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Top 10 unusual days out


If you fancy doing something a little unusual and memorable for your day out, then you're in the right place. Here's a list of suggestions for quirky days out.

Unusual days out

With holidays just around the corner, it's time to start thinking about casting off the shackles, and getting out and about. So why not do something a little atypical, somewhat unusual, just a tad subnormal with the time off? has a selection of suggestions for quirky days out across the UK, especially for those with a slightly skewed sense of adventure.

Pollock’s Toy Museum, central London

As Robert Louis Stevenson would have it, “If you love art, folly or the bright eyes of children, speed to Pollock’s”.

Beginning life in a single attic room in a house near Covent Garden, the magic of Pollock’s since took over the whole building, and had to be relocated at the end of the sixties to accommodate the sprawling joy.

Now it is a repository for all kinds of toys from all corners of the globe, featuring toy theatres, teddy bears, wax and china dolls, board games, optical toys, folk toys, nursery furniture, mechanical toys and doll’s houses.

According to recent visitor Sara Vali, “It’s an atmospheric and lovingly assembled collection of children's toys from over the centuries, set in a eccentric house with winding staircases. I only went in to buy a kazoo and ended up whiling away the afternoon. There's a 4,000 year old mouse made of clay!”

Pollock’s Toy Museum is open Monday to Saturday, 10 am – 5 pm. Last entry to the museum is at 4.30pm. Entrance is £3 for adults, £1.50 for children, under 3s are free, and £2 for students. It is, sadly, closed on Bank Holidays.

Diggerland, Kent, Devon, Durham & Yorkshire

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As if any further explanation were required, Diggerland really does do what it says on the tin. It is a unique adventure park where children and adults can drive real diggers.

A simple yet jolly concept, Diggerland is a hit with small boys of all ages (and genders).

There is a digger with a scoop that eight people can sit and be spun around in until their stomachs resemble rubble; and, once that sensation has subsided, you can grab a bite at The Dig Inn.

There are now four Diggerlands in the UK – an original in Kent, and new parks have since opened in Devon, Durham and Yorkshire.

Diggerland is open from 10am to 5pm on weekends and Bank Holidays from now until the start of November 2008. It is also open on regular school holiday days.

Check their website to avoid disappointment, however. Anyone aged 3 to 65 pays £15 per person. Under 3s enter Diggerland free of charge. Over 65s pay £7.50. Disabled visitors pay the normal entry price as detailed above, but may bring in a helper/carer free of charge.

Photo courtesy of

Monkey World Ape Rescue Centre, Dorset

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Not Charlton Heston’s nightmare, but a sanctuary for apes and monkeys, with the biggest collection of chimpanzees outside of Africa!

Set up by the late Jim Cronin in 1987 to house abused chimpanzees, the park is now a popular 65-acre attraction that features oodles upon oodles of rescued primates.

Enraptured visitor Robert Powell told us “I could have watched the baby orang-utans all day. It was like watching toddlers play – but toddlers that can perform gymnastics”.

Monkey World is open every day from 10am to 5pm, and until 6pm in July and August (last admission one hour before closing).

An adult single is £10.50, children (3-15), OAPs and disabled passes are £7.25, and students’ entry is £8.75 with an NUS card. For group and family prices, see the website.

JORVIK Viking Centre, York

The JORVIK Centre features a reconstruction of a circa 975 AD Viking village, where everything is based upon the findings of a five-year archaeological dig in Coppergate, York. You travel in a time capsule to an extensive museum of the find, manned by Real* Vikings!

According to one impressed customer “Children plus queues don’t usually make for happy parents, but the team at the museum had thought of this – and my two children got involved in making shields, taking part in a Viking battle and unearthing Viking artefacts in a mini archaeological dig, while we waited outside.

"Once inside, the time-travelling experience was a great hit with my 4 year-old son, as was the journey through old York. He was similarly impressed by the holograms of Vikings who described their daily lives and the skulls that had been unearthed on the site.”

JORVIK Viking Centre is open 7 days a week from 10am to 5pm (summer), 10am till 4pm (winter).

Tickets are £7.95 for adults (£11.20 if coupled with a dig), £5.50 for children (£8.30 with dig), and £6.60 for students and seniors (£9.20 with dig).

It is recommended that you pre-book before visiting, as JORVIK can get quite busy, and this will enable you to jump the queues. Do so by calling 01904 543402.

*NB – Vikings may not really be real.

Tayto Factory, County Armagh

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Tayto was born in 1954, when Joe ‘Spud’ Murphy invented the first cheese and onion flavour crisp!

In those days, Tayto would sell 347 packets per day. Nowadays, Ireland’s favourite crisps sell around three-quarters of a million bags per day.

The factory now operates out of Tandragee Castle, where it is possible to take tours. Who wouldn’t want to see crisps being made IN A CASTLE? Plus, there’s a chance you might even get to meet Mr. Tayto himself. Wowzers!

Tours run from Monday to Thursday at 10.30am and 1.30pm, and on Friday at 10.30am.

