London is a museum lover’s dream, but there are always far too many high-profile exhibitions and permanent collections to choose from and, try as I might, I never get to see them all. Hidden London museums, in comparison, are usually cheaper and quieter to visit, yet they’re easily overlooked.
The thing is, those smaller and more obscure attractions don’t get an equal billing, and many tourists miss out on these underrated attractions. I’ve selected six of my favourite hidden London museums to redress the balance.read more
It’s not long now until Series 2 of Poldark hits our TV screens, bringing Winston Graham’s popular saga back into the forefront of our minds and making everyone long for a Cornish holiday (preferably with Aidan Turner, a.k.a. Ross Poldark, to feed us a cream tea).
Whilst a few of the filming locations fell outside Cornwall, I’m going to ignore those anomalies and focus on the gorgeous Cornish settings used to bring these local novels to life once again.
Both St. Breward and Minions village were used for their stark landscapes. This created the perfect mood for Ross Poldark’s family home, Nampara, and for the views between Nampara and Ross’ cousin’s estate. The crossroads in Minions ramped up the cinematic quality of these scenes, as did the rising sun at St. Breward as the backdrop to a duel.read more
Amid last year’s mental health scandals – including spending cuts, insensitive comments from politicians, and crisis care failures – there was a big step forward in tackling the stigma of psychological illness. It came from a newly-opened museum and charity: Bethlem Museum of the Mind, in Beckenham, Kent, recently nominated for the 2016 Museum of the Year award.
Yes, the name might sound familiar. Bethlem is the fourth site of the notorious hospital better known as Bedlam. You won’t find power-crazed doctors leaving patients in chains – a stereotypical mental image associated with the ‘madhouse’ of earlier centuries – but you will find a place where modern mental illness is explained. What’s more, entry is free, and it’s open to everyone.read more
Writing longhand seems like a guilty pleasure these days, but one stationery shop in Bristol makes it unashamedly cool again: Papersmiths.
This Clifton store offers a carefully curated selection of pens, notebooks, cards and accessories, not to mention a vast range of fashion and lifestyle magazines to rival those stocked by London’s best newsagents. I popped in during a quick trip to the city and, being a self-confessed stationery addict, I was quickly won over by most of the stock.
Brands in store range from the minimalist design-centric (Hay) to the infinitely quirky (Herb Lester travel guides). Visual merchandising is simple but effective, with pencils arranged in colour order, and copies of The Gentlewoman slotted between thick woollen rugs and bowls full of chunky erasers in the window, so you start to picture your own home gradually being transformed into a Papersmiths palace.read more
People may rave about the award-winning art scene in Manchester and the street art in London or Bristol, but I want to add another city into the mix. With weird and wonderful architecture in Sheffield, not to mention the artists and creatives seemingly around every corner, ignore the Steel City at your peril.
Eye-Catching Architecture in Sheffield
The Park Hill estate is a concrete hulk of Brutalist architecture, inspired by Le Corbusier. Completed in 1961 as a rejuvenation project for one of the city’s poorest areas, Park Hill was initially a success but gradually fell into disrepair as it mirrored the declining steel industry in the 1980s.read more
It had me at ‘free tea and biscuits’. I’ve been to more museums than I can count in my 26 and 3/4 years, but never have I been offered a free cuppa and snacks as part of the deal… until now. Evidently, the Museum of Comedy isn’t your average tourist attraction, but the promise of a good old-fashioned English treat, alongside decades of authentic comedy memorabilia, worked wonders.
Based in a church undercroft between Tottenham Court Road and Holborn, this small but mighty two room venue covers the history of British comedy, from variety acts to TV sketch shows and stadium tours, and all that’s in between.read more
I’ve unashamedly had Christmas songs stuck in my head since July, and I contemplated buying decorations in September, so let’s just say compiling this Christmas gift guide wasn’t a daunting challenge.
Each item is practical but fun (because, no matter how many times it’s suggested by retailers, it is not exciting to receive a water filter or anti-wrinkle cream), and should stand out amongst the other presents around the Christmas tree. Happy shopping!
Up to £10
The Unusual Notebook (£3)
If you already love Herb Lester’s colourful maps (£4 each), you’ll enjoy the brand’s new notepads (£3 each, or £12 for six) based on fictional hotels, including the Great Northern Hotel from Twin Peaks. The tribute to Agatha Christie’s novel, At Bertram’s Hotel, is similarly tempting. Other Herb Lester products to add to your cart include a set of menu reading phrasebooks (£8), and a guide to visiting New York on your own (£4), which I agree is a good idea! See my solo guide to New York for details.read more
I’ve seen couples posing for romantic photos at the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin, and children use it as a playground, leaving sweet wrappers behind; I’ve seen bored teenagers struggling to feign interest at Sachsenhausen concentration camp. In those cases it was the visitors, not the attractions, lacking emotional intelligence and leaving me speechless.
London’s Jack the Ripper Museum, in the heart of Whitechapel, has gone one step further in terms of emotional intelligence failures, by actively encouraging tourists to mock murder victims. The appalling serial killings of Victorian prostitutes are offered as the perfect subject for a selfie or two this Halloween weekend. A recent press release, publicising the museum as a Halloween attraction, suggests visitors take “a selfie with the serial killer” (or, at least, a mysterious bloke in a top hat). Fancy “a picture with Jack in Mitre Square together with the body of Catherine Eddowes”? Go ahead. It’s not like Eddowes can complain, right?read more
“Ah – it seems you’ve found a bit of old sewage pipe,” says Fiona. Perhaps not what you want to hear when you’re seeking buried treasure along the Thames foreshore. Luckily this doesn’t come after hours of searching – Fiona, an inter-tidal archaeologist, is talking to an amateur mudlark, who laughs and heads off to continue scouring the shoreline for more unknown treasures (or unsavoury bits of piping) during the last few minutes of a Thames Beachcombing Walk. This is their idea of fun on a Saturday morning, and it’s contagious, so I’ve come to find out more.read more
A Louis Vuitton trunk at the airport speaks volumes about its owner. For one thing, they’re probably not bothered about excess baggage charges (no fear of Ryanair restrictions here). For another, they probably won’t buy three copies of The Daily Telegraph in WHSmith just to get the free giant bottles of Buxton water for the flight and the onward journey. And they won’t have a dilemma about whether it’s ok to nick the blankets from the plane on long haul flights or not, because they don’t fly economy.read more