Living Museums – Ultimate list of Open-Air Museums UK
Millions of visitors in the UK visit a gallery or museum at least once a year. Between 2018 and 2019, 50.2% of the people aged 16 and over in the UK visited a museum. Between April 2019 and March 2020, the British Museum (London) alone attracted more than 5.9 million people.
Tourism is a critical part of the UK economy, and its key drivers are museums and galleries. They play a significant role in attracting visitors. Like any other parent, I am always on the lookout for safe and exciting places to visit. So I researched and discovered that Britain has inspirational landscapes with a rich history.
UK Open-air museums are hidden gems with living British history. Charming and fascinating, the museums are incredible portals to ancient ways of life.
They have a collection of artefacts and document the crofting life of the 16th, 17th, 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries. You can explore social history in settlements and villages as lived in the past. Want to step back in time and experience the UK in the past?
We list 30 open-air museums in the UK where you can look at preserved villages, old cottages, traditional crafts, old fashioned farms and more.
Open-Air Museums we cover in this article…
- Beamish Museum
- Ryedale Folk Museum
- Eden Camp Museum
- Crich Tramway Village Museum
- Blists Hill Victorian Town
- Avoncroft Museum of Historic Buildings
- Black Country Living Museum
- Mary Arden’s Farm
- Chiltern Open Air Museum
- West Stow Anglo-Saxon Village
- Celtic Harmony Camp
- Mountfitchet Castle & Museum
- Shipwreck Treasure Museum
- Morwellham Quay
- Rural Life Living Museum
- Little Woodham Living History Village
- Buster Ancient Farm
- Kent Life
- Weald & Downland Living Museum
- Amberley Museum
- Kirbuster Museum
- Skye Museum of Island Life
- Highland Folk Museum
- Auchindrain Township
- Titanic Quarter
- Ulster Folk Museum
- Ulster American Folk Park
- Castell Henllys Iron Age Village
- St Fagans National Museum of History
- Cregneash Village
Open-Air Museums in England
The following are the most charming open-air museums in England.
- Location: Beamish, near the town of Stanley
- Cost: Family (1 Adult + 2 Children) – £36.50, Family (2 Adults + 2 Children) – £51.00, Child (5 – 16 years) – £11.50
Beamish is a fascinating open-air museum that tells the story of North East England from the 1820s to the 1940s. Started as a vision of Dr Frank Atkinson after visiting the Scandinavian folk museums in the 1950s. Realizing the region was losing its industrial heritage, he built a living museum that captured the people’s way of life. By doing so, Frank brought the region’s history to life.
At the museum, you can explore the 1900s town and see how families worked and lived. You can see what’s cooking at the Pit’s village or visit the beautiful Pockerley Old’s Halls houses and magnificent gardens.
Visitors can take a ride on Pockerley Waggonway and explore the glorious Georgian landscape. At the Rowley Station, you can see how the railway station looked in Edwardian times. The station has waiting rooms, a signal box, a goods yard and even a couple of wagons on display.
Other attractions include:
- Open Stores
- Beamish Tramway
- 1900s Colliery
- 1940s Farm and more
All visitors need to pre-book online in advance before their visit. Museum opens daily from 10am-5pm.
Book your Beamish Museum Tickets!
Ryedale Folk Museum
- Location: Hutton-le-Hole
- Cost: Adult-£8.75, Child (4-15)- £7.00, Family ticket- £28.00 (2 adults + 2 children), Children under 4: Free
Explore over 4,000 years of life at the Ryedale Folk Museum. As a large open-air museum with historic buildings, it’s located in the picturesque village of Hutton Le Hole. In fact, it’s on the road running from Kirkbymoorside over the Blakey Ridge on your way to the village of Castleton.
The museum covers the rich history of the North Yorkshire region from the Iron Age through to the 1950s. You can find agricultural, domestic and industrial buildings that include:
- Medieval crofter’s cottage
- 1950s village chemist and shop
- Iron Age roundhouse
Each building has ground floor access, but a few have one or two steps. This applies to the photographic daylight studio and the White Cottage. The Manor House has an upstairs with no access other than a wooden spiral staircase. You can also use the outside stone steps.