The Tayto Factory is closed on public holidays, such as Christmas, Easter, Bank Holidays etc. The price for adults is £5, students and seniors is £4, and the price for children is £3. The tours are regrettably not suitable for children under 5.

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Portmeirion, North Wales

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This unique Italianate village is set on its own private peninsula on the southern shores of Snowdonia.

It was created by Welsh architect Clough Williams-Ellis (1883-1978) to demonstrate how a naturally beautiful place could be developed without spoiling it.

And the Mediterranean result is not just naturally beautiful, but an agglomeration of mind-warping optical illusions and tricks of perception; and as such the perfect location to have filmed Patrick McGoohan’s weird and wonderful 1960s series ‘The Prisoner’

According to recent visitor Andrew Brockway, Portmeirion is “wonderfully surreal. You find yourself walking through Greco-Roman ruins which sit alongside village shops. I was only there for the day, but the visit did prompt me to buy ‘The Prisoner’ box-set”.

This enthusiasm is echoed by Peter Dobbinson: “You can stay in the main hotel or in one of the very individual houses, all with a unique design. It was in February, mild and sunny, and fairly busy even though you don't seem to bump into many people. There was one very good restaurant in the main hotel, and another in a castle-type-building near the main entrance – which was outstanding.

"There are lots of alleys, secret walks, and paths to lead you around in a way that you will never know where you will end up – including the bottom of a cliff on the beach. It's open to day visitors as well. It's a bizarre, beautiful, enchanting, welcoming, though slightly expensive place – perfect for a romantic weekend with a difference, or if you wanted to spoil the kids.”

For day visitors, Portmeirion opens from 9.30am until 5.30pm, 365 days a year.

Admission for an adult is £7, concessions are £5.50, it’s £3.50 for children between 4 and 16, and under 4s are free.

For further details, including available accommodation, see Portmeirion Village’s useful and comprehensive website – with online booking facility from the 26th October – available in both English and Welsh. Alternatively, call 01766 772400.

Screen Room Cinema, Nottingham

With a mere 21 seats, the Screen Room in Hockley, Nottingham can lay claim to be the smallest commercial cinema in the world. It will come as a shock to nobody that their website says “it is always advisable to check seat availability”.

Call the Screen Room on 0115 924 1133. Annual membership is available at the box office, and concessional rates apply.

The Real Mary King’s Close, Edinburgh

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Mary King’s Close features a network of underground closes in the heart of The Royal Mile in Edinburgh. Many plague victims were quarantined in this area in the 17th century.

Nowadays it is a tourist attraction that both offers a fascinating and emotional insight into life in Edinburgh between the 16th and 19th centuries, and is reputedly haunted.

As such, it has become an attraction for those seeking a ghostly experience. WooOOOoooOOOooo! Those so inclined can take a Paranormal History Tour, with an examination of local urban myths and legends.

Tours depart from 10am every 20 minutes, and last an hour. From March 21st until October 31st, The Real Mary King’s Close is open from 10am until 9pm every day.

The cost for an adult is £9.50, students and seniors are £8.50, and children between 5 and 15 are £6, and must be accompanied by an adult. 

Regrettably, for health and safety reasons, children under the age of 5 are not allowed. Pre-booking is recommended, if not essential. You can do so on 08702 430160.

Dan-yr-Ogof, South Wales

Extending a good ten miles, Dan-yr-Ogof is the main feature of The National Showcaves Centre for Wales, which may well be the largest show cave system in Europe. It was named as the greatest natural wonder in Britain in a Radio Times poll in 2005.

According to recent visitor Kevin Lloyd, “Day-Yr-Ogof is well worth a visit. From the bone cave to the cathedral cave you will be left in awe at the sheer magnificence of the place.

"There is a dinosaur park for kids, and next to the caves is a family pet farm featuring shire horses, llamas, ostriches, and an indoor soft play area. The caves are good value for money and the farm is free.”

Dan-yr-Ogof showcaves are open 7 days a week from March 15th until October 31st, from 10am. Last admission is at approximately 3pm. Call 01639 730 801 for more information. Admission prices are currently £11 for adults and £6.50 for children.

Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford

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This is a museum which displays the archaeological and anthropological gatherings of Oxford University. Founded by General Augustus Pitt Rivers in 1884, his original donation of 20,000 items has since grown to over half a million items.

According to Sean Jones “The Pitt Rivers is the coolest place ever. In it you can see a shrunken head, a ballerina crafted from the head and thorax of a fly, and a witch trapped in a bottle. The bottle has a label stating that if it is opened there will be ‘a peck of trouble’. Unbeatable.”

The Pitt Rivers Museum is open from 10am to 4.30pm Tuesday to Sunday (and Bank Holiday Mondays), and from 12pm until 4.30pm on Mondays; although it is closed on Easter Sunday. Best of all, admission is free.

Photo: Pitt Rivers museum, University of Oxford

Although this is a top ten list, we might stretch the definition by briefly mentioning the Bakelite Museum in Somerset. Who doesn’t love Bakelite?

If there are any unusual attractions you feel shouldn’t be missed, let us know by commenting below.

**All times and prices correct at March 2008 


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