Niche Museums

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Seaton Tramway

A unique narrow-gauge electric tramway, running between the East Devon coastal town of Seaton and the villages of Colyford and Colyton in the Axe Valley.

The fourteen trams that operate on the line are custom half-scale and two-thirds-scale electric vehicles, mostly built for the tramway by founder Claude Lane and his successor Allan Gardner.

Some of the trams are adapted from historic vehicles, the oldest of which is a red and white Ex Metropolitan Electric Tramways vehicle first constructed in 1904.

The tramway opened in 1970, reusing segments of the Seaton branch line that had been closed by the Beaching cuts in the 1960s. The tramway had previously spent the 1950s moving homes between St Leonard’s, Rhyl and Eastbourne.

The tram ride takes 25 minutes in each direction, and the Colyton end has a station cafeteria, a picnic area and an excellent antique thrift shop.

Website | Wikipedia

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Seaton Tramway, Harbour Road, Seaton, Devon EX12 2NQ, United Kingdom - Map

29 December 2019

Oakley Court

A British Victorian country house built in 1859. Today it's a luxury hotel, but the fancy trimmings conceal a mischievous past: this mansion is Dr. Frank N. Furter's castle from the Rocky Horror Picture Show!

The house changed hands several times before the Second World War, but in 1949 it became home to Hammer Film Productions, notorious producer of British gothic horror films from the 1950s to the 1970s.

Hammer shot five films there before moving to a custom studio built next door. They continued to use Oakley Court for exteriors, including The Brides of Dracula in 1962 and The Plague of the Zombies in 1966.

In October through December of 1974 Oakley Court was used as a location for many scenes of the Rocky Horror Picture Show. The mansion was in very poor condition at the time, with no heat or bathrooms. Susan Sarandon (Janet) came down with pneumonia while filming there.

Today there is little evidence of the hotel's cinematic past - but if you head to the lounge bar room that borders the conservatory you will find yourself sitting in the room that hosted the Time Warp.

Website | Wikipedia

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Windsor Road, Water Oakley, Windsor, Berkshire, SL4 5UR, United Kingdom - Map

29 December 2019

Southern Food and Beverage Museum

New Orleans is really good at food. The Southern Food & Beverage Museum helps explain why.

Founded in 2004, and relocated a couple of times until it reached its current location in September 2014, the museum has exhibits covering food cultures from throughout the American south and detailed exhibits on the foods of Louisiana.

Popeyes Chicken founder Al Copeland has his own area, which includes his 1986 Scoville Unit chromatography device and an original Satisfryer device custom built for Al’s restaurants.

The museum includes a museum-within-a-museum: The Museum of the American Cocktail, which displays cocktail items dating all the way back to the 1750s. Also present is La Galerie de l'Absinthe, the largest collection of Absinthe artifacts in the USA.

SoFAB hosts frequent cooking demonstrations by local chefs, and shares space with Toups South, a highly rated brunch and dinner restaurant.

Website | Wikipedia

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1504 Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard, New Orleans, LA 70113 - Map

28 December 2019

Horniman Museum and Gardens

The Horniman museum in Forest Hill, south London was opened in 1901 by Frederick John Horniman, heir to the world's largest tea trading business.

Frederick was a lifelong collector, focusing on natural history, anthropology and musical instruments. His collection of 30,000 items formed the basis of the museum's collection, which has since grown to more than 350,000 items, continuing to focus on those three topics.

The most famous item in the Horniman is a stuffed walrus, first displayed at the Colonial and Indian Exhibition in South Kensington in 1886. The walrus originated in eastern Canada but was stuffed in England, apparently by a taxidermist who had never seen a walrus and assumed that it should be stuffed until the wrinkles smoothed out. Today you can follow the walrus on Twitter.

Website | Wikipedia

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100 London Road, Forest Hill, London SE23 3PQ, United Kingdom - Map

27 December 2019

Yolo Causeway Bat Colony

Every summer the Yolo Causeway between Davis and Sacramento plays host to enormous numbers of migratory Mexican free-tailed bats - the largest colony of these bats in California. The bats emerge together in spectacular long ribbons at dusk as they head out to hunt.

