Favorite UK museums and galleries: readers’ journey suggestions | Journey

Winner tip: Old friends in Birmingham

I recently attended the newly opened Barber Institute of Fine Arts at the University of Birmingham (free but pre-registration required). It was the last gallery I visited before the lockdown and the first since then, and it was like seeing old friends. It’s a little gem of a gallery with works by Simone Martini, Claude, Degas, Canaletto, among others, and a personal favorite, a lively Gainsborough who shows his two daughters climbing into a hay wagon. Located in a Grade II listed Art Deco building, it’s a lovely place to stop for an hour followed by a cake on the terrace at nearby Winterbourne House.
Rosalind Napier

Concrete and Pointed, Nottingham

Nottingham Contemporary exterior with lace pattern

Nottingham Contemporary, a new art gallery in Nottingham. For art photo: David Sillitoe / The Guardian

I have visited the Nottingham Contemporary Art Gallery in the city’s Lace Market several times since the lockdown ended. It’s a fab modern concrete building with lace prints on the outside (pictured), large airy gallery space, and a really nice cafe and gift shop, all of which were especially therapeutic. An exhibition of paintings by Denzil Forrester was recently completed and a new one has just opened, including a tribute to Grace Jones and works by Berlin-based Jimmy Robert. It’s a great building to stroll into (for free) in a lovely historic part of the city and there is always something interesting to see.

Carnegie Train, Dunfermline

The family turns up at Andrew Carnegie's birthplace, Dunfermline.

The family turns up at Andrew Carnegie’s birthplace, Dunfermline. Photo: Alamy

Andrew Carnegie’s philanthropic influence can be felt all over the world, from libraries to theaters to museums. A visit to the free Andrew Carnegie Birthplace Museum in Dunfermline will take you back to the beginning of history. From the tiny house he lived in with his family to his trip across the seas to his huge international influence, the story is told in a way that captivates visitors of all ages. I am very proud to have this museum on my doorstep. It may be small, but it packs a punch, maybe like Andrew Carnegie himself. Capacity is reduced for Covid safety and online booking is essential.
Lindsay Marshall

Explosively good, Dumfries and Galloway

Women work in the Gretna ammunition factory, Scotland, 1918.

Women work at the Gretna Munitions Factory, Scotland, 1918. Photo: Science & Society Picture Librar / Getty Images

The Devil’s Porridge Museum in Eastriggs, overshadowed by Gretna’s wedding fame, sums up the history of the huge ammunition factory north of Solway (Devil’s porridge was a name for the explosive cordite). Unfortunately, none of the factory buildings are left and the land is contaminated with chemical waste. Through photos, information boards, clothes, machines, and interactive games, the museum explains how thousands, mostly women, made bombs through both the World Wars and the Cold War. Stories and photos of the efforts and sacrifices of these women make it poignant read.
• • Adults £ 6, ages 5-16 £ 5, family (2 + 3) £ 15

Almost like clubbing, London

Kraftwerk in the Design Museum.

Kraftwerk in the Design Museum. Photo: Peter Boettcher

The electronic exhibition in the Design Museum is, in my opinion, the next we will ever have in a club again. As soon as you step in, you can feel the carefully curated playlists of house, techno and drum and bass. It takes you on a fantastic journey back in time from the invention of the theremin to installations by Aphex Twin and Weirdcore, Juke and Footwork in Chicago and Detroit, without forgetting the origins of techno and house in the black community. After a drink with a loved one, make a late slot and recreate the dance floor.
• • £ 16.30 adult, £ 12.15 student, £ 8.15 child

Chill out with Damien, London

Damien Hirst's exhibition

Damien Hirst’s End of a Century exhibition at Newport Street Gallery. Photo: Yui Mok / PA

I love Damien Hirst’s Newport Street Gallery in London’s Vauxhall, which reopened yesterday (October 7th) with a new exhibition called End of a Century. There’s no trolley rage like some galleries because there’s so much space: each room has huge white walls and high ceilings so you can just enjoy the art and be completely immersed in it without being bombarded by other inputs. This also makes it perfect for social distancing and it’s free.
Hannah Morgan

Guardian Travel Reader Tips

Every week we ask our readers for recommendations from their trips. A selection of tips are published online and may appear in print. To take part in the latest competition, visit the Reader’s Tips homepage

Medically uplifting, London

Skull and drug bottles in the Old Operating Theater Museum

Skull and drug bottles in the Old Operating Theater Museum. Photo: Alamy

The Old Operating Theater Museum at St. Thomas’s Church in Southwark is wood-paneled and quiet, and frozen in time long before antiseptics or anesthetics. An airy old pharmacy full of mysterious potions and ancient medicines stands on narrow steps and over creaky floorboards. Now when we’re sick it feels uplifting to see how far medicine has come. The winding steps and dry herbal air give the place a magical, autumnal feel that is magical too.
• • Reservation essential: flat rate ticket for up to six people, £ 20
Vicky Leech Mateos

Real Mine Ship, West Yorkshire

A group of visitors to the mining museum in pre-Covid times.

