From the Tate to the Victoria & Albert, it’s no secret that London is home to some of the world’s greatest museums and galleries. But likewise, so is the rest of the UK. These smaller, lesser well known museums and galleries don’t often get the stardom light that they deserve. Until now. 

We’ve rounded up nine of our favourite museums and galleries spread across the UK, some just a short train journey from the capital. This is by no means a definitive list, just a collection of our personal favourites.

Charleston, East Sussex 

A personal favourite of mine, Charleston can be found just outside the quaint East Sussex town, Lewes. And in their words, it’s a ‘place that brings people together to engage with art and ideas’, and I couldn’t have put it better myself. Every time I walk around here I’m instantly inspired by the eccentricity of the rooms, filled with experimental art and thinking. 

It’s the former home of painters Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant, and became the meeting point for some of the 20th century’s most radical artists, writers and individuals, who became known collectively as the Bloomsbury group. Today, it’s home to a year-round programme of exhibitions, events and festivals, all that the public are welcome to explore. 

Take in every ounce of the house – each time I visit there’s something new I spot that I hadn’t previously – and the exhibitions are always a joy to explore. 

Where: Firle, West Firle, Lewes, BN8 6LL

Tate Liverpool, Liverpool

From school trips to cultured first dates, we’ve all trapised around Tate Modern and Tate Britain on numerous occasions. But how many of us can say we’ve travelled further afield to Tate’s other UK sites? This summer, how about a trip to Liverpool? 

Known internationally as the stomping grounds of The Beatles, Liverpool is also home to Tate Liverpool, the less talked of sister gallery to its Londoners siblings. Home to international contemporary art, it’s become one of the most visited art galleries in the UK. 

Showcased works include L.S Lowry, Lynda Benglis and Nicholas Hlobo. Right now, there’s an exhibition dedicated to Emily Speed, her first major solo exhibition in a UK gallery, titled Flatland. 

Pacita Abad, European Mask 1990, Tate, © Courtesy of the Pacita Abad Art Estate

Radical Landscapes is another exhibition on currently offering a new look at the British landscape and the art it inspires. 

Where: Royal Albert Dock, Liverpool, L3 4BB

Ashmolean Museum of Art & Archaeology, Oxford 

Founded in 1683, the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology is the University of Oxford’s museum, and is famed for its wide range of collections, exploring everything from Egyptian mummies through to contemporary day art. 

Head here to explore history in all of its vibrancy. You’ll journey to see the remains of Guy Fawkes’ iron lantern and ponder upon Turner’s great painting of Oxford’s High Street 

Current exhibitions include From Julius Caesar To Boadicea; Ali Kazim; Vision of the Moment; and Conservation Pioneers.

Where: Beaumont Street, Oxford, OX1 2PH

Hauser & Wirth Somerset, Somerset

While you’re off on your sunny staycation to Somerset, make a stop at the Hauser & Wirth Somerset gallery. Located on Durslade Farm, the gallery buildings boast a beautiful backdrop of landscaped gardens designed by landscape architect, Piet Oudolf. 

Renowned for its education, sustainability and conservation work, the gallery boasts an exciting collection of talks, seminars, workshops and screenings. 

Where: Durslade Farm, Dropping Lane, Bruton, Somerset, BA10 0NL

Scottish National Gallery, Edinburgh

A trip to Edinburgh isn’t complete without a trip to the Scottish National Gallery. That and a macaroni pie (if you know, you know). 

Centrally located, the Scottish National Gallery boasts some of the best fine art collections in the world. Expect to find masterpieces from Titian, Raphael, Botticelli, Vermeer, Constable and Angelica Kauffmann, to name a few. 

Current exhibitions include Barbara Hepworth’s Art & Life which spans the artist’s career, from her development of practices to the events that shaped her work.

Where: The Mound, Edinburgh, EH2 2EL

Chatsworth House, Derbyshire

For a Bridgerton moment, look to Chatsworth House. Home to the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, the house has been passed down through 16 generations of the Cavendish family. Nowadays, guests can explore the expanse in all of its glory, flitting through the 25 rooms. Expect to find the Painted Hall, State Rooms and Sculpture Gallery on your way. 

Alongside the house, the gardens are well worth the visit too. They are home to 105 acres, filled with rock gardens, fountains, sculptures and an arboretum.

Where: Chatsworth, Bakewell, Derbyshire, DE45 1PP

Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Yorkshire 

I’ll never not be fascinated by sculptures. Like I can’t really get my head around how someone can create a piece of art at such mass. It’s mind blowing. Which is why I love exploring them whenever I can. Somewhere that’s on my bucket list for this summer is Yorkshire Sculpture Park. 

Located in Wakefield, the park is the leading international centre for modern and contemporary sculpture. A registered museum and independent charitable trust, the Yorkshire Sculpture Park is nuzzled in the 500-acre, 18th century Bretton Hall estate. It’s welcomed some of the greatest sculptors and their work to the grounds, including Tony Cragg, Not Vital, KAWS, Bill Viola, Anthony Caro, Fiona Banner, Ai Weiwei and Ursula von Rydingsvard. 

Where: West Bretton, Wakefield, WF4 4JX

Turner Contemporary, Margate

Margate has become quite the arty hideout in recent years, notably thanks to the arrival of Turner Contemporary, which arrived in the seaside town ten years ago. 

Named after the 19th century painter J.W.Turner, who went to school in Margate and many of his works inspired by the seaside landscape, the Turner Contemporary is home to some stunning exhibitions and artwork. 

Current exhibitions include Wayfinder: Larry Achiampong & JMW; Nice To Meet You, a collaboration between five Slovak and Czech women; and Sirens: Sophie van Hellerman and Anne Ryan.

Where: Rendezvous, Margate, CT9 1HG

IWM Duxford, Cambridge

It wouldn’t be a museum and gallery guide without nodding to at least one Imperial War Museum. 

Located in Cambridge is IWM Duxford, known for being Europe’s largest air museum. You’ll follow in the footsteps of those who served at RAF Duxford, exploring aircrafts that have paved a generation. Inside and outside the museum, there are hundreds of aircrafts, vehicles and boats to explore.

WherE: Duxford Airfield, Building 425, Cambridge, CB22 4QR

National Railway Museum York, York

Whether you’re a regular commuter, train fanatic or just fancy a day out that’ll keep the kids entertained for hours on end, the National Railway Museum York ticks all of the boxes. 

The museum offers the perfect space to immerse yourself in the magic of transport, from taking in the sights of various iconic locomotives to uncovering more about railway engineering.

WherE: Leeman Road, York, YO26 4XJ

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