The UK is home to many different museums – from historic buildings and reimagined scenes to modern-day exhibitions and galleries hosting extensive art collections. Each plays its own role in telling the story of our history, heritage, and culture. However, among the many museums to choose from, there are a few that we’d place at the top of the list.

Whether you prefer larger museums with broad collections spanning centuries, or smaller, quirkier museums exploring niche areas of history – there’s something to suit everyone.

Here are 14 UK museums that make for a great day out.

1. Museum of Witchcraft and Magic, North Cornwall

If you’re after something a bit quirky and different, then why not take a day out to learn about the UK’s history of witchcraft and magic?

The witchcraft craze was rampant in Britain a few centuries ago and was even made a capital offence in 1563. In fact, it’s estimated that between 1484 and 1750, around 200,000 supposed ‘witches’ were either tortured or killed across Western Europe.

This independent museum offers a unique insight into a rich area of history that’s not widely known about. Holding the world’s largest collection of witchcraft-related artefacts and regalia, you’ll be able to explore the dark, yet fascinating role that magic and sorcery has played in our history.

2. Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Housing over two million items in the creative industries that span 5000 years, the Victoria and Albert (V&A) Museum is the world’s leading museum of art, design, and performance. It was founded in 1852 with a mission to educate designers, manufacturers, and the public in art and design – which it continues to do to this day.

From jewellery galleries and fashion halls, to gorgeous tapestries and performance and theatre collections, there’s really something for everyone.

If you’d like to see what’s on offer before your visit, you can have a read of this brochure, which contains highlights of the V&A collection. While some exhibitions and events may bring a separate charge, general admission is free and available to book online.

If you’re particularly taken by the V&A Museum and are keen to learn more about its collections, then why not bring your passion to life by joining the V&A Academy? A variety of part-time adult courses, conferences, workshops, and study days are available to delve deeper into the culture in new and exciting ways. For more information, you can visit the learning page of the V&A website.

3. National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh

The National Museum of Scotland is the most popular UK attraction outside of London, and it’s not hard to see why. With art, design, and fashion galleries, through to science, technology, history, and archaeology exhibitions, you might be stretched to fit everything into one day!

To help you make the most of everything on offer, museum staff have created self-guided trails based on specific interest areas. For example, there’s an architecture trail, a fashion trail, and a family puzzle trail. There are also various exhibitions and events hosted at the museum from time to time, so it’s worth keeping an eye out for them too.

Entry is free, though advanced booking online is required.

4. The Dog Collar Museum, Kent

Housing a unique collection of historic dog collars from five different centuries, the Dog Collar Museum at Leeds Castle might not be one you’ve heard of before. But having built up significantly over the years, it’s now the largest of its kind on public display in the world.

The earliest in the collection – an impressive Spanish iron herd mastiff’s collar used for protection against bears and wolves in Europe – dates back to the 15th century. Each collar tells its own story and will open your eyes to this largely unexplored area of history.

Due to its convenient location, a trip to the Dog Collar Museum can easily be combined with a fun day out at Leeds Castle too. 

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5. HMS Belfast, London

First launched in 1938, HMS Belfast was a Second World War Royal Navy warship. Today, she’s the last remaining British Ship from the D-day fleet – and one of only three left in the world.

HMS Belfast played a key role during the war; patrolling the Atlantic, capturing enemy vessels, and taking part in various battles. After the war, HMS was also sent to the Far East where she played a role in various campaigns such as the Korean War.

These days, visitors can explore onboard the nine-deck ship museum located on the River Thames in London. Interactive displays, immersive exhibitions, and reimaginations are used to set the scene and give an insight into what life on board would have been like.

6. World Museum, Liverpool

At the World Museum in Liverpool, you can explore millions of years of the Earth’s history. Here, visitors can connect with outer space in the planetarium, marvel at art exhibitions, learn more about ancient civilizations, and meet live animals at the museum’s aquarium.

If you want to learn more about the natural world, head down to the museum’s Clore Natural History Centre, where you’ll find over 20,000 unique items – from hippopotamus skulls to mammoth teeth. There’s also an aquarium full of beautiful tropical fish where demonstrations are run to teach guests more about marine life.

Other highlights include the Weston Discovery Centre, which explores human history throughout the ages; the Bug House, where guests can get up close to various beetles, spiders, and scorpions; and the World Museum’s Planetarium, which hosts various space-themed shows and events.

7. St Fagans National Museum of History, Cardiff

St Fagans is an open-air museum in Cardiff that documents the historical lifestyle, culture, and architecture of Wales. The museum has long been Wales’s most popular heritage attraction because it connects the Welsh people with their ancestors – including how they lived, worked, and relaxed.

Standing on the grounds of the impressive St Fagans Castle and garden – a late 16th-century manor house – there’s plenty to see and do here. You can watch the traditional craft and workshop displays, wander through the galleries of Welsh history, or explore over 40 original buildings from different historical periods that stand on the grounds.

Plus, there are plenty of opportunities to connect with nature as the surrounding parkland is a haven for birds, bats, and other unusual wildlife.

To get involved with the museum’s history and culture from home, you can head to its website which has an active blog and hosts various digital events – including talks on natural sciences, industrial history, and archaeology.