The museum does not have its own parking, but you can park at the Crown Inn pub car park for a flat charge of £3. Museum open times are as follows:
- Monday, May 17th – Thursday, September 30th 10am-5pm
- Friday, October 1st – Sunday, November 14th 10am-4pm
The Ryedale Folk Museum does not have an advanced booking system, but it’s possible to prepay your admission pass online. To receive your Annual Pass, bring your order number on your next visit.
Book your Ryedale Folk Museum!
Eden Camp Museum
- Location: Malton, North Yorkshire
- Cost: Adults – £12, Family (2 adults, 3 children) – £48, Child(5 – 16) – £10, Children under 4: Free
Eden Camp Museum was once a war camp during World War II, but they converted it into a living museum. Most of the war camps in Yorkshire are forgotten, but they restored and preserved the Eden Camp Museum. The open-air museum has 33 huts that hold several museum displays. These huts housed prisoners during the war. Three years after World War II ended, they liberated all the prisoners.
Each of the 33 huts portrays a specific part of the war, such as Women at War, Civil Defence, The Blitz and others. You can find unique artefacts such as:
- Brass lighters made by Frederico Cornucchia, an Italian POW
- Bombs inscribed with messages for the enemy
- War tanks and more.
Other attractions at Eden Camp Museum include:
- Dig for Victory Vegetable Garden
- Wartime Music Hall Puppet show
- World War II trenches and much more
During certain times of the year, Eden Camp Museum holds World War II re-enactments. If you plan to visit Yorkshire, check for scheduled special events for a unique experience. Refuel with locally sourced and freshly prepared meals at Winstan’s Bunker café. It’s a great location to get an afternoon snack or midday meal as you tour the museum.
Get your Eden Camp Museum Tickets!
Crich Tramway Village Museum
- Location: Crich, Matlock
- Cost: Adult -£19, Child (4-15 yrs) – £11, Family (2 adults / 3 children or 1 adult /4 children) – £43
Visit the Crich Tramway Village Museum and be transported back in time on vintage trams. At the Woodland Walk and Wakebridge tram stop, there are various things to see and do. You can look in shelters along the woodland walk and learn more about the woods or peep into tunnels at Wakebridge to learn about local lead mining.
The woodland walk offers breath-taking views across the Derbyshire Countryside and Derwent valley. If you’re looking for the perfect place to escape for a picnic or explore nature, this is it. As the trail winds its way through the woodland, look out for sculptures along the way.
Crich Tramway Village Museum has an indoor tram exhibition. It takes you through hundreds of years of tramway development – from horse trams to electric trams. Also, don’t forget to check out the archive film features on display at the hall. Projected on the windows of two trams, the films take a look at the history of Blackpool’s trams. You can even see the last days of the tramway system in the 1950s.
Other exhibitions include:
- Stephenson Discovery Centre
- Workshop Viewing Gallery
- Survive and Thrive – The Electric Era
- The Mobile Post Box – Mail by Tram
To refuel, visit the Red Lion Pub. Rebuilt brick by brick at the Crich Tramway Village Museum, it’s a popular location for take away service only. You can get hot drinks, snacks, and even a fine selection of cask ales.
Crich Tramway Village Museum is open from Saturdays to Thursdays. Full ticket prices offer 12 months of free returns. You can buy your tickets on arrival or online.
Get your Crich Tramway Village Museum Tickets!
Blists Hill Victorian Town
- Location: Shropshire
- Cost: Adult – £29, Child/Student – £19, Family (1 Adult + up to 4 children) – £47, Family Annual Pass (2 Adults + up to 4 children) – £76
Time travel to the age of steam at the Blists Hill Victorian Town and see life as it were more than 100 years ago. As part of the Ironbridge Gorge Museums, this recreated Victorian town allows you to discover how townsfolk lived. There are no cars, TV and other modern amenities. Just lots of fun.