The current causeway was built in 1962, with expansion joints that turned out to be the perfect roosting spot for bats. Today the bat population peaks at around 250,000 individuals. They feed on insects in the nearby wetlands and give birth to baby bats in mid-June.

The Yolo Basin Foundation offers Bat Talk & Walks during bat season. This is by far the best way to see the bats as the ideal viewing spots for the flyouts are in areas of the wetlands that are not generally open to the public.

The bat talk usually features rescued bats so you can see what they look like up close!

Website | Wikipedia

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45211 County Road 32B, Davis, CA 95618, United States - Map

26 December 2019


England's most famous Neolithic monument. Constructed between 3000 and 2000 BC, and legally protected since the Ancient Monuments Protection Act of 1882. How it was built and what it was built for remain subject to debate.

Ask the guides up by the Henge about the rooks - if you are lucky they might be feeding them. We visited the day before the winter solstice and saw an entire bus load of druids and some Morris dancers.


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Amesbury, Wiltshire, SP4 7DE, United Kingdom - Map

25 December 2019

Jukebox London

David and Margaret Webb started restoring vintage Jukeboxes over twenty years ago. Their showroom in an Islington townhouse displays a dazzling array of Jukeboxes dating back to the 1940s, all of which are in working order.

Call them to book an appointment and they will show you around and demonstrate the Jukeboxes working for you. They sell about ten a year, but only to customers who can be trusted to look after them properly.


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16 Colebrooke Row, Islington, London, N1 8DB, United Kingdom - Map

24 December 2019

Dennis Severs’ House

A three-dimensional historical novel. American artist Dennis Severs moved to London in 1967 and bought this Georgian terraced house in 1979. He spent the next twenty years refurbishing the ten rooms in the house to tell the story of two hundred years of occupation by an imaginary family of Huguenot immigrants.

Each room is intended to give the impression that the occupants have just left, with hidden audio tracks, scents and half-eaten bread adding to the atmosphere.

Today the house is maintained by the Spitalfields Historic Buildings Trust, who open it to the public and also run occasional candle-lit evening tours.

Website | Wikipedia

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18 Folgate Street, Spitalfields, London E1 6BX, United Kingdom - Map

23 December 2019

Buckfast Abbey

Buckfast has been home to an abbey since 1018, albeit with numerous changes in circumstance. The monastery was dissolved in 1539, then refounded by French Benedictine monks in 1882. Today’s church was completed in 1938.

The Abbey is self-supporting, most notoriously through the production of Buckfast Tonic Wine. Variously known as "Wreck the Hoose Juice", "Commotion Lotion”, "Cumbernauld Rocket Fuel” and more this fortified wine is highly caffeinated and has been widely associated with anti-social behaviour in Scotland.

The Abbey staff generally dislike questions about the wine’s violent reputation, but they do sell bottles of it in the Abbey gift shop.

Website | Wikipedia

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Buckfast Abbey, Buckfastleigh, TQ11 0EE, United Kingdom - Map

22 December 2019

Reserva Cerro AncĂłn

Where else can you take a jungle hike in the middle of a city and see a wild sloth in a tree?

Areas of Panama were placed under US jurisdiction as part of the Panama Canal Zone between 1903 and 1977. Ancon Hill is a 200m hill in the center of Panama City that was used as a US army post during that period. The area was largely undeveloped and became a reserve after being handed back to Panama - albeit with a very prominent Panamanian flag at the top of the hill.

It takes about half an hour to hike to the top - but in practice it takes longer because you will want to stop and admire the sloths. We saw sloths, toucans and coatis and apparently there are also nine-banded armadillos and Geoffroy's tamarin in the reserve as well.

