UK Museums

UK museums can be found around just about every corner throughout the British Isles. There are four countries, each with a long and rich history that is on display for all to enjoy. They range from some of the finest institutions in the world and magnificent castles and palaces to wax museums and even a museum of dog collars.

Museums in England and museums in Scotland are the most numerous, as these are the two most populous countries with the largest areas. And, it is the two ancient and cosmopolitan capital cities where you will find the best and widest variety. London boasts a number of internationally respected institution that include the National Gallery, with one of the finest collections of Western art in the world, and the British Museum with everything from the Rosetta Stone to controversial Elgin marbles that Greece is demanding be returned. Here also, on opposite side of the River Thames, are the Tate Britain and the Tate Modern, both housing wonderful art collections.

There are great museums in England in other cities as well, including the ancient Roman city of Bath with its Jane Austen Centre that reveals the life of the celebrated native author and the Holburne Museum with an impressive collection of bronze and porcelain. Oxford, the City of Dreaming Spires, boasts a surprising number of fine museums, many associated with Oxford University, the oldest university in the English speaking world.

Important regional museums in England include the American Museum in Claverton, which is near Bath and houses a couple hundred years of American history, including George Washington's mother's gingerbread recipe. Head to Cornwall for the Lizard Lighthouse Heritage Centre, set in the historic lighthouse and chronicling the maritime and lighthouse history of the region. Cornwall's history is intimately involved with metal mining and its landscapes are dotted with historic mines. You can learn about this important industry at the Poldark Mine Museum that dates back to the 18th century. Head up to York and the Jorvik Viking Centre to learn about the period when raiding Vikings ruled this region of the British Isles.

The finest museums in Scotland are found in Edinburgh, beginning with the National Gallery of Scotland and the National Museum of Scotland. The former has a small but impressive collection of art, and the latter reveals the long and rich history of the country. There are also excellent museums in Scotland in both Glasgow and Aberdeen. In Glasgow, the Riverside Museum tells the story of travel and transport in the country, and the Burrell Collection has a superb collection of the medieval art, ceramics from China, and French painting from the 1800s. Also here is the GoMA (Gallery of Modern Art) and the Hunterian Art Gallery. Aberdeen boasts its own Art Gallery with art from around the world.

Both Northern Ireland and Wales have UK museums that are fascinating. The National Museum Wales in the capital of Cardiff chronicles the history of the country from prehistoric times to the present. The National Museums Northern Ireland include the Ulster Museum and Botanic Gardens and the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum (both in Belfast) and the Ulster American Folk Park in Omagh, and the Omagh County Museum (both in Armagh).

One thing that all these countries have in common are magnificent historic houses, mansions, castles, palaces, and cathedrals that are virtual living museums. These UK museums include royal residences like Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle; extravagant Blenheim Palace, birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill; imposing Edinburgh Castle set high on a hill above the city; and Salisbury Cathedral set magnificently in the plain made famous by the Neolithic monument of Stonehenge. And, speaking of Neolithic ruins, these can be found in many places, from the cairns of the far northern Orkney Islands to the Hebrides Islands of the Scottish Highlands. There are Roman ruins in places as far apart as York and Bath, and Hadrian's Wall divides the island of Great Britain almost in half. Some of the hundreds of pubs throughout the islands are historic sites themselves, and a number of UK hotels and inns are housed in historic castles and stately country homes.

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