There are plenty of interesting museums and attractions to visit across the UK, that teach us about various aspects of art, history, and culture. But, often, it’s the more unusual, eccentric museums that are guaranteed to leave a lasting impression.
Home to quirky hidden treasures and bizarre stories that will fascinate, amaze, or even scare, these off-the-beaten-track museums will help you uncover a more peculiar side of our small island – and they often have shorter queues too!
With that said, we’ve pulled together a list of 11 weird and wonderful museums to visit in the UK. Whether you want to explore a rare collection of cuckoo clocks or learn about the history of the baked bean, hopefully you’ll find something here that sparks your interest.
1. The Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities, Fine Art, and UnNatural History, London
The Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities, Fine Art, and UnNatural History boasts a number of interesting exhibitions on classic curiosities, such as preserved Fijian mermaids, hairballs, and parasites.
Set in a basement, this tiny museum is run by the reclusive Viktor Wynd and his eccentric group, The Last Tuesday Society – and visits to the museum can include a guided tour from Viktor himself.
Some of the most intriguing departments featured here include Human Hair, Erotica, Magick & the Occult, and the Cabinet of Monsters (showcasing the largest public display of animal monsters in the UK).
The museum is also famous for its Absinthe Parlour, which offers a number of unconventional spirits and cocktails. The entire experience is designed to connect the old world with the new, and test the boundaries of time and reality.
For a truly immersive experience like no other, you can book now on The Last Tuesday Society website.
2. Cuckooland, Peak District
Want to visit somewhere that’s fascinating enough to drive you cuckoo? If, so then Cuckooland Museum in Cheshire may be the perfect place for you.
With a collection of rare and restored clocks – as well as a Vintage Motorcycle Collection and collection of Authentic Black Forest tools and machines – this museum is a real gem.
It was founded by two brothers, Roman and Maz Piekarski, who began renovating cuckoo clocks at the age of 15, and have now done so for over 40 years.
There are a number of amazing clocks on display in the museum, including a cuckoo and echo clock – which is said to be the rarest of its kind, and is known for its impressively realistic cuckoo noises.
You’ll also have the opportunity to uncover the rich history behind many different and ingenious methods of telling the time, as well as understanding more about the importance of time itself.
To visit this amazing attraction, you can book a time slot via phone or email.
3. Land of Lost Content Museum, Shropshire
For a nostalgic trip down memory lane, why not visit the Land of Lost Content?
As its mystical title suggests, this museum is home to relics of the (relatively recent) past – with 37 displays that represent everyday items from the last 100 years or so.
This includes a range of eclectic, popular culture memorabilia, such as tickets from the first National Lottery in 1994, old lunch boxes, and some of The Beatles’ original merchandise.
If you’re looking for a thought-provoking day out that can transport you back to your childhood and beyond, the Land of Lost Content could be right up your street. To book your visit, you can simply use the online booking form on their website.
4. The Scottish Crannog Centre, Kenmore
If you’re a history buff, or fancy being transported back into Scotland in the early Iron Age, The Scottish Crannog Centre is definitely one to add to your bucket list.
The museum aims to showcase the lives of ‘Crannog Dwellers’ from around 2500 years ago through the preservation of artefacts, live demonstrations, and guided tours.
Crannogs are small, hut-like houses that stand on artificial islands on water – in this case, Loch Tay – and they can be found in both Scotland and Ireland. By conserving and reconstructing these unique structures, the Crannog Centre gives us a small insight into the lives of the people that lived here. Plus, the houses themselves are highly advanced for the Iron Age.
The museum hosts a number of different events, including traditional Celtic celebrations and live Shakespeare plays. For those who aren’t able to make the trip, why not check out the Crannog Centres’ online workshops, which feature storytelling sessions, craft activities, and much more?
If you’d like to experience the beautifully designed Crannogs and the artefacts that remain, you don’t usually need to pre-book unless you’re part of a larger group of 12+.
5. The Horniman Museum, London
The Horninan Museum was created by Fredrick Horniman in 1890 to share his personal art collections and encourage people from all walks of life to learn about different areas of creativity.
It boasts an incredible range of collections, which are grouped into Anthropology, Natural History, Musical Instruments, Archives, Handling, and Living.
For a thought-provoking view of the connections between wild and domesticated animals, you can check out the Living collection’s Animal Walk exhibit, which explores why we choose to live alongside pets (while giving you the chance to see some real-life furry creatures, like guinea pigs and alpacas!).
Or, if you’d prefer to stick to the weird and wonderful, the Handling collection includes 3,700 objects, such as puppets, instruments, masks, and much more. The idea is that by engaging with the objects through touch, visitors can have a unique experience that helps them connect the objects with their own lives.
So, if you fancy learning what an ear ornament is, or seeing what a churchwarden’s pipe looked like, you can plan your visit through the website, and check out what interesting events they have coming up.
