GoMunkee has a long history of being curious. Years ago, when my son, Daniel, was at primary school, he and I had a bit of a thing for ‘weird’ stuff. Whenever it was just the two of us out and about, we’d try to see or experience the greatest oddity the day could throw at us.
Highlights included a man cycling along a main road with a dog in a back pack, a woman singing in the street in Brighton wearing a stockinged bodysuit WITH NOTHING ON UNDERNEATH, a clown whose Ford Fiesta had broken down and a crowd of historical re-enactors in full Battle of Hastings costumes standing in a pub watching football on a big screen. I also remember going on a walk where a tame jackdaw flew along with us and kept trying to land on my head (me, trying hard not to interpret any ominous symbolism).
Continuing with the weirdness thing, whenever we visited different parts of UK, we’d be on the lookout for the oddest place names curiosities, unusual architecture or strange modes of transport. Now my boys are racing through their teens, cynicism has set in, but from time to time they flash a mobile phone in my face and say, “Hey Mum, look at this – it’s so weird!’
Visiting unusual museums became something of a family tradition, so for GoMunkee, I’ve trawled the internet and added a few of my personal favourites to bring you six of the weirdest museums in the land.
The Bakelite Museum - Williton, Somerset
On arriving at this museum, the owner proudly informed us that it was once voted the second dullest museum in the UK, being pipped at the post (allegedly) by The Derwent Pencil Museum in Cumbria. But it’s an Aladdin’s cave of kitsch gadgetry and extraordinary multi-coloured creations from this obsolete plastic which so transfixed my grandparents’ generation – everything from telephones, to toys, eggcups and coffins. The cakes in the tea room are magnificent, although some of the Bakelite radios are less appealing (see image above with knobs on).The Bakelite Museum
The Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities, Fine Art and Natural History - Hackney, London
If you're used to untidy kids' bedrooms, then you'll love this. You'll all be gobsmacked when you behold the bizarre oddities stuffed into the weirdest of wunderkabinetts. The museum presents an incoherent vision of the world displayed through wonder enclosed within a tiny space, where everything is thrown together and nothing is categorised. Here, you will discover a cornucopia of peculiarities: McDonald's Happy Meal toys, shells, skulls, taxidermy specimens, old master etchings, prison inmates’ and mad women's doodles, pop art prints, plus the horrors and wonders of nature, from two headed kittens to living coral.The Viktor Wynd Museum
Cuckooland - Tabley, Cheshire
What could possibly be weird (or cuckoo) about a 40-year obsession for cuckoo clocks? Well, brothers Maz and Roman and Piekarski are certainly a little less ordinary for taking their timepiece obsession to such an extreme. With over 600 artefacts in the collection you’ll find cuckoo, quail and trumpeter clocks, set up to play at intervals throughout your visit. I have to say, Cuckooland sounds a lot weirder than it is – it’s actually an exquisite display of craftsmanship, full of quirky delight.Cuckooland
The Shell Grotto - Margate, Kent
If you can prize your kids away from the penny slot machines along the seafront, and seek out this oddity, you’ll be pleasantly surprised for two reasons. Firstly, because The Shell Grotto was discovered in 1835 and nobody knows who created it or why, and secondly because of its sheer magnificence – the effort and perfection is astonishing. The underground grotto comprises 21 metres of winding passages decorated with 4.6 million shells. The effect is dizzying. The walls are covered in images of gods and goddesses, trees of life and patterns of oysters, whelks and mussels assembled in dazzling patterns. Who collected the shells, and where were they from? They certainly didn’t come from Margate’s beach.The Shell Grotto
The Gnome Reserve and Wildflower Garden - West Putford, near Bradworthy, Devon
If you were driving along with your kids in the car and you came across a sign that said Gnome Reserve, you’d have to check it out, wouldn’t you? If you can find it (and believe me, it isn’t easy), it’s well worth the effort. You have to don a gnome hat before exploring the wild flower gardens. Little kids love it, and for all its weirdness, it even appeals to the more cynical, mobile-toting teen, who will take selfies, Snapchat and Instagram to whole new levels. There are thousands of gnomes and even a few hidden fairies for smaller children to find. An unusual day out, and unlikely to make you want to buy a gnome for your garden. It’s better that they reside in this rural gnome commune rather than blight suburbia with their creepy, jovial presence (IMO).The Gnome Reserve and Wildflower Garden
The The Derwent Pencil Museum - Cumbria
What child wouldn’t be transfixed by the world’s largest pencil? Apparently not my nephews. Intrigued to find out how this museum was voted UK’s dullest museum, we came away with the answer. Sadly, it was flooded in 2015 and much of its character seems to have been rubbed out. Kids will like the myriad, colourful pencil displays and history, but they’ll probably like the gift shop more. Parents, but not kids, might get a better feel for the place by watching Sightseers first. This teen horror flick was filmed partly on location at the Pencil Museum. When you’re later finding the displays a tad dull, try to imagine being on a caravan holiday with a serial killer.Derwent Pencil Museum
© Annie Harrison 2017
So if you're looking for something unusual to do with your kids, check with GoMunkee first. Use the words 'unusual' or 'quirky' in your search, and see what comes up. Register your children's details so that GoMunkee gets to know the sorts of things they like to do. GoMunkee grows up alongside your children - always sharing age-appropriate activities and events.