At Blists Hill Victorian Town, a Victorian market and traditional shops open on Saturdays and Sundays from 10am-5pm. You can check out the Victorian remedies at the chemist or visit the bank or learn more about the pence, shillings and pounds.
Watch the Foundrymen pouring molten iron. Besides these amazing demonstrations, there are lots of fun and amusement at Blists Hill Victorian Town. Snap a perfect selfie or try your luck on the Coconut Shy. If you’re hungry, treat yourself to a bag of Fish and Chips cooked in the traditional way or a bag of sweet from the 19th century.
Activities do vary each day, and some carry additional charges. Before visiting the museum for the first time, book a time slot. You can buy your tickets online and select the Annual Passes you need. When you visit, bring your order number or confirmation email.
Book your Blists Hill Victorian Town Tickets!
Avoncroft Museum of Historic Buildings
- Location: Stoke Heath, Bromsgrove
- Cost: Adults – £10, Children (5-17) – £6, Family (Up to 2 adults and 3 children) – £31.50
Avoncroft Museum of Historic Buildings is one of England’s oldest open-air museums. Located near Bromsgrove, South West of Birmingham, the museum is home to more than 30 historic buildings and structures. As an independent museum, Avoncroft Museum rescues and rebuilds buildings in rural Worcestershire.
Located on over 19 acres of land, the museum started with the reconstructions of a medieval townhouse from Bromsgrove. Today, you can find historic buildings ranging from a 14th century Guesten Hall roof to a second World War prefab from Birmingham. These historic buildings cover over 700 years of Midlands history.
There are thousands of objects at the museum that belong to the 19th and early 20th centuries. They range from small domestic items to agricultural equipment and wagons. The museum also has a collection of architectural fragments, photographs, and building materials. These items aid in teaching visitors about the different building types and technologies in the Midlands.
Among the museum’s unique collection is the National Collection of Telephone Kiosks. This collection of telephone boxes includes public kiosks issued by British Telecom between the 1920s to the present day.
Avoncroft Museum of Historic Buildings reopened fully on May 29th 2021. But due to recent vandal attacks, some attractions will remain out of use.
Black Country Living Museum
- Location: Tipton Rd, Dudley
- Cost: Adults – £19.95, Young people (3-15 years) – £9.95, Small Family ticket (1 adult and up to 3 young people) – £41.70, Family ticket (2 adults and up to 3 young people) – £58.35
The Black Country Living Museum is a crucial part of British history. As an award-winning open-air living museum, it consists of rebuilt historic buildings. One of the joys of visiting the museum is the chance to glimpse into 300 years of history.
Set on 26 acres, the museum has over 40 carefully reconstructed houses, shops and industrial areas. You can meet historical characters who will tell you what it was like living and working during the industrial revolution.
There are plenty of fun activities for the family:
- Play old fashioned street games
- Catch a short film at the museum’s 1920s cinema
- Take a ride on one of the museum’s heritage vehicles
- Test your timetables in a 1912 school lesson
- See live industrial demonstrations
You can also quench your thirst in the Bottle and Glass Inn or learn more about wonderful treatments of the past in Emile Doo’s Chemist. Basically, you will have a great experience as you explore one of Britain’s first industrialized landscapes.
The museum opens seven days per week, from 10am-4pm. You can become a member and enjoy discounts plus priority booking for special events, free car parking and lots of the benefits. Alternatively, book a BCLM Unchained Annual Pass that allows you to pay for one day and visit for 12 months.
Get your Black Country Living Museum Tickets!
Mary Arden’s Farm
- Location: Station Rd, Wilmcote
- Cost: Adult peak £26 (Off-peak £24), Child (3-15) peak £17.00 (off-peak £15.50)
The Mary Arden’s Farm is an excellent destination for families. While it may not be as big as other open-air museums we visited, there are several fun things to do. You can visit the Mary Arden’s House built by his father, Robert Arden, in 1514. Visitors can peek inside the walls and chimney to discover how Mary’s father built the house.
