Britain is a place of dignified rituals, pastoral pleasures, rich architectural heritage, and a sense of decency and fair play. Here classical beauty walks hand in hand with diverse sub-cultural attractions and styles that range from unusual to downright bizarre. Britain cannot be explored one way, especially if you want to see life and get the full UK experience. Between visits to cathedrals, castles, shopping arcades, and museums, there is place for eccentric attractions and more unusual sights.
World Worm Charming Championships
Only in the United Kingdom could these championships be accepted as something almost normal. It was in 2009 when the most worms were collected – 567, and the record was beaten. While you may think worm charming is a rather unusual hobby, this quaint sport is more widespread than you would imagine. To this, the sport fits perfectly well with Britain’s rainy – and some would say schizophrenic – weather. Besides, it is easy to charm these little bugs out of wet soil.
Held in Willaston, the World Worm Charming Championships have a regulatory body of control and strict rules. The competition was first designed as a fund raising event and became an annual event celebrating this sport. The competitor who charms the most worms wins the trophy, and the one who extracts the heaviest worm wins a silver trophy. An international festival is also held in Blackawton, Devon, where adults and children try to attract worms from the ground.
Teapot Island features an odd exhibition with more than 6,700 teapots on display. What to expect? Teapots, teapots, and more teapots. People visit this exhibition dressed as saucers and cups, which worries some children.
Mustard Museum, Norwic
Dedicated to the history of mustard, this small museum will please fans with various forms of jars, photographs of mills, where mustard was produced, and posters of last century. Visitors learn about the variety of flavors of the raw material and delicious mustard recipes.
The Bakelite Museum, Williton
A museum dedicated to ‘the material of thousand uses’, this 17th century watermill is packed with items of all colors, sizes, and shapes. The museum features a colorful display of elegant vases and bowls, along with telephones, radios, gramophones, and televisions. For some, this is a strange place, indeed. The exhibition has been described as ideal for people who like their phenol-formaldehyde resin being the result of a chemical reaction.
The Dinosaur Museum, Dorchester
This museum is the only one in Britain that is solely devoted to the fascinating world of dinosaurs. One of the main problems here is that there are no dinosaurs or other prehistoric species, dead or alive. The Dinosaur Museum features an exhibit of plastic toys, which you can find on your local market. The new book Crap Days Out presents the museum as a place worth missing.
Found in a quiet residential area of Liverpool, the Williamson Tunnels were built by Joseph Williamson, a retired tobacco merchant who ordered them in the early 19th century. He might have been building an underground stronghold to sit out the end of the world. Or he might have been trying to create more jobs. Nobody knows why they were built. Visitors of the Williamson Tunnels can touch and see the sandstone and bricks of this network of tunnels and enjoy the entertaining tour and informative commentary from a professional guide.
Mother Shipton’s Cave, Knaresborough
Mother Shipton’s Cave is known for the only petrifying spring in England. The locals believed that the well had magic powers and never dared to approach it. People had seen small animals, leaves, and other objects turn into stone by the spring’s falling waters. In fact, because of the high mineral content of the well’s water, everything turns into stone. Visitors of Mother Shipton’s Cave have the chance to see a variety of petrified items, including toys, shoes, Agatha Christie’s handbag, and a hat belonging to John Wayne.
Barley Mow is famous for hosting an unusual championship. It is a rather strange mix of infantile enthusiasm and serious racing in support of the British Hen Welfare Trust. The championship is eccentric in that any newcomer stands as much chance as a veteran racer. Competitors travel from as far afield as Australia and Finland.
If you are into this, you can rent a hen for the day or bring your own hens. Even if you are a newbie and prefer to watch the show, you may find it rather interesting. The event is very competitive despite the fact that hens don’t have a ‘competitive’ instinct, to begin with. People use different training techniques, and there is a lot of cheering, applauding, and shaking tins. Some ‘coaches’ even wear chicken masks, hats, and other strange head gear. It is good fun, says the current landlord David Wragg.
This Scarborough institution is an unusual attraction for families with kids. Council employees reenact scenes of sea battles, hiding in model ships. While electricity is used to power the aircraft, and some small boats run on electricity, most boats in Peasholm Park are powered by council employees! This is the world’s smallest manned navy, which started in 1927. Special effects include aircraft on wires, gunfire, and bombs. The show is followed by an organist playing in a pagoda.
Within the walls of Leeds Castle – one of Britain’s most popular points of interest – a unique collection features intricately sculpted and engraved dog collars, be they for primped and dressed mini pooches or for hunting hounds. Over a hundred exhibits, found in the museum, date back to the Middle Ages. This collection of canine neckwear is indeed impressive, and most items can be viewed as a work of art. If you are into dog wear. Rumors that the only visitors are eccentrics, fetish club owners, and vicars are denied and owners of prissy pocket dogs love the collection.
The Museum of Dragonflies is the only dragonfly reserve and museum in Europe, highlighting the frailness, magic, and plight of dragonflies. It features their natural habitats, videos, exhibitions, and other attractions. The creators of this odd museum argued that its sole purpose was to introduce visitors to the world of dragonflies and to reinforce charitable values. Yet, it is not clear how killing flies combines with such high ideas.
Museum of Magic, Boscastle
The Museum of Magic features an extensive collection of Wiccan and witchcraft related artifacts – from beams of dried medicinal and magical herbs to witch knives. There are sections devoted to stone circles, mandrakes, protective charms, and the Wiccan wheel of the year. The museum holds a large collection of books, including a scrapbook that belonged to the influential English Wiccan Doreen Valiente. If you are a fan of Harry Potter, you should necessarily visit the museum.
There are many odd things and goings-on to see all over the United Kingdom, attracting visitors who are bored with stately homes and the usual museums. The misty Albion has plenty of eccentric attractions and odd museums to offer. There is no chance to see them for those who choose to explore the UK only with a guidebook.