St Fagans is also part of the wider National Museum Wales network. You can browse others to visit, including Wales’ National Wool Museum, Slate Museum, and Roman Legion Museum here.

8. National Railway Museum, York

The National Railway Museum is the UK’s largest railway museum. It’s home to over a million objects that tell the story of Britain’s railway transport history, exploring how it transformed the nation.

Key highlights include a miniature railway, train simulator rides, and demonstrations that explore the different types of energy used throughout history to fuel railways.

There’s also a new audio trail that’s used to transport visitors to different historic locations such as the Great Hall during its time as a busy engine shed, and Second World War bombing raids.

And to make even more of your visit, why not enjoy a spot of afternoon tea in the museum’s beautifully decorated and restored carriage?

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9. Churchill War Rooms, London

If World War II is your passion, then the Churchill War Rooms are the place for you. This niche museum documents the entire life and legacy of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill – set inside the very bunker which sheltered Churchill and his staff during the Blitz.

Visitors today are able to explore the underground headquarters themselves and stand in the rooms where Churchill and his cabinet met. Having been host to the many war secrets, plotting, and strategic planning that led Britain to victory in the war, you can quite literally feel the history here.

The museum also has an impressive collection of objects that tell the story of Churchill’s life, both political and personal. These include the politician’s baby rattle, a drawing commemorating his 80th birthday, and the flag used to drape his coffin.

So, if trailing around larger, encyclopedic museums isn’t your thing, why not pay a visit to the Churchill War Rooms? 

10. Titanic, Belfast

Titanic Belfast museum tells the story of the world-famous Titanic ship. The Titanic was first built in Belfast before sailing to Southampton to begin her infamous voyage on April 10th 1912.

Titanic Belfast opened in 2012 to engage the public with the history of the ship and her voyage. The ship-like structure is eye-catching in itself, and inside the museum, there are over nine interactive galleries and exhibitions featured.

While there, you can add to your experience by visiting the SS Nomadic – the world’s last remaining White Star Vessel and tender to RMS Titanic. Visitors are free to explore the ship and its decks, which will take you on a journey through 100 years of maritime history.

11. The British Museum, London

The British Museum is a museum dedicated to human history, art, and culture spanning two million years. Its permanent collection of around eight million works (widely collected during the British Empire era) is among the largest and most comprehensive in the world.

With so much to see, it’s worth planning in advance to ensure you make the most of your visit. This blog post of 14 things not to miss at the British Museum might be a good place to start! From ancient Greek sculptures to Aztec mosaics, this is the place to learn all about various different cultures.

There are various exhibitions and events held at the museum which you can browse on its website. Alternatively, if you’re unable to travel to the museum but still want to get involved, then you might like to browse its online collection. These span a variety of interesting topics, from historical figures and event timelines, to rare analyses of obscure topics such as the origin of ice cream!

12. Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow

This fine art collection of classic pieces through to modern artwork is perfect for any art lover. Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum is one of Scotland’s most popular free attractions, offering 22 themed, state-of-the-art galleries holding 8000 items.

The various artefacts and exhibitions are dedicated to a wide range of topics – covering everything from famous artists and natural history, to war armour and superhero comics.

There’s plenty to see at Kelvingrove and having been refurbished in 2006, the impressive building is an attraction in its own right. 

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13. Derwent Pencil Museum, Cumbria

Located in Keswick, Cumbria, the Derwent Pencil Museum is the home of the very first pencil. The scene is set from the beginning as visitors enter the museum through a replica graphite mine which would have served as the beginnings of the pencil industry over three centuries ago.

You’ll be transported on a journey that tells the story of how the pencil industry transformed from its humble beginnings into a modern-day production.

There are plenty of weird and wonderful things to see at the museum, from secret World War II pencils and the Queen’s diamond jubilee pencil, to miniature pencil sculptures and the largest coloured pencils in the world – measuring almost eight metres long!

14. Science Museum, London

The Science Museum in London is a celebration of human scientific achievement, ingenuity, and technological advancement. It’s hard not to be impressed by the museum’s display of challenges that our species has overcome throughout history using science.

It hosts award-winning exhibitions and events that cover a range of focus topics including how the ancient Greeks debated the natural world, the role of mathematics in our society, and world medicine collections. Iconic objects such as Helen Sharman’s spacesuit, Apollo 10’s command module, and the first Apple computer are also on show for visitors to marvel at.

If you’re unable to visit the Science Museum in person, you could consider attending one of its online events. These cover a range of interesting topics, including the pressing issue of climate change, where experts explore different scientific technologies that could be used to remove and store excess carbon dioxide. All events and exhibitions are available to browse on the Science Museum website.

Final thoughts…

Here in the UK, we’re spoilt for choice when it comes to museums. From fine art and history, through to explorations of the industrial revolution and the natural world, museums provide us with an unrivalled insight into our heritage and culture which is powerful enough to leave even the most disinterested person impressed.

Plus, with all of the interactive technology and activities available at museums these days, there’s usually something for everyone to get involved with and enjoy.

For further inspiration, head over to the art and culture section of our website. Here you’ll find everything from stately homes to visit and popular days out across the UK.