There are two houses on the farm – the actual house where Mary Arden lived and the neighbouring house belonging to Adam Palmer. The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust currently owns both properties.
The houses are an excellent example of a 16th-century dwelling with exposed walls and timber frames. Outdoors, there are various displays of farm life during Tudor times. You can find a bird of prey display, a wooden outdoor play area which kids under 12 can enjoy, and a cafe serving Tudor inspired dishes.
Get hands-on with traditional pastimes and rural crafts. You can have a go at archery, explore nature trails, willow tunnels and butterfly banks. The Mary Arden’s Farm was temporarily closed to the public. But from April 26th 2021, they opened the museum as a dedicated primary education facility to meet schools’ requirements.
Book your Mary Arden’s Farm Tickets!
Chiltern Open Air Museum
- Location: Newland Park, Gorelands Lane, Buckinghamshire
- Cost: Adult – £7.50, Child (4 – 16 years) – £6, Family Annual Passes start from £50
The Chiltern Open Air Museum is home to more than 30 historic buildings from the Chiltern. There are tons of activities for you and your children and lots of space to explore. You can:
- Construct model buildings
- Take selfies in Victorian hats
- Explore the woodland trails
- Play with historic toys and games
- Try on RAF costumes
- Play in the museum’s playground
- Say hello to farm animals
- Go at orienteering
- Explore all historic buildings
The open-air museum’s mission is to rescue threatened historic buildings and preserve them. To date, the museum has re-erected 37 buildings spanning 2,000 years of Chiltern architecture and history. This includes an Iron Age roundhouse, medieval and Tudor barns.
You can find Victorian buildings such as the vicarage room, tin chapel, wychert cottage, the toll house, and forge at the museum. You also have a 1940s Prefab, Furniture factory from High Wycombe and Nissen Hut. Inside the prefab, visitors can dress in RAF outfits and learn about the various uses of the huts.
Over 15 buildings are in the store awaiting re-erection. They include medieval timber-framed dwellings, the Maple Cross Studios and more. The museum is open Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays. On Buck school holidays, they open on Tuesdays.
You must pre-book your tickets and abide by the government restrictions on your visit.
Book your Chiltern Open Air Museum Tickets!
West Stow Anglo-Saxon Village
- Location: Icklingham Road, West Stow, Suffolk
- Cost: Adults – £6, Child(5 – 16) – £3, Family Day Ticket – £15
The West Stow Anglo-Saxon Village is an open museum that shows an Anglo Saxon settlement. It comprises several buildings that include workshops and houses dating back to 1,500 years ago. The Anglo Saxon people who lived on this settlement are currently represented through displays. These displays tell the story of how these people lived and worked.
You can find several artefacts on display, such as jewellery, tools, weapons and others. Visitors have the chance to dress like an Anglo Saxon. You can wear the helmet of a warrior and other items. As you explore the museum displays, the story of the village settlement that existed in the Lark Valley unfolds.
Surrounding the Anglo Saxon settlement is 125 acres of unspoiled heath, woodland walks, and countryside. For wildlife enthusiasts, you can explore the River Lark, lake and the life they attract. Dogs are welcome but keep them on a lead.
The grounds are perfect for a picnic, an evening stroll, or winter walks. As an ideal family destination, you can:
- Visit the Archaeology Galley
- Explore the Beowulf and Grendel Adventure Trail
- Watch a short film on Anglo Saxon life
Cycling is not permitted along the river, around the lake or across the heath.
The West Stow Anglo-Saxon Village opens daily from 10am-5pm.
Book your West Stow Anglo-Saxon Village Tickets!
Celtic Harmony Camp
- Location: Bourne Wood, Brickendon, Hertford
- Cost: £12.50 per person, Under 4 years olds – Free
The Celtic Harmony Camp is an open museum like no other. It comprises native woodland and thatched roundhouses. As the largest reconstructed prehistoric settlement, there are 7 Iron age roundhouses. You and your family can explore over 3 million years of history as you tour the roundhouses and settlements.
