Best museums to visit in Yorkshire

17th January 2020

National Railway Museum

In a county as rich in history as Yorkshire, it’s no surprise that there are plenty of museums to visit, each home to unique and wonderful collections. Whether you’re interested in maritime heritage, the national railway or you’re just looking for something fun to do on a rainy day, read our guide about the best museums in Yorkshire and discover what you can learn!

Whitby Museum

Whitby museum

As well as strolling along Whitby’s stunning harbour and exploring the town’s independent shops, you can also give your mind a treat by learning something new - and unusual - at the Whitby Museum.

We spoke to Hazel from the team at the museum to find out more: “Whitby Museum is Whitby’s treasure trove! Here you can explore stunning collections of local fossils, natural history, model ships, carved jet, toys, costumes and social history. In fact, there’s something for everyone! Our collection of over 80,000 artefacts, donated over two centuries is of local, national and international interest and maps the history of Whitby from prehistoric times to the present day.

“Children will be fascinated by the massive wall-mounted marine reptile fossils and everyone is sure to want to see the gruesome Hand of Glory! As you wander around our exhibits discover how leeches helped predict the weather in Victorian times and marvel over the intricate hand-carved jet models jewellery.”

If you’re interested in visiting the Whitby Museum, you can find their opening times here.

Scarborough Maritime Heritage Centre

This seaside town is infamous for being one of the world’s first seaside resorts, attracting people for hundreds of years to enjoy the golden beach and seaside attractions. So if you’re enjoying a stay at a Robin Hood Bay Hotel, make sure to stop by the Scarborough Maritime Heritage Centre and learn more about the local history.

Mark from the Maritime Heritage Centre tells us: “Visitors can expect to learn about Scarborough's history as Britain's first seaside resort, a shipbuilding and fishing port for centuries. It's worth attending because it is free, and you will be sure to find something of interest as well as a warm welcome from our volunteers! If you visit out of hours you can pop into our History Box on the seafront, which is open 24hrs a day in a converted red phone box.”

If you’re interested in visiting this historic gem, make sure to check the centre’s opening times here.

Ryedale Folk Museum

Ryedale Folk Museum

One of the greatest things about visiting Yorkshire is the stunning countryside, so if you find yourself exploring the North York Moors National Park, stop by the Ryedale Folk Museum and watch stories of the moors unfold in front of your eyes.

We asked Rosie from the Ryedale Folk Museum to reveal what visitors can expect: “Nestled in the beautiful moorland village of Hutton-le-Hole, Ryedale Folk Museum tells the story of life on the North York Moors across 4,000 years of history, set within a six-acre site. Visitors can explore 20 heritage buildings, including a typical Iron Age Roundhouse, a Medieval crofters' cottage, an Elizabethan Manor house and a Victorian thatched cottage and wash house. There are traditional workshops of a blacksmith, wheelwright, saddler and carpenter, and a range of twentieth-century buildings, including an Edwardian Daylight Photography Studio - the oldest in the country - and the nostalgic 1950's village store and chemist.

“Visitors can also wander the pretty cottage and kitchen gardens, take a trip to the cornfield, featuring rare and endangered plant species, or call by the orchard, allotment and farming area, with rare-breed animals to feed. Much of the site is wheelchair accessible and mobility scooters can be borrowed free of charge. The site is dog-friendly, and picnickers are welcome!”

The Rydale Folk Museum has received excellent reviews on TripAdvisor and Facebook, with visitors thoroughly enjoying its story-telling nature, 20 heritage buildings and 40,000 objects and antiques.

If you’re thinking of visiting the museum, it’s worth looking at their upcoming events that celebrate the history and heritage of life on the moors. Check out Ryedale Folk Museum’s opening times here.

The National Science and Media Museum

If you have a keen interest in technology and the history of media, or you’re looking for something fun to do on a rainy day, then head to The National Science and Media Museum, which is also home to the UK’s first IMAX cinema!

Katie from the team at The National Science and Media Museum tells us what you can expect: “The National Science and Media Museum is part of the Science Museum Group and houses some of the most important photography, film, and television collections in the world. Located in the centre of Bradford, the world’s first UNESCO City of Film, the museum offers a day out for all ages to enjoy. With fun interactive displays exploring the science of light and sound, fascinating objects, including the camera used to capture the world’s first moving images, and even a Dalek. The museum is also unique in being home to Pictureville cinema, meaning visitors can explore the history of filmmaking and then see the latest releases all in one visit. For those looking for a bite to eat, the museum’s café and Pictureville Bar offer a delicious selection of food and drink, and the shop is the perfect place to pick up a souvenir or gift before leaving.”

Next time you’re in Yorkshire, take a look at the camera that captured the world’s first images, browse the variety of exciting exhibitions and interactive displays or just enjoy a film at a world-class cinema, at The National Science and Media Museum, open daily from 10 am – 6 pm (the cinema is open 10 am – late).

National Railway Museum

The National Railway Museum

© National Railway Museum

Home to the nations iconic locomotives and engineering inventions throughout the decades, the National Railway Museum makes a brilliant day out for everyone to enjoy. Peter from the team tells us more: “No trip to Yorkshire would be complete without a visit to the National Railway Museum. Home to iconic locomotives and an unrivalled collection of engineering firsts, the museum celebrates the past, present and future of innovation on the railways.

“Get up close to icons of the rails including Mallard, the world’s fastest steam locomotive. Climb onboard the Japanese bullet train, discover how high-speed rail travel began and journey back in time to experience the working life of a station. You can visit Queen Victoria’s favourite saloon, explore over 200 years of history and find out how railways shaped our world.

“Watch turntable demonstrations, climb onboard historic carriages and find out fascinating facts from our experts in daily talks and tours. Ride on the miniature railway and try our explosive science shows and hands-on family fun activities throughout the school holidays.”

If you want to immerse yourself in the history of locomotives and engineering, visit the National Railway Museum, which is open daily from 10 am to 5 pm.

Scarborough Fair Collection & Vintage Transport Museum

This museum was founded by Graham Atkinson, who started collecting old fairground organs, engines and anything vintage as a hobby, without knowing his collection would become the largest of its type around Europe!

Christine from the team at the Scarborough Fair Collection & Vintage Transport Museum tells us: “The museum was once the ‘hidden gem’ of the Yorkshire coast, but not anymore, as the museum attracts thousands of visitors to view it’s unique collection and is becoming more popular every year. The SFC&VTM complex is now the largest indoor attraction in the borough, as well as being one of the largest collections of vintage fairground attractions and vintage road transport in the North East. Plus, the museum complex is also fully ‘wheelchair friendly’.

“The collection is looked after by a small team of museum staff who are assisted by a band of dedicated enthusiastic volunteers who operate the vintage fairground rides, such as the Ghost Train, Dodgems and the Golden Gallopers to name just a few. The display hall where most of the vintage fairground rides are operated also has an educational side to it. Again, it is a case of ‘how things were’ and is visited just about every day by parents and grandparents telling the next generation of their own personal memories.”

The vintage transport side of the museum contains a marvellous collection of motorcycles, cars and steam traction engines, with some items dating back to the late 19th century through to the 1980s.

Make sure to keep your eyes peeled for the latest events happening at the museum, which often includes concerts to some of the UK’s top Organists. You can find out the events and opening times here.