British Travel | 20th October 2023
Seven of the quirkiest museums in the UK
The UK’s weirdest museums and most wonderful hotels
For culture vultures with a penchant for the eccentric, the British Isles is home to some truly bizarre exhibitions if you know where to look...
When it comes to taking a travel trip on the weird side, some of the best museums in the UK are off the beaten track, offering wonderful displays of historical artifacts, folklore and offbeat curiosities.
From a shrine to the humble pencil to a venue dedicated to The Loch Ness Monster, we’ve selected six of the UK’s quirkiest museums — each showcasing our nation's love for embracing the peculiar.
1. Derwent Pencil Museum - Lake District
Nestled in the picturesque town of Keswick in the Lake District, the home of the first pencil, Derwent Pencil Museum invites you to enter through a replica graphite mine which would have served as the source of the pencil industry over three centuries ago. One of the most unique UK museums, it tells the story of the pencil from its humble beginnings as a cottage industry to modern day production. Highlights include the world's largest colored pencil, and the ingenious spy pencils with hidden maps created during World War II.
Where to stay: Situated near Keswick, surrounded by lush greenery and the calming waters of Bassenthwaite Lake, Armathwaite Hall Hotel & Spa offers a serene escape. The hotel boasts luxurious rooms with stunning views, exquisite dining options, a rejuvenating spa, and a wide range of recreational activities, including fishing, wildlife walks, and water sports.
2. Museum of Witchcraft and Magic - Cornwall
Seeking something spooky? Venture into the mystical realm of witchcraft at one of the most beguiling museums in England, located by the harbour in Boscastle, on the north coast of Cornwall. The Museum of Witchcraft and Magic houses an extensive collection of artifacts related to witchcraft, magic, and the occult. It aims to respectfully, accurately and impartially showcase British magical practice, making comparisons with other systems of belief from ancient times to the present day with unique and entertaining exhibitions.
Where to stay: With its idyllic beachfront location, The Headland Hotel & Spa in Newquay features spacious and elegantly appointed rooms and suites. Indulge in a world-class spa experience, complete with rejuvenating treatments and therapies, exceptional dining at the newly launched destination restaurant RenMor and a vast range of leisure facilities, including swimming pools, tennis courts, as well as direct beach access.
3. Purton Ships Graveyard - Gloucestershire
For those with an interest in maritime history, the Purton Ships Graveyard is a sight to behold. Situated on the southern bank of the River Severn, about 1⁄2 mile north of the port of Sharpness in the Gloucestershire, this peculiar museum features a collection of abandoned vessels purposefully beached to protect the riverbank in the 1950s. It’s the largest ship graveyard in mainland Britain, and since 2000 archaeological investigations have been undertaken to find out more about the vessels and their states of decay.
Where to stay: Barnsley House in the quaint Cotswold village of Barnsley. Surrounded by picturesque gardens and rolling countryside, this boutique retreat promises luxurious rooms, gourmet dining, and rejuvenating spa experiences — an ideal haven for those seeking relaxation amidst natural beauty.
4. Warley Museum - Yorkshire
Dubbed ‘the world’s smallest museum’, the charming Warley Museum is housed in an iconic British red telephone box and showcases the history of Warley Town, near Halifax. The cubicle attraction can be found outside the Maypole Inn, a restaurant in the heart of the town and includes etched glass, old photographs and facts about Warley’s past. It’s one of the cutest museums in the UK and impeccably cared for and curated by the local community.
Where to stay: A historic 17th-century mansion, Grantley Hall offers an opulent retreat in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales. Top attractions include its exquisite spa, boasting an indoor-outdoor hydrotherapy pool, and fine dining experiences at its Michelin-starred restaurant - Shaun Rankin at Grantley Hall. Guests can also enjoy lush gardens, afternoon tea, and explore nearby landmarks like Fountains Abbey and Brimham Rocks.
5. The Loch Ness Centre - Inverness-shire
No roundup of quirky museums in the UK is complete without a nod to Scotland's legendary creature. The Loch Ness Centre, situated near the infamous loch in Drumnadrochit, explores the mysteries and history surrounding the elusive Nessie. Thanks to a £15 million investment, the centre now offers an extraordinary one-hour immersive tour that invites monster hunters to uncover hidden secrets of the loch, examine real artefacts and delve into scientific research inspired by sightings of Nessie.
Where to stay: Ness Walk, situated on the enchanting banks of River Ness with views of Inverness Castle, offers a captivating blend of luxury and natural beauty. Here, you can indulge in tranquil riverside walks, immerse yourself in Highland culture, and explore historic sites.
6. The Smallest House in Great Britain - North Wales
Last but not least, visit the quaint town of Conwy in North Wales to marvel at "The Smallest House in Great Britain." This charming two-room end of terrace house, located on the quayside, stands at a mere 72 inches wide and 122 inches high. The miniature abode, which houses just a single bed, a fireplace and a coal bunker, was inhabited until May 1900, and its last occupant was a fisherman who happened to be 6ft 3 inches tall.
Where to stay: Bodysgallen Hall & Spa, a historic country house hotel located in Llandudno, North Wales. Situated within 200 acres of beautiful gardens and woodlands, the hotel offers a serene retreat with luxury wellness facilities, stunning views of Snowdonia and Conwy Castle —and plenty of room to stretch your legs.