You can learn about Neolithic hunters and gatherers, barter trading, how to make your own bronze age beaker pot, and wattle fence making. The museum has expert time travellers dressed in full costumes. They will take you through guided tours as you learn about Celtic villagers and their lifestyle.
You and your family can enjoy archery, fireside storytelling and Halloween themed events. For an overnight stay, spend the night in a traditional Iron Age roundhouse. The overnight experience is £250 and includes roundhouse accommodation, food and evening activities. Each roundhouse can accommodate up to 5 family members per night.
The Celtic Harmony Camp is a COVID-19 safe venue. They have measures in place such as:
- Social distancing
- Staggered entry slots
- Limited visitor numbers
- Regular cleaning
If planning a visit, book your lunch on arrival outside the café. This gives each family time and space to collect their food. Dishes include a hog roast, snacks, hot drinks, pizza, chips and gluten-free options.
Book your Celtic Harmony Camp Family Days Out!
Mountfitchet Castle & Museum
- Location: Stansted Mountfitchet, Essex
- Cost: Adults – £13.50, Children (3-13yrs) – £11.00, OAP’s – £13.00
Come and explore the open spaces and castle grounds at the Mountfitchet Castle & Museum. At the open-air museum, you can travel back 900 years ago and witness life in a medieval Motte and Bailey castle. You can roam through the Norman village hidden behind the castle walls and explore scenes of the terrible side of life in the dark ages.
The Mountfitchet Castle is a unique time capsule. Situated on its original site overlooking the Stort Valley, the castle was formerly an Iron Age hill fort. It was also a Roman signals fort and later a Viking and Saxon settlement. This is before William the Conqueror attacked in 1066. He built the Motte and Bailey castle.
The historic castle allows visitors to travel back to 1066 Norman England. You can roam through the castle and explore the many houses. View the scenes and even smell the log fires from an ancient bygone lifestyle.
Thanks to the open-air museum expansive 10 acres, you can meet and hand-feed the tame Fallow deer plus other rescued animals. In addition, the site has an all-weather heritage entertainment complex where prehistory and nostalgia combine. While at Mountfitchet Castle, visit the House on the Hill Museum. It contains the most extensive toy collection in the world. In fact, it has 80,000 toys from the Victorian era to the 1990s.
The Mountfitchet Castle museum is open 7 days a week, including bank holidays and weekends.
Find out more: Mountfitchet Castle & Museum!
Shipwreck Treasure Museum
- Location: Quay Rd, Saint Austell
- Cost: Adults (Over 18)– £6.50, Child (5 – 17)– £4.50, Under 5’s – FREE
If you fancy an open-air museum in the UK with a difference, head to the Shipwreck Treasure Museum. At the museum, you can uncover journeys that took place in Charlestown, from the open ocean to clay carts. As a place of peril and possibility, the open-air museum has over 8,000 finds from more than a hundred shipwrecks.
You can find an intact barrel of coins recovered, gold bullion bars, ingots of copper or feel the weight of a cannonball. There are stories of horror and hardship. Each story or artefact is a doorway into a world of wonder.
From the museum, you can explore the Charlestown underground. Carved out from Cornwall’s landscape, they shipped it around the world. Composed of China clay, the underground tunnels tell a different story of Charlestown.
As you travel through the historic tunnels, you learn where China clay comes from and how it moved from the mines to the harbour. Meet the characters that made Charlestown, including the merchants who arrived by sail and their families.
Enjoy free entry to the Joules store and Museum Gift Shop. For freshly brewed coffee and popup pizzas, head to the Rebellion and On the Deck. The Shipwreck Treasure Museum opens from 10am-5pm every day. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the museum may refuse entry if you arrive within your 10-minute time slot.
Book your Shipwreck Treasure Museum Tickets!
