Top ten coastal galleries and museums

  • 22 July 2015

We Brits do like to be beside the seaside. However, the UK coast isn't just about beach cricket, soggy sandwiches and sandcastle competitions; see some great art too.

1. Tate St Ives, Cornwall

50% off with National Art Pass

With the stunning Cornish coast acting as a beautiful backdrop to the works housed here, this is the ultimate seaside gallery. Home of post-war British Modernism, it celebrates the town's artistic legacy. If you don't want to head to crowded London for the Barbara Hepworth retrospective, but still want to see her works, you can also enjoy the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden which belong to the Tate.

2. Brighton Museum and Art Gallery, Brighton
Free with National Art Pass

Located in the Royal Pavilion's garden, this is an unmissable cultural stop. From Dalí’s Mae West-lips sofa to ancient Egyptian artefacts, the eclectic gallery is a treasure trove of interesting objects that span several millennia. You can also get to know the history and culture of this iconic seaside town through an array of films, images and local ephemera. 

3. Turner Contemporary, Margate
Free to all, 10% off in the shop and café​ with National Art Pass

The rooms are suffused with the same light that mesmerised Turner when he visited Margate in the 1820s, staying at Mrs Booth’s guesthouse which stood on the site. Just like its namesake, the museum bridges the gap between traditional and contemporary art. The cafe's afternoon tea comes highly recommended.  

4. Towner, Eastbourne
50% off exhibitions with National Art Pass

The award-winning new gallery has around 4,500 works of art by historic, modern and contemporary artists including Pablo Picasso, Grayson Perry and Henry Moore. If you enjoy watercolours, then you will appreciate the broadest and most significant body of works by Eric Ravilious that is housed here.

5. Mostyn Gallery, Wales
Free to all

Wales’s leading contemporary museum is set in the beautiful seaside town of Llandudno where old and new buildings have been merged into one harmonious design by architect Dominic Williams. Although it has no permanent collection, the venue's five main galleries aim to showcase the best contemporary art produced in Wales and also bring the best of international art to the country. As a result, Mostyn Gallery lends itself well to the naturally adventurous and inquisitive.;

6. Penrhyn Castle, Wales
Free with National Art Pass

Let your imagination wander in this spellbinding 19th-century castle. Built for the affluent Pennant family, it is bursting with masterpieces. Among the maze of richly decorated rooms, find the one-ton slate bed made for Queen Victoria or spot works by the likes of Rembrandt and Canaletto. 

7. Historic Dockyard, Chatham
Free with National Art Pass

A favourite with maritime lovers; from the Spanish Armada to the Falklands War the museum guides you through the dockyard's fascinating history. For centuries, the site was one of the main facilities of the Royal Navy until it closed in 1984. Now, the Historic Dockyard is believed to be the world's most complete dockyard of the Age of Sail.

8. Ferens Art Gallery, Hull
Free to all

The award-winning Ferens Art Gallery has been bringing brilliant art to Hull's dockyards for almost a hundred years. Its first-class permanent collection boasts pieces that date from the medieval period to the present day and prides itself in its selection of works by Dutch and Flemish Old Masters. 

9. Penlee House and Gardens, Cornwall
Free with National Art Pass

Take a break from the surfing and soak up some Cornish artistic heritage at Penlee House and Gardens. You can feast your eyes on works by painters of the Newlyn School – the colony of artists who worked in the area from the 1880s to the 1930s. This included Stanhope and Elizabeth Forbes, Walter Langley, Harold Harvey and Laura Knight.

10. Walker Art Gallery, Merseyside
Free to all

Nicknamed the 'National Gallery of the north', it is the home to one of the best collections of Victorian and Pre-Raphaelite art in the country. If you are inclined towards the occasional seaside tipple, this is the perfect place to offset it with some culture. The gallery came to fruition following a donation from the brewer and alderman Andrew Walker in 1873. He wasn't a patron or a collector of art and so it is believed that the move was made to raise the public profile of brewing and alcohol during the temperance movement. 

Tags: Great days outMuseums and galleriesstaycationsWhat to see