From William Shakespeare to Winston Churchill
Visit the museums dedicated to Britain’s great and good and see the places that inspired them. From pop stars to writers, poets and politicians here are our top 10 places to learn about Great British legends.
The ‘lady with the lamp’, Florence Nightingale, became famous as a nurse in the Crimean War but was also a radical health reformer and passionate campaigner. Housed in the original Nightingale Training School for Nurses, at St Thomas’ Hospital, the newly reopened Florence Nightingale Museum has a fascinating collection of artefacts ranging from Florence’s pet owl to her personal medicine chest and brings to life the period through absorbing interactive exhibits.
Where: 221b Baker Street, London, England
Though Sherlock Holmes was, of course, a fictional character, his incredible powers of deduction, eccentric dress sense and mannerisms have endeared him to readers the world over. His address as featured in Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories is in the heart of London at 221b Baker Street. Explore the beautifully preserved Victorian interiors that have been carefully re-created from references in the stories and see the pipe, deerstalker and magnifying glass made famous by Basil Rathbone’s seminal portrayal.
Where: J M Barrie’s Birthplace, Kirriemuir, Scotland
The cottage where the Peter Pan author was born and raised now houses a charming museum that houses important items including early costumes and genuine manuscripts with notations from Barrie. You can also see the wash house that doubled as the young Barrie’s fist theatre. There’s plenty for kids to do with characters hidden throughout the house, a Peter Pan Playroom and even the chance to fly like Peter in the Peter Pan Experience.
Burns National Heritage Park offers you a chance to experience the rich heritage of Burns within the environment that inspired his imagination. Set in the beautiful scenery of Alloway, the Heritage Park includes the poet’s cottage and a museum with over 5,000 artefacts relating to his life, work and legacy. You can also see Alloway Auld Kirk - immortalised in Burns’ poem Tam o’ Shanter and his monument in the commemorative gardens overlooking the historic Brig o’ Doon.
Where: Dove Cottage and Rydal Mount, Lake District, England
Ensconced in the inspiring landscape of the Lake District, William Wordsworth produced some of the most memorable poetry in the English language. Visit his two Lake District homes, Dove Cottage and Rydal Mount to see the scenery that moved him. If you want to see ‘a host of golden daffodils’, be sure to come in March.
Beatrix Potter was passionate about the natural world and her Lake District home. You can visit her charming cottage Hill Top which is full of her personal effects and watercolours as well as information about her beguiling stories. Out in the garden it’s not hard to imagine Peter Rabbit scampering among the flowers, fruit and vegetables that still grow today.
The world's most performed playwright enriched Western culture with new words and dazzling imagery as no author before or since. From knockabout comedy to searing tragedy, he plumbed the landscapes of the human soul. Visit historic Stratford-upon-Avon to see 5 houses associated with William Shakespeare including Shakespeare’s Birthplace and Anne Hathaway’s Cottage. You can also see his grave with its mysterious curse.
Where: Liverpool, England
Mendips is the childhood home of John Lennon where he composed many of his early songs. The house evokes the time he spent here during his formative years. 20 Forthlin Road was the home of the McCartney family, where the Beatles met to rehearse and where they wrote many of their early songs, including Love Me Do and I Saw Her Standing There.The National Trust operate combined tours to both properties, places are limited on each tour so advance booking is recommended to avoid disappointment.
The birthplace of Winston Churchill, Blenheim Palace near Oxford is a perfectly preserved 18th-century residence set in a 2,100-acre park landscaped by 'Capability' Brown. Churchill was born in the Palace in 1874 and there's a permanent exhibition about him next to his birth room. Churchill loved Blenheim and, as a family member, frequently visited during his long life. He is buried in a simple grave in the nearby church at Bladon. For more fascinating insights into this inspirational leader you can also visit his house, Chartwell, where he lived from 1924 until the end of his life.
The artist Lowry is famous for his depiction of industrial landscapes painted in his native Lancashire and his ‘matchstick’ like figures are instantly recognisable for their charming style. You can see the world’s biggest collection of his works at the Lowry Museum near Manchester. His early 20th-century industrial pictures capture the sometimes gritty reality of workers’ lives but splashes of colour and a wry sense of character lend a sense of individuality to his stylised figures. Don’t miss his lesser known portraits and brooding seascapes.