- Location: Morwellham, Tavistock
- Cost: Adults – £11.95, Child (2 to 17 years) – £9.95
If you’re eyeing a break from your busy work life and want to try something different, head to the Morwellham Quay. Morwellham was once a thriving port. Miners mined copper ore at the George and Charlotte mine before shipping to Europe. Today, the Morwellham Quay is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
On the site, you have Ship Inn, an 18th Century riverside pub. Located at the centre of the Morwellham village, the Inn offers a fine selection of cider and ales plus locally produced ice cream. It is open seven days a week, serving home-cooked food sourced from local suppliers and farms.
Located in the middle of a historic village is the Shepherds Hut. It offers beautiful views on the banks of River Tamar. Equipped with a fixed double bed, a small solar pack for charging phones and a charcoal-burning stove, it accommodates two persons.
If you love camping, you can pitch a tent at the camping grounds. The pitch per cost per night is usually based on up to 4 persons. Campers can pitch their own tents on the tent pitches or on premium riverside pitches on River Tamar banks.
As an extensive site, it also has nature trails, a play area, a mining train and the dry-docked Garlandstone sailing ship. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, the Morwellham Quay is currently closed, but the Ship Inn is open, plus the camping grounds.
Learn more about Morwellham Quay!
Rural Life Living Museum
- Location: Reeds Road, Farnham, Surrey
- Cost: Adults – £12, Children (under 16) – £7.75, Children Under 5 – FREE
The Rural Life Living Museum has one of the largest collections of historic buildings and agricultural objects. Put together by Henry and Madge Jackson, the couple amassed the collection of rural artefacts and equipment after World War II.
The museum has over 40,000 artefacts relating to rural and agricultural life. This includes:
- Hand tools
- A horse-drawn plough that the couple unearthed at Waterlooville, Hampshire.
Set on 10 acres of space, the site has over 30 buildings. The Stanton Shelters are air raid shelters made up of reinforced concrete. Manufactured by the Stanton Ironworks, they can hold up to 50 people.
Next is the Frimley Green Cycle Workshop, an example of how family businesses adopted technological and social change. Originally a blacksmith shop, it expanded to include a garage and a bicycle repair shop.
Other buildings include:
- The Granary
- Shepherds Hut
- Eashing Chapel
- Linford Village Hall
- Arcon MK V Prefab
- Anderson Shelter
- Pavilion and others
The Rural Life Living Museum features the Old Kiln Light Railway. It regularly operates both diesel and steam locomotives on passenger rides. The museum has an arboretum with 100 trees that provides places for picnics and shelter from the rain.
At the Old Kiln café, you can enjoy a variety of hot and cold food. They also serve tea and cake. In summer, the Rural Life Living Museum opens Wednesday to Sunday from 10 AM to 4 PM, including bank holidays. In winter, it opens from Friday to Monday, 10am-4pm.
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Little Woodham Living History Village
- Location: Grange Farm House, Howe Rd, Gosport
- Cost: Adults – £5, Child – £4, OAP – £4, Under 3’s are free
Surrounded by woodland, the Little Woodham Living history village is in a 17th-century village. A visit to the open-air museum enables you to travel back in time and immerse yourself in the lifestyle of a small village. At the heart of the museum is the alehouse. Inside the alehouse, you can discover foods and drinks on offer. The scribe will teach you and your family how to cut a quill and even how people made ink in the 17th century.
As you tour the museum, you can see the potter at his wheel, where you can discover how they designed and made pots in the 17th century. In fact, the potter has a working 17th-century kiln, and from time to time, you can see him throwing pots in the kiln.
If you want to learn about the life of a sawyer, follow the sound of chopping wood. See how the sawyer chooses different shapes and types of trees for different uses. You also hear the rhythmic banging of metal at the blacksmith or a mother telling stories to her children. There are weavers, spinners, and seamstresses producing beautiful designs.
The whole setup gives you and your family a glimpse at life in the 17th century. Unfortunately, since the museum has a small group of volunteers, they can only open the village from Easter to October. Usually, they open from 10.30am-4.30pm, but due to COVID-19, the museum is currently closed. As soon as the museum is certain of its position, it will announce its opening dates. No booking required! Just turn up and enjoy the experience.
