It’s safe to say that we Brits like to do things a little differently. Whether it’s regarding an orderly queue as a work of art or enjoying gravy-lathered chips as a delicacy, we have some rather odd ways. It’s no surprise, then, that the UK is home to some of the quirkiest attractions around – we may not have the skyscrapers of Dubai or the theme parks of Florida but, by God, we do have dedicated gnome gardens and we’re proud of it! Here, we’re rounding up some of the more unusual days out around the country as a sort of staycation inspiration guide. You can thank us later, but please form a proper queue.
The Baked Bean Museum of Excellence, Port Talbot
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Keen readers of the dealchecker blog may have seen this bean-filled museum featured in our Guide to South West Wales, but we loved it so much we had to feature it in this list too! You can never have too much of a good thing, after all!
Baked beans enthusiast, Barry Kirk (who has officially changed his name to Captain Beany by deed poll), has transformed his flat into a shrine in homage of his favourite teatime snack, using over 500 baked bean-related items. This joyous oddity was the fourth most-visited attraction in Neath Port Talbot in 2018. We could think of less interesting ways to while away the afternoon.
Wookey Hole, Somerset
The impressive limestone uplands of the Mendip Hills are home to some of Somerset’s best country walks and attractions. And, if you take a trip to the caves nearest the city of Wells, you might even find a herd of dinosaurs or even a huddle of fairies on your countryside adventure… Introducing, Wookey Hole! This family attraction nestled within the hills is home to some truly weird and wonderful exhibits.
The site was originally set up as a tour of the famous Wookey Hole caves, which are thought to have been occupied by man from 25,000 BC and are now the largest showcase caves in the UK. But, former ringmaster and now owner of Wookey Hole, Gerry Cottle, has made many wacky additions to the attraction over the years and visitors can now also enjoy: a dinosaur valley, fairy gardens, a vintage penny arcade museum, King Kong, a pirate island and adventure golf.
Other sights to take in on your walk through the caves chambers include: huge stalactites and stalagmites; the largest natural underground dome in the UK (ask your Geography teacher); and various shelves of maturing cheddar cheese. If all that doesn’t entertain the kids, we don’t know what will.
The Museum of Witchcraft and Magic, Boscastle
The epic success of the Harry Potter franchise has confirmed it: we’re a nation of wizard-loving muggles. If you thought you’d exhausted all fantasy-based attractions there are to see, you may have missed the all-important Museum of Witchcraft and Magic.
Founded by Cecil Williamson, this museum has had several locations across the UK – it has faced opposition from local communities – but eventually managed to settle in the town of Boscastle in Cornwall. Celebrating its 70th anniversary in 2021, this curious collection of all things surreal often features in-depth exhibitions on all the spooky, unexplainable things that go on – apt, really, as Cornwall’s folklore is deeply rooted in myth and legend.
Amongst the 3000 or so odd objects, you’ll find protection talismans used by the soldiers of World War One, sacred herbs used in potions, and an extensive library of spells. If film has taught us anything, don’t start reading out loud!
Catanger Llama Trekking, Towcester
We said these picks would be quirky! For a weekend or holiday activity that’s truly out-of-the-ordinary, look no further than the four-legged trekking experiences offered by Catanger Llamas. Strange, we hear you say, but hear us out! Set in the heart of the gently undulating Northampton countryside, Catanger Farm is a lovingly-run, family-friendly spot that’s all about these long-necked mammals, and it offers trekking experiences for those looking for something a little different!
There are a handful of different llama experiences available, with on-farm treks designed for little ones, and longer, guided walks across the surrounding countryside for the grown-ups. Reviews from previously delighted visitors praise the informative, friendly staff and the uniqueness of it all, resulting in a repeated Certificate of Excellence from Tripadvisor.
It’s not just cavorting with these camelids that you can look forward to either, as Cantager Llama even offers quaint farm stays – choose between sleepovers in the charming Shepherd’s Hut or Gypsy Caravan, from which you’ll be able to see your newfound friends grazing on fresh grass. If you find yourself forming an unbreakable bond with these fluffy creatures, you’ll be thrilled to hear that the farm sells llamas too – how’s that for an impulse holiday purchase?
The Upside Down House, Various Locations
On the lookout for a photo-op with a difference? The Upside Down House will turn your world on its head – quite literally! Apparently tipped over by some terrific hurricane, each colourful abode in this quirky collection contains all the usual household essentials… Just, not as you know them. An excellent illusion, you’ll find yourself walking on the ceiling a la Spider Pig, looking down (or is that up?) at all the fittings. You know how your mum told you to stop playing on the furniture? Well, that rule doesn’t apply here! So, if you’re in need of a new profile picture, a snap that will make you Insta-famous or just a good old fashioned pic to go in the family album, these quirky homes can be your catwalk #nofilter.
The Gnome Garden, Devon
Now, you may think that gnomes are the sort of thing you only find on your grandparents’ patio, or an object you might expect to knock the hat from at fairgrounds, however you’d be wrong. With over 1000 gnomes and pixies of all shapes and sizes on display, Devon’s Gnome Reserve proves that these outdoor accessories are more popular (and perhaps, even more charming?) than you had originally thought! Once you’ve donned your gnome’s hat and selected your fishing rod, set out into the garden and surrounding woodland for an afternoon of all things gnome-ly.
On your wanders, look out for red-topped ornaments in a variety of positions, from picnicking pals to fishing friends and even a cheeky chappy or two! In the wildflower garden, pixies play amongst the brilliant blooms and bumblebees: little ones are encouraged to grab a clipboard to complete the on-site tasks, while older visitors may find themselves swept up in that childhood fantasy of fairies at the bottom of the garden. Afterwards, treat yourself to a traditional Devonshire Afternoon Tea in the cafe, or even a hand-painted gnome from the gift shop.
Teapot Island, Kent
If there’s one thing we Brits love, it’s a proper brew. Therefore, by association, we do favour a teapot – how can you complete the afternoon tea aesthetic without one after all? An homage to all things teatime, the aptly-named Teapot Island in Kent is a veritable treasure trove of novelty receptacles. The beverage-loving owners of this tea-riffic attraction claim to have over 7600 teapots (you won’t be surprised to know that Teapot Island has more than one Guiness World Record!) on display, with everyone from Darth Vader, Daleks and Her Majesty providing inspiration.
The resident potter has his workshop onsite, so you can sometimes spot him crafting his next quirky creation – a brew in one hand, of course! Thanks to his hard work, there are over 2000 pots of all shapes, sizes and persuasions on sale in the gift shop (we’ll take the Wallace and Gromit one, please!), or you can opt for a ‘Paint Your Own’ session to create your very own teatime masterpiece instead! In the 70-year-old tea shop you can enjoy sweet treats and afternoon delights aplenty, and those needing a walk afterwards can simply saunter down the neighbouring river path… In search of another cuppa!
A Monument to Vimto, Manchester
Perhaps not quite as popular as tea but a traditional English beverage nonetheless, Vimto was created in 1908 in Manchester. Over the years, Vimto has become something of a cult soft drink, and so the Monument to Vimto was erected in 1992 on the very site that the tipple was first brewed. Carved of wood, the sculpture consists of a traditional Vimto bottle surrounded by the fruits and herbs that give it that unique flavour. Whether it’s your favourite soda or one you’ve yet to sample, this quirky attraction can’t fail to raise a smile, and maybe even a glass as well!
We hope our eclectic collection of all things quirky has given you some inspiration for unusual days out in the United Kingdom. We may not be able to travel far at the moment, but you’re unlikely to find thrills this obscure anywhere else in the world.