From the early days of humanity where people utilised animals to move about goods and passengers, to today where we are spoiled for choice, transport has always been an integral part of life. After all, without it, we’d never be able to leave the town in which we were born – imagine! Whether it be to move passengers, for medical purposes, or for freight, it’s such an ingrained part of life it can sometimes be overshadowed just how innovative the design and mechanics of our modes of transport are.
While Britannia was once famous for ruling the waves, our engineering feats on land and in the air cannot be forgotten. That’s exactly the motive for the many museums across the UK who showcase the best of transport in this country. So, which are the best?
Having opened in 1980, the London Transport Museum specialises in the history of transport in London. Split over two sites, the main location is in Covent Garden and the second is in Acton which serves more as a storage depot (however this can still be visited!). Displaying buses, trams, trolleybuses, rail vehicles and more, this really is one of the best transport museums in the UK! After all, London is home to the world’s first metro system!
On top of the displays, this museum is also known for holding various events and tours – and who doesn’t love an event or tour?! Right now, the museum is all about their Electric Late event which is showcasing electrical transport objects such as a control panel from the 30s and trams from way back when London had the largest tram and trolleybus system in the world!
As for tours, they are styled under the Hidden Tours name and include getting a glimpse of some of the original Central Line tunnels at Shepherd’s Bush station. You can also take a tour to see a snapshot of history at Euston station where you can still see vintage advertising posters!
As the home of the mighty Titanic, of course the Ulster Transport Museum is on the list! Self-described as uniting the past, present, and future, this museum covers every type of transport imaginable – even with an exhibition on the history of surfing in Ireland, and another on space transport!
Permanent galleries include the likes of the Titanic, Olympic, and Britannic – the sister ships built in Belfast! There’s also the Museum of Innovation which covers local pioneers who have pushed the boundaries of innovation. And we couldn’t leave out mentioning the Causeway Tram – one of the world’s very first electric vehicles!
Keeping the future in mind, this museum aims to be at the forefront of innovation, hoping to be an inspiration for the ‘designers, engineers, and adventurers’ of tomorrow! They want to help with tackling the challenges the future holds in regards to clean, green transport – and if that’s not admirable, we don’t know what is!
The best transport museum in Scotland is handed to the Riverside Museum in Glasgow. It’s a purpose-built museum which showcases Glasgow’s mammoth contributions to transport across the world. Industries like shipbuilding, train manufacturing, and engineering have long called Scotland its home, so it’s no wonder this museum holds pride of place at the top.
It actually holds over 3,000 objects, so there really is something for everyone! It’s also welcoming the future of green transport with wide open arms having achieved a Green Tourism gold award, and also running an exhibition on the drive for energy efficiency. We love to see it!
With further displays dedicated to Dorothee Pullinger and the famous Ghostbusters car, it’s definitely on our list of must-visit transport museums in the UK! Don’t miss it!
4. Tacla Taid, the Anglesey Transport Museum
Moving onto Wales is Tacla Taid, the Anglesey Transport Museum. The largest and best museum of its kind in the country, Tacla Taid has an impressive collection of classic cars, motorbikes, commercial vehicles, and perhaps most exciting of all – agriculture vehicles! Over a 100 in fact, going all the way back to the 1920s!
In fact, it’s so dedicated to its theme that the classic cars are set up in a replica of a 1940s cobbled street!
When it comes to transport, agricultural vehicles can often be looked over in favour of the more classic types, but tractors and the like were a key turning point for farming across all the countries of the United Kingdom, and to this day are a vital part of the life cycle of our food and drink production! And even with all that aside, they’re just very cool to look at, right?!
Another great thing about this particular museum is that they host a number of classic car meets, so it’s a great place to meet new people who love the same things as you! Oh, and did we mention it has a caravan park as well? Does this museum know no bounds?!
So, now onto museums that specialise in one particular form of transport, we start off with the National Railway Museum in York – a bona fide train museum! The self-proclaimed ‘home of iconic locomotives’ is the place to be if you love everything about trains! Converted from an old motive power depot, the museum is full to the brim with history and engineering. In fact, the Great Hall of the museum used to be where the turntable was!
A particularly exciting event coming up for this museum is the 100 year anniversary of The Flying Scotsman entering service! To celebrate, the museum is putting on a series of events looking at its history, how it was built, and excursions galore!
Outside of that, the museum has a collection dedicated to the climate emergency and how railways can become greener, another on ambulance trains that were used in the first world war, and a miniature railway fit for all ages!
With the world’s largest collection of historic British cars, the British Motor Museum is a must-visit for both car and transport enthusiasts. Located in Warwickshire, this museum is all about cars, cars, cars – if you don’t know everything there is to know about cars when you leave, you weren’t paying attention! It even includes heritage certificates!
With events catered for people such as Jaguar enthusiasts, young drivers, and even those who love a quiz night, this museum has it all. Learn how to drive a fire engine, then attend a book signing event all about Dorothy Levitt and her adventures racing around!
There are over 400 British classic cars for you to see here in every shape and size imaginable. You can learn things like where they were made, who made them, and how they were used. Currently there are exhibitions for a Vauxhall collection, as well as one for the tiny Austin Seven. Not to be missed!
7. National Maritime Museum Cornwall
Time to head south west and to the coast, because it’s all about boats at the National Maritime Museum in Cornwall. With 15 galleries over five floors, this is the place to be to learn all there is to know about the sea and how we navigate it. It’s located on land that was once the home of many boat builders so you’ll literally be walking through history!
You’ll learn about the history of boats and how from time immemorial, people have fashioned rafts and logboats to set out to explore the seas. Originally powered by muscle, then wind, and then – finally – engines! You’ll also be able to see Edna Mair – the tiny dingy boat that the Robertson family survived on stranded at sea for an unimaginable 38 days!
And as for modern times, check out the RNLI Rescue Zone to learn all about the amazing things the lifeboat teams do today!
8. London Bus and Brooklands Museum
And finally, it’s the two in one twin museums dedicated to buses – the London Bus Museum and Brooklands Museum, both located in Weybridge. If you’ve ever wondered where the old-style buses you only see in TV and film now live – it’s here! These museums showcase 150 years of buses, and you won’t be disappointed!
And once you’re done admiring the buses, you can head over to the world’s first purpose-built race track – yes, you read that right! Brooklands is all about speed – whether that be on the road or in the air (yes, we mean a Concorde!). You’ve got 100 years of great British history right at your fingertips, enjoy!
Transport Across Time!
We personally love each and every one of these museums – each exploring different aspects of transport in the UK and how it’s improved all our lives immeasurably. They truly are the best transport museums in the UK! Now you’ve got a list of them all, what are you waiting for?
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