Learn more about Little Woodham Living History Village!
Buster Ancient Farm
- Location: Chalton, Waterlooville
- Cost: Adults – £10, Children (3-16) – £6, Family ticket (2 adults and 2 children) – £26, Under threes – FREE
Welcomes to the Buster Ancient Farm, an experimental archaeology site in the countryside of the South Downs National Park. The site features archaeological reconstructions of buildings from the:
- Iron Age
- Stone Age
- Anglo Saxon and Roman Britain period
These buildings have frequently featured in films and documentaries. There are five different sites – Roman villa, Iron Age area, Stone Age area, Saxon Area and workshop area. The buildings give an impression of what daily life was thousands of years ago. You can see Stone Age beds, crackling fires, Roman toilets, Saxon Runes and more.
Each part of the farm has interpretation displays and panels. They give a deeper insight into a past life. Volunteers and staff in burgundy uniform are available to answer your questions. As a family, there are quizzes and trails plus a range of DIY archaeology activities. They include watling fences, mosaic making and others.
The museum also keeps rare breed animals such as the Manx Loaghtan sheep and English goats. By purchasing a bag of feed at the museum, you’ll have a friend for life. At the museum gift shop, you can purchase items such as:
- Locally produced Chalice Mead
- Original artwork, prints and more
All profits from the gift shop go to support research and educational work at the museum. The museum is open on weekends from 10 AM to 4 PM. They also open during weekdays for the summer holidays.
Book your Buster Ancient Farm Tickets!
- Location: Lock Ln, Maidstone
- Cost: Adults – £9, Child (age 3-15) – £8, Family (2+2) – £30
The Kent Life open-air museum is a 28-acre heritage farm. Originally part of the Allington Castle estate, the site has a village hall, church, and a vintage village with cottages. It also has traditional Kent gardens with plenty of animals and a Victorian farmhouse. In some of the cottages, the museum recreated life in World War II. In fact, one of the gardens has an Anderson Shelter.
There are plenty more activities for all ages. You can enjoy farm rides on the museum’s land train or tractor-trailer rides. The museum has a large soft play area that covers three floors. On wet days, children can leap on the bouncy castle and in summer, they can try stilt-walking or use the play beach.
All year-round, the museum allows visitors to hunt for mystery wooden objects around the site. Winners receive prizes as a reward. At the Kentish gardens, you can experience magnificent aromas and colours.
The gardens take many forms – aromatic herbs used in perfumes and pourri to apple orchards. Explore the two farmhouse gardens that feature a pigsty and the last coal-fired Oast house and learn about hop picking. The museum offers an annual membership plus special rates for group and education visits. They open daily from 10am-5pm.
Get your Kent Life Tickets!
Weald & Downland Living Museum
- Location: Town Lane, Singleton, West Sussex
- Cost: Adults – £15.50, Children 5–17 years – £7.50, Family: 2 adults and up to 3 children – £42
The Weald & Downland Living Museum is a hidden gem in a picture-perfect setting. Home to the BBC Repair shop, the open-air museum sits on 40 acres. There are various working buildings on the site representing the trades and crafts of the people in the region. The buildings include:
- Windpump from Pevensey
- Watermill from Lurgashall
- Smithy from Southwater
- Sawpit shed from Sheffield Park
- Brick drying shed from Petersfield.
Besides the working buildings, you can tour historic houses and cottages. The site has:
- Medieval building from Hangleton
- Hall house from Boarhunt
- Medieval house from North Cray
- Poplar cottage from Washington and much more
- Visitors can explore some of the buildings via a 3D tour. Such buildings include the: Pandean farmhouse from Midhurst
- Bayleaf farmstead from Chiddingstone.
In this building, you can watch various demonstrations such as weaving, spinning, and Tudor cooking. There are various farm animals employed in traditional farming duties, such as oxen pulling a cart. You also have a number of historical gardens. They showcase different changes in gardening from the 16th to the 19th century.
