When you come on holiday to Wales, you most likely want to get out and about in the fresh air, enjoying the epic coastline of Pembrokeshire, hiking up the awe-inspiring peaks of the Brecon Beacons, or even taking a gentle stroll along the promenade at Rhyl or Llandudno. Every once in a while though, especially during the autumn and winter, there comes a time when the weather makes spending the day outdoors less than appealing. When that happens, it’s time to hit a gallery or museum. Most of the larger museums in Wales are fairly well-known already, so we thought that in today’s blog post, we’d highlight one or two of the more quirky museums, to tempt you on your next visit.
National Wool Museum
Based in the former weaving heartlands of West Wales, the National Wool Museum offers a glimpse into a fascinating industry, which has now all but disappeared. Based in a former mill, many original machines have been lovingly coaxed back into life, and there are daily, rather noisy, demonstrations along with regular craft workshops and have-a-go sessions. There are also exhibitions of art and craft throughout the year.
Pendine Museum of Speed
Pendine, in Carmarthenshire is famous as the setting for numerous land-speed records. Its miles of flat, golden sands make it the perfect location for this, with Parry Thomas’ world record set there in 1926, in Babs, his iconic car. Since then, there have been numerous other land speed attempts, including, more recently, the land speed record for the fastest shed on wheels!
The museum here is small, but fascinating nonetheless. Of course, the star attraction is Babs herself – the amazing car was buried on Pendine Sands for more than 40 years, but has since been restored to her former glory.
Internal Fire – Museum of Power
Eight miles north of Cardigan on the West Wales coast, this museum pays homage to the internal combustion engine, in all its forms. With masive engines running daily, and plenty of rare equipment to look at, such as a 4000hp jet engine, this might sound like it’s of interest only to a small number of people, but you’d be surprised! With craft activities in the summer, and plenty of stuff to interest the kids, it makes for a fantastic, if unusual, day out.
Baked Bean Museum of Excellence
Yes, you read that correctly…there is indeed a Baked Bean Museum! The industrial setting of Port Talbot, with its bleak-looking steelworks and motorway dreariness, might not be the first place you’d think of when holidaying in South Wales, but if you delight in all things quirky and you fancy a giggle, then head for the Baked Bean Museum of Excellence. Run by the self-styled Captain Beany, from his third-floor council flat, the museum is a shrine to the orange bean of goodness. The entire flat is decked out in all things orange, or connected to Heinz beans, and there is a wonderully zany collection of baked bean ephemera to admire. With a 5-star rating on TripAdvisor, you don’t have to take our word for it – it’s clearly a big hit! Make sure you book ahead with this one, though.
Kidwelly Industrial Museum
Another small museum that shines a light on Wales’ industrial heritage is the Kidwelly Industrial Museum, Britain’s oldest tinplate works still in existence. According to the museum, the area around Kidwelly and Llanelli once produced almost half the world’s output of tinplate, and this free museum features reconstructions from days gone by, when the works were a bustling environment – there’s even an on-site barbers shop display! With steam engines, a blacksmiths, a pit head and much more to explore, it’s guaranteed to pique the interest of visitors, young and old. The museum also features art exhibitions that change throughout the year.
West Wales Museum of Childhood
Some of the best small museums are those that have grown from the owners’ enthusiastic collections and personal passion for a subject, and the West Wales Museum of Childhood is one of these gems. Housed in an assortment of barns and outbuildings on the owners’ small farm, the museum is a treasure trove of toys and dolls from days gone by. There’s a reconstruction of an old-fashioned toy shop, costume displays, dolls and teddy bears galore, a period classroom, more dinky toys than you could know what to do with, and much more. Whether you’re a fan of Dr Who, Magic Roundabout or any other children’s TV programme, the chances are that there are toys here that will appeal to you! It’s the perfect way to while away an afternoon, whether you have kids or you’re just a kid at heart.
So, what are you waiting for? It’s time to track down the eccentric, go in search of the fascinating, and support a small Welsh museum. You’re guaranteed to have a fantastic day out!