Discover somewhere new: Art and culture off the beaten track
In search of something out of the ordinary for your next museum visit? Here’s our pick of exciting, inspiring and unusual spaces to explore across the UK.
A museum of carpet, a gallery dedicated to photography and a working textiles studio – these are just some of the fascinating spots on our list.
From a museum inside a spectacular cathedral to a hidden gem in the Scottish Highlands, below you'll find some of our favourite unusual places to visit where you can experience something new.
Whether you're looking for a thrilling exhibition or dazzling architecture, there's something for every cultural appetite.
At the Museum of Brands you can explore the advertising, packaging and branding that's shaped our lives for generations. For a sneak preview, listen to actor Mathew Horne as he explores the museum in a recent episode of our podcast Meet Me at the Museum.
This magical museum in remote Ross-shire, Scotland, was one of the joint winners of Art Fund Museum of the Year 2020. Housed inside a converted nuclear bunker, the museum celebrates the history, culture and natural heritage of this beautiful area of the North West Highlands.
This unusual house and gallery is littered with spectacular examples of modern and contemporary art – you can spot unique pieces sandwiched between furniture or carefully displayed in glass cabinets. The chairs have been arranged deliberately to view works of art hung in unusual places, and objects have been carefully placed to enhance the colours and feelings of the works. Explore a treasure trove of art, furniture and interesting items.
Tucked away in the heart of the South Downs, this museum celebrates artists inspired by the Arts and Crafts movement, focusing on art made locally in Ditchling, once a hub of crafting activity. The collection includes prints, carvings, wood engravings and objects relating to silversmithing, calligraphy, typography, dyeing and weaving.
Why not plan a trip to one of the last Victorian houses to be built in England? Oozing gothic charm, the impressive structure and decorated interiors of Russell-Cotes are combined with an art gallery and gorgeous garden to explore.
Gardens have had a bit of a renaissance over the last few years, with more people seeking their own cherished green spaces and appreciating nature. A museum that shares this love of garden life is the wonderful Garden Museum in the heart of London. Explore the role of the garden in UK history and marvel at the floral designers and botanists who have dedicated themselves to a pursuit of greenery. Plus, make sure to take a trip up to the roof for beautiful views over London.
The former home of one of the world’s best-known literary dynasties, the Brontë Parsonage Museum is dedicated to telling the stories of the Brontë family through beautiful period rooms, original manuscripts and personal possessions. Get the creative juices flowing at this literary landmark.
This museum is entirely dedicated to the niche art of fan making, an art form that beautifully combines functional and ceremonial purposes with decorative aesthetics. Highlights include a dazzling tortoiseshell and feather fan from the Roaring Twenties, fans made to advertise French Bazaar magazine, and a mother-of-pearl fan dating back to the 19th century.
Explore Kidderminster’s thriving carpet industry at this unusual museum. There are a whopping 3,000 carpet designs on display created by pioneers of this illustrious industry. Interiors enthusiasts will get a kick out of the multitude of different styles, patterns and colours to marvel at here.
Love that feeling when you pop the top on a brand new pen? You’re in luck – at the Pen Museum you can explore a unique collection of pens, try using a feather quill and even have a go at creating your own pen nib. Telling the story of Birmingham’s 19th-century pen trade, the museum also explores how the industry has been key to improving literacy around the world.
If art on camera is your thing, you can’t beat a gallery entirely dedicated to photography. Tucked away behind the hustle and bustle of Oxford Street in London, the Photographers’ Gallery is a haven of imagery, with a long history of championing trailblazing photographers such as Sebastião Salgado and Corinne Day. And if you’re looking for something to brighten up your walls, you can check out the Print Sales Gallery, a special space to discover photographers and purchase beautiful prints.
From embroidery to knitting, textiles are making a serious comeback, with lots of people turning to sewing as a way of relaxing or trying something creative. Dovecot has been flying the flag for textiles since the early 1900s, centred around a leading international tapestry studio in the heart of Edinburgh’s old town. There is a lovely collection of contemporary art, craft and design on display, plus you can spy tapestry artists at work from the Tapestry Viewing Balcony.
Housed inside the spectacular Ely Cathedral, the Stained Glass Museum explores the ancient art of stained glass and is the only museum of its kind in the UK. See fascinating tools and materials used in glassmaking, some of earliest stained-glass panels in the UK and dazzling contemporary works by artists such as American painter Kehinde Wiley.
An homage to Birmingham’s vibrant Jewellery Quarter, this museum is a beautifully preserved time capsule of 20th-century jewellery-making and design left behind by the proprietors of the Smith & Pepper firm. Pop down for a special event and try your hand at jewellery-making in this unique space.
A hidden gem, this museum, set in Grade I listed 18th-century almshouses in Shoreditch, explores aspects of domestic life from the 1600s to the present day. A sequence of period rooms shows how London homes have been furnished over the past 400 years, showing changes in taste and usage of rooms through the centuries, from a 17th-century parlour to a 1990s loft-style apartment. Discover how homes were lit, time was told and how central heating changed the way we lived. The grounds include a series of period gardens charting different ways urban outside spaces were utilised.
Explore a vast collection of football-related objects, memorabilia and temporary displays and discover the colourful story of Scottish football at this dedicated museum. This is the perfect place for both football fanatics and complete novices, with highlights including the Hall of Fame, the original Scottish Cup and an original dressing room.
From Nimrod racing cars to the famous Aston Martin A3, explore the world of 007, motor racing and luxury car mechanics at this unusual museum. Explore the history of one of the world’s most famous and most glamorous car brands through a series of classic cars, engines and photographs.
The more you see, the more we do.
The National Art Pass lets you enjoy free entry to hundreds of museums, galleries and historic places across the UK, while raising money to support them.