Ten of the UK’s best car museums reopening this month

Words: Elliott Hughes | Photography: Newspress

As Covid restrictions are slowly being eased in the UK, some of the nation’s best automotive attractions are preparing to reopen. To celebrate, we’ve compiled a list of ten of the country’s greatest petrolhead days out, so you can plan a visit over a quiet weekend or during your next visit to Britain when international travel is resumed.

Jim Clark Motorsport Museum

Reopens May 15, 2021

Located in the Scottish border town of Duns, this award-winning museum was opened by Jackie Stewart in 2019 and documents the life and racing career of Jim Clark, one of the greatest racing drivers of all time. The exhibits document Clark’s humble beginnings and modest character as the son of a Scottish sheep farmer, and tell the story of how he came to dominate the world of motor sport, winning the 1963 and 1965 Formula 1 World Championship and Indy 500. Clark’s entire trophy collection resides at the museum, along with his iconic Lotus 25 Grand Prix car and Lotus Cortina. Attendees are given an exhilarating taste of a 1960s F1 car in the museum’s simulator, and can also get hands-on with various interactive exhibits.

For more information, click here.

Haynes International Motor Museum

Reopens May 17, 2021

Best known for his iconic manuals, John Haynes opened the Haynes International Motor Museum in 1985 with 30 cars from his personal collection. Today, Haynes’ legacy is honoured with a comprehensive collection of over 400 cars and motorcycles from the late 19th century and into the modern era. The museum launched its popular Breakfast Club back in 2015, and this is set to return when the museum fully reopens. The Breakfast Club events are scheduled for the first and second Sunday of every month for Future Classics (post-1980) and Vintage and Classics (pre-1980) respectively. As well as boasting one of the finest automotive collections in the UK, the museum also has its own karting circuit.

For more information, click here.

Lakeland Motor Museum

Reopens May 17, 2021

Situated in the verdant surroundings of the Lake District, the Lakeland Motor Museum hosts a stunning collection of 140 classic cars and bikes. The Campbell Bluebird Exhibition is a definite highlight, featuring some of Sir Malcolm and Donald Campbell’s most famous machines including the 1935 Blue Bird car and 1967 Bluebird K7 hydroplane, in which Donald was tragically killed at the nearby Coniston Water. Oddities such as the replica 1885 Post Office delivery pentacycle and 1930s dodgem car add to the intrigue of the museum’s collection. You’re guaranteed a memorable day out.

For more information, click here.

Coventry Transport Museum

Reopens May 17, 2021

Coventry is touted as being the UK’s motor city, and is home to Jaguar Land Rover, so it’s no surprise that the Coventry Transport Museum boasts the world’s largest publicly owned collection of British cars. The 670 exhibits range from two of the fastest cars on the planet, Thrust SSC and Thrust 2, to commercial vehicles and bicycles. An 1897 Daimler Wagonette is a particularly interesting display, and is one of the oldest-surviving British cars; its archaic motor is devoid of spark plugs and revs to just 750rpm. The Wagonette is also steered with a tiller and has headlights powered by candles, demonstrating the rapid development of the motor car over the past century. Another must-see attraction is a 4D simulator, in which visitors ensconced into the cockpit of Thrust 2 are transported to a speed of over 700mph.

For more information, click here.

The Silverstone Interactive Museum

Reopens May 17, 2021

This cavernous museum was once home to Wellington bombers during World War Two. Today, the museum aims to inspire the next generation with more than 60 interactive exhibits in which visitors can immerse themselves. The hands-on exhibits include the chance to operate a wind tunnel, participate in a pitstop and climb into a replica Formula 1 car. More intrepid visitors can even get the experience of flying a Wellington bomber. As the home of British motor sport and one of the oldest tracks on the Grand Prix calendar, it’s no surprise that Silverstone’s museum features a tantalising selection of racing cars and bikes, including Nigel Mansell’s iconic ‘Red 5’ Williams FW14B and Barry Sheene’s 1979 Suzuki motorcycle. Guests will also get the chance to drive in a cutting-edge motion simulator as well as experience an Ultimate Lap in the museum’s special-effects cinema.

For more information, click here.

British Motor Museum

Reopens May 17, 2021

Gaydon’s British Motor Museum is one of the world’s largest collections of historic British automobiles with nearly 300 vehicles under its roof. The exhibits focus on the story of the British motor industry, revealing the roles of the drivers, designers, factories, workers and cars as Britain’s automotive world leadership flourished. New for 2021 is the special exhibit celebrating the Jaguar E-type’s 60th anniversary – a landmark year for Britain’s most iconic sports car. The venue will also host several shows and events as the year progresses, including the National Metro and Mini Show on June 6 and the Gaydon Land Rover Show on July 31.

For more information, click here.

National Motor Museum, Beaulieu

Reopens May 17, 2021

The National Motor Museum sits in the picturesque grounds of the Beaulieu estate in the New Forest, and is deservingly regarded as one of the UK’s greatest automotive collections. The museum has an eclectic range of more than 280 vehicles, from an 1875 Grenville Steam Carriage to a 2012 Lotus E20 Formula 1 car. Other attractions are a recreation of a 1930s garage, the Shell Heritage Art Collection and a treasure trove of automobilia. Visit on the weekend at 2pm for the chance to hear one of the museum’s vehicles start up, and get the most out of your visit with a free guided tour from 12 noon daily.

For more information, click here.

Brooklands Motor Museum

Reopens May 19, 2021

Brooklands is an evocative name in British automotive lore. As the location of Britain’s first purpose-built motor-racing circuit, home to Vickers and Concorde aerospace manufacturing, and the namesake of some of Bentley’s finest models, it is also one of the UK’s best automotive and aviation attractions. The link with the aviation industry is a consistent theme throughout the museum, as it displays some of the famed pre-war aero-engined cars such as the 24-litre Napier-Railton that once raced around Brooklands’ banking. After visitors have seen the array of cars and aeroplanes on display, they will also be given the opportunity to stand on the historic banking of the track and explore the World War Two air-raid shelters.

For more information, click here.

Cotswolds Motoring Museum

Reopens May 17, 2021

The quintessentially English surroundings of the Cotswolds is a fitting place for a museum that aims to provide a “nostalgic glimpse” into 20th-century motoring. The collection includes examples from a plethora of historic British car marques, including Austin, MG, Jaguar and Triumph, as well as vintage motorcycles, caravans and automobilia. The star of 1990s TV show Brum is present at the museum, the very place he escaped from during the intro of each episode. Adding to this is the exhibit of a blacksmith’s shop that demonstrates the transition from horses to automobiles.

For more information, click here.

The Great British Car Journey

Opens summer (TBC), 2021

This new attraction’s carefully curated selection of around 100 cars tells the story of the British motor industry over the past 100 years. Visitors are guided by an electronic tablet that helps to interactively introduce the forefathers of the once-dominant UK car industry: Herbert Austin and William Morris. The museum’s exhibits offer a hearty dose of nostalgia, featuring once-ubiquitous cars such as Austin Allegros, MG Maestros, Minis and Ford Cortinas. A unique attraction of the Great British Car Journey is that it provides the opportunity for visitors to get behind the wheel of a range of classic cars, from the Austin 7 to the Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit as part of the ‘Drive Dad’s Car Experience’.

For more information, click here.

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