Website | Wikipedia

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Reserva Cerro AncĂłn, Panama City, Panama - Map

21 December 2019

Bank of England Museum

The Bank of England really wants you to understand quantitative easing. Their museum has multiple displays on the subject, plus two interactive games - one of which sees you attempting to sail a boat through stormy financial waters, applying quantitative easing in an attempt to keep inflation to the magic level of 2%.

More importantly though: they have a real gold bar in a cage, which you can both touch and pick up to see how heavy it is!

Website | Wikipedia

Bartholomew Lane, London, EC2R 8AH, United Kingdom - Map

20 December 2019

London Mithraeum

This temple of Mithras was a sensation when it was discovered during post-WWII redevelopment in 1954, bringing widespread attention to London's Roman heritage.

The ruins were subsequently dismantled, stored in a builder's yard and then clumsily reconstructed in 1962 outdoors a hundred yards from their original site with, as the Guardian put it, "all the mystery of a suburban front garden".

In 2010 Bloomberg purchased the site that included the original location to use as their European headquarters. They decided to restore the Mithraeum to a new custom space seven metres below the surface, and attempted to recapture the atmosphere of the mystery cult of Mithras.

The Mithraeum is free to visit, and is presented with a short light and sound experience complete with Latin chants and shuffling feet. The way they recreate the original pillars using shadows is a very neat touch.

Website | Wikipedia

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12 Walbrook, London, EC4N 8AA, United Kingdom - Map

19 December 2019

Museum of Funeral History

Tucked away in the basement of Thomas Treacy funeral directors in London Clerkenwell, this eclectic museum combines displays on the history of funerals in London with information about funeral traditions around the world.

The museum was opened in June 2017 by a local historian who works at the funeral home. Most of the exhibitions are text and photographs, but the written descriptions have a lot of personality and make for an entertaining half hour of exploration.

Did you know that Fred Baruch, creator of the Pringles tube, requested that some of his cremated remains should be buried in a Pringle's container? Or that the classic red telephone box was modeled after the mausoleum of John Soane in the St Pancras old churchyard?

This museum is just around the corner from the Mail Rail so we combined our visits.


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29-31 Rosebery Avenue, Clerkenwell, EC1R 4SL, London, United Kingdom - Map

18 December 2019

Mail Rail

The London Post Office Railway (rebranded Mail Rail in 1987) was conceived in 1911 in response to congestion on London’s road networks, and opened in 1927 as the world’s first electric railway with driverless trains.

At its peak the railway carried 4 million letters a day across 22 miles of narrow gauge underground track spanning a distance of 6.5 miles from Paddington in the west to Whitechapel in the east.

The railway stayed in operation for 76 years. It closed in May 2003 over cost concerns: the railway was 3-5 times more expensive than road transport for the same task.

Urban explorers published illicit photographs of the network in April 2011 showing it to be largely in good condition. In October 2013 the British Postal Museum & Archive announced plans to open parts of the network to the public, and on 5th September 2017 opened an attraction featuring new custom passenger rail cars running through the tunnels.

During its lifetime the railway was strictly for mail only. As a result the new passenger carriages are a very tight fit - bags need to be left in a locker, and if you’re claustrophobic you may have second thoughts! The ride lasts 15 minutes and includes numerous stops with well designed video presentations projected onto the walls outside the carriage.

The ride ends at the maintenance depot which exhibits historic rail cars and switching equipment. Tickets to Mail Rail also cover entrance to the nearby Postal Museum.

Website | Wikipedia

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15-20 Phoenix Place, London WC1X 0DL, United Kingdom - Map

17 December 2019

Alverstone Mead Red Squirrel Hide

Red squirrels are almost extinct in the United Kingdom, due to competition from the invasive North American eastern grays. The exceptions are some areas in Scotland and the Isle of Wight, an island just off the south coast of England.

We spent a while trying to find red squirrels and eventually got lucky at this small hide near the village of Alverstone. The squirrels here are bold, inquisitive and sinusoidal. They have tufty little ears and a delightfully squirrelly nature.

Website | Wikipedia

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Burnt House Lane, Alverstone, Sandown, PO36 0HB, Isle of Wight - Map

16 December 2019

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