6. Baked Bean Museum of Excellence, Port Talbot
Rated the third best thing to do in Port Talbot, this offbeat private museum hosts an unbelievable amount of bean-related merchandise. For example, you can marvel at Wallace’s Heinz beans-themed kitchen and Branston beans-themed bathroom – and explore his collection of baked bean memorabilia and packaging!
Originally opened for personal use, Wallace created this quirky attraction in his council flat, and its fame has skyrocketed ever since.
To learn more about this eccentric collection and the man behind it all, check out author Hunter Davies’ book Behind the Scenes at the Museum of Baked Beans. Or, to arrange a visit to the museum, get in contact with the Captain himself.
7. Headhunters Barber Shop and Railway Museum, Enniskillen Co.Fermanagh
Despite being a less-than-traditional combination, the Headhunters Barber Shop and Railway Museum manages to blend the history of Irish railway history with a fully functioning barbershop.
Founded by The Johnston family, this one-of-a-kind experience takes you on a journey through Fermanagh before the railway line closures in 1957. You’ll begin your journey at a reconstructed booking office where you’ll be invited to ‘step on board’ by a ticket inspector, before touring the rest of the museum.
Looking through old train tickets, uniforms, and photographs while getting your beard trimmed is undoubtedly a unique experience! Plus, the museum is renowned for its traditional barbering style – treating each customer in an attentive and gentlemanly fashion.
If you’re in need of a haircut and would like a more conventional experience – with a deep dive into the history of the Fermanagh railway while you wait – there’s no need to book, and museum admission is completely free!
8. Teapot Island, Kent
Tucked away in the scenic Kentish village of Yalding, Teapot Island is almost certainly one of the most sophisticated museums on this list. Home to the biggest teapot collection in the UK (currently over 8,400!), it’s a pottery lover’s paradise.
The museum also has a cosy cafe attached to it, offering a wide range of options from afternoon tea to classic British fish and chips. It’s best to book in advance to avoid disappointment, as the cafe is very popular.
To buy a keepsake to remember your trip, you can visit the shop in person or online. Or, if you’d prefer a more hands-on experience, why not design and paint your very own teapot in a pottery painting class?
You can book online to secure your visit to this wonderfully quaint museum, where you’ll be able to learn everything you ever need to know about teapots.
9. Abbey House Museum, Leeds
There are plenty of well-known museums based on the Victorian era, but Abbey House Museum in Leeds has a slightly different approach.
This museum explores the social history of Victorian-era Leeds through realistic recreations of streets, shops, and houses. The Hark to Rover Inn, a traditional Victorian drinking house, is an exhibit that comes recommended very highly by visitors!
With galleries filled with childhood memorabilia, you can experience different toys and games from throughout the 19th century. At this museum, the first-floor exhibition changes yearly, and this years ‘All to Play For’ exhibit celebrates the sporting accomplishments of various historical athletes from Leeds – including old trophy cases and old sports equipment.
For an immersive experience in working-class Victorian culture, you can check out the website for information and pricing.
10. The Winding House Museum, Caerphilly
Another weird and wonderful Welsh museum is the Winding House in Caerphilly, famous for being built on the former site of the Elliot Colliery – a part of the local coal mine in the Victorian era. The original Victorian winding engine remains in the museum to this day and is maintained by a group of volunteers.
The engine runs for around 10-15 minutes on specific dates throughout the year, so make sure to plan your visit on one of these days so you don’t miss the main attraction!
The museum also boasts a number of interactive exhibits that explore the hidden history of South Wales, engaging with items through touch, smell, and play. The opening times are listed on the website, and entry is free throughout the year.
11. Rectory Mansion’s waxwork micro museum, Isle of Wight
In an effort to rekindle the memories of Brading’s famous waxworks, Rectory Mansion in the Isle of Wight has opened a micro-museum displaying these various wax characters from the island’s history.
The Chamber of Horrors in Brading was always a popular yet controversial exhibit due to the spooky nature of the waxworks, so it’s no surprise that this collection has been relocated to the micro-museum. Some visitors reported having recurring nightmares from the original museum due to the vividness of the different scenes.
It included terrifying waxwork scenes and people, such as the murder of French spy Louis de Rochefort, and even a Queen Victoria waxwork that appears to be breathing.
The Rectory Mansion micro-museum brings together all of these disturbing waxworks, and also hosts a taxidermy section, which features a zebra, and a winged cat.
If you have an appetite for the spooky and strange, it’s worth visiting Rectory Mansion – and perhaps you can end your trip with a meal at the restaurant to calm your nerves!
Museums can sometimes be seen as mundane and boring, with few surprises. But, we hope that this article can offer a unique perspective.
Whether you want a spooky experience of lifelike waxworks and taxidermied animals, or to see more baked bean merchandise than you could ever imagine – the UK really has an amazing collection of hidden gems. Plus, if you’re looking for an educational yet unusual day out, you can try out something like the Museum of Childhood or the Winding House.