A group of visitors to the mining museum in pre-Covid times. Photo: Donna Niman

The National Coalmining Museum in Overton, West Yorkshire is a real adventure. We liked the “damn pit” tour, which descended 140 meters underground in a downright curvy old lift (worth getting engaged to the normally bored teenagers!) Where a former miner treated us to historical stories about the mining experience. The guides absolutely make this place what it is. We loved meeting the horses and ponies and visiting the different galleries. The end of the day at the adventure playground rounded off a really entertaining and free, educational day.
• • Only overland tours are currently available, £ 2.10 booking fee for up to six people, advance booking only, donations welcome
Donna Niman |

Art and Coastal Heritage, New Forest

St. Barbe Museum and Art Gallery in Lymington, Hampshire,

Photo: Alamy

The St. Barbe Museum and Art Gallery in Lymington, Hampshire is a gem. The main museum guides you through local coastal history and shows finds such as the “Boldre treasure” of Roman coins. There’s a real boat and interactive exhibits for kids, plus regular craft and community outreach events. The other half of the recently renovated building is a professional art gallery with local and national exhibits. The museum also has a lovely, locally run cafe and shop that displays the best of local artisans. I don’t think people realize it is there, but a visit to Lymington is not complete without stopping by.
• • Adults £ 6, ages 5-16 £ 3, family (2 + 4) £ 12
Charlotte Baker

Stateside style, bathroom

Exterior view of the American Museum in Bath, Somerset, UK on July 16, 2016 R1X7HB Exterior view of the American Museum in Bath, Somerset, UK on July 16, 2016

Photo: NJphoto / Alamy

High up in Bath, overlooking beautiful Limpley Stoke in the Avon Valley, is the unique American Museum and Gardens. Remodeled two years ago, the prairie-style plantings of the garden are breathtaking. The Claverton Manor House recreates fascinating US rooms with decorative arts spanning four centuries. A takeaway cafe serves American specialties with all items freshly prepared. You can safely enjoy your refreshments on a breathtaking terrace overlooking the gardens and valley. A new children’s playground has just opened. There is no need to book in advance, but the gardens are limited to 300 people per day and supervised visits to the Claverton Manor collection are only available between 11:00 and 16:00.
• • Adults £ 10, ages 5-17 £ 7.50, families (2 + 3) £ 22.50, open Tuesday through Sunday
Caroline Holden

Crafts and symbolism, Surrey

Exterior view of the entrance to the Watts Gallery, Compton, Surrey.

Photo: Alamy

Watts Gallery Artists’ Village is an idyllic site in the Surrey Hills, just a 10-minute bus ride from Guildford. In the main gallery are the beautiful symbolist paintings by George Frederic Watts. One room is dedicated to the work of Evelyn and William De Morgan. Five minutes up the street is Watts Mortuary Chapel, designed by Watts’ fellow artist and wife Mary Fraser Tytler and executed in excellent handicrafts by members of the local community.
• • Adults £ 12.50, under 18s free

Horror for Watchmaking, Suffolk

View of the 12th century medieval Moyses Hall Museum

Photo: Alamy

The Moyse’s Hall Museum in Bury St. Edmunds may be small, but it has a varied selection of exhibits. The medieval building alone is worth a visit and, since it used to be a police station, it has a crime and punishment department. Notable items include a disruptive gallows cage and a death mask from a notorious 19th century murderer. Much less alarming is the renowned collection of watches – I love the lavish decoration of the pocket watches.
• • Adults £ 5, ages 5-16 £ 3, family (2 + 5) £ 15
Sharon Pinner

Spellbinding Species, Cambridge

Fin whale skeleton at Zoology Museum Cambridtge

Photo: Marc Zakian / Alamy

The recently redesigned Museum of Zoology in Cambridge (free but book online) is a lesser-known gem among nondescript concrete laboratory buildings. It reopened late last month. The place is fascinating from the moment you step under a floating fin whale skeleton (see picture). Highlights include the towering frame of an extinct giant ground sloth, Darwin’s specimens from his Beagle trip, and, my personal favorite, a questionably taxidermized but adorable giant anteater.
Isobel Ollard

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