair.com).
Take a flight back in time in an RAF fighter jet
You can sit in the narrow cockpit of RAF fighter jets or a Bristol Sycamore helicopter at the Airworld Aviation Museum. Pictured here is a Westland Whirlwind helicopter
Ever wanted to play pilot? You can sit in the narrow cockpit of RAF fighter jets or a Bristol Sycamore helicopter at the Airworld Aviation Museum based on an active airfield in Caernarfon. Hawker Hunters and de Havilland Vampires are also on display (£6.50 entry, airworldmuseum.com).
Headline act: The last-surviving T2 version of a Hawker Siddeley Harrier jump jet.
Check in: To the smart restaurant-with-rooms Ty Castell near Caernarfon Castle. B&B doubles from £80 a night (tycastell.cymru).
Head to Yorkshire for an arresting experience
Trace the history of policing and see punishment devices such as the birch at the Prison And Police Museum in North Yorkshire
Trace the history of policing and see punishment devices such as the birch at the Prison And Police Museum in North Yorkshire (£7.50 entry, riponmuseums.co.uk).
Headline act: An early 20th Century police motorcycle.
Check in: The Royal Oak coaching inn, just yards from Ripon Cathedral. Half-board doubles from £125 a night (royaloakripon.co.uk).
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