Wander through the woodland and discover the canopy, balancing roots and climbing log. Besides the day to day activities, families can experience special events such as:
- Open-air theatre performances
- Historic life weekends
- Christmas at the Museum.
The museum opens daily from 10.30am-6pm, and you must pre-book your tickets due to restricted availability.
Book your Weald & Downland Living Museum Tickets!
- Location: Amberley, Near Arundel, West Sussex
- Cost: Adults (17+) – £14, Child (5-16) – £6.50, Family 2 + 3 – £38, Child (under 5’s) – Free
The Amberley Museum is an open-air attraction with 36 acres to explore, outdoors and indoors. Located in a former chalk quarry, the museum is a dedication to the industrial heritage of South East England. There are over 40 exhibits to explore, from old buildings and exhibitions to vintage car demos and narrow gauge railway.
The museum houses a collection of locomotives powered by petrol, steam, electricity and diesel. The majority of locos are in working order, and one runs most of the days on the Museum’s narrow gauge track. In fact, it provides free transport for visitors.
At the bus garage, you’ve a collection of restored tram cars and buses from 1908 to 1938. The elderly buses are for educational purposes, but one is commonly used for everyday transport around the site. The site has a bicycle repair shop that displays the contents of Floyd’s repair shop from Littlehampton. In the Pavior building, there is an exhibition showing the history of bikes from the 1860s to the 1980s.
Other attractions include:
- Village Garage and Cycle shop
- Fire Station
- Railway Hall
- Road Steam
- Paviors Museum of Road Making
- The Wheelwrights shop
- The Fairmile Café and AA box
- Chalk pits
- Print Shop
- The Minle Electricity hall
- Dando Wind Pump
- The Wood Yard
- Machine Shop
- Dover Cottage Pump House and much more.
The museum opens on Wednesdays to Sundays from 10am-4.30pm. Pre-book your tickets online before your visit.
Get your Amberley Museum Tickets!
Open-Air Museums in Scotland
The following are open-air museums in Scotland.
- Location: Birsay, Orkney
- Cost: Free admission
The Kirbuster Museum is a fascinating open-air museum. Opened to the public in 1986, the museum is the last unrestored example of a traditional firehouse. It’s complete with peat fire, a central hearth and a stone neuk bed with Neolithic features common at sites such as Orkney.
The museum tells the story of family life in Orkney four centuries ago. Basically, it offers a glimpse into 19th and 20th-century farming practices. You can find agricultural implements and how they used the items on the farm.
Whenever the museum is open, the fire is lit. The house and grounds are open, and visitors can look into the stable, but the byre is temporarily closed. Only three household groups should be on-site at any one time. The museum opens from Wednesday to Saturday 10 AM to 12 PM, 2 PM to 5 PM. On Sunday, it opens from 2pm-5pm.
Find out more: Kirbuster Museum!
Skye Museum of Island Life
- Location: Kilmuir, Skye
- Cost: Adults – £5, Children under 14 – Free
Travel back in time at Skye Museum of Island Life and experience how crofters lived and worked. Located at Kilmur, the museum opened in 1965. It aims to preserve the thatched cottages that depict the island’s conditions at the close of the 19th century.
The thatched cottages were a part of the Highland over a hundred years ago. Within the walls, the crofters kept alive with stories and songs. This made Hebrides famous globally. As you enter the thatched cottage, the kitchen is on the right where the family sat, cooked and ate. They cooked on the peat fire, which burned day and night.
Leading off to the kitchen was the parent’s bedroom. It contains an old fashioned box bed with a straw-filled mattress. If you’re looking for a unique experience and true insight into island life, head to the Skye Museum of Island Life.
It opens from Monday to Saturday 9.30am-5pm. Currently, it’s closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Find out more: Skye Museum of Island Life!
Highland Folk Museum
- Location: Kingussie Rd, Newtonmore
- Cost: Free admission
Another Scottish open-air museum you should visit is the Highland Folk Museum. The museum’s collection reflects the rural and social way of life of the Scottish highlands between 1700 to mid-1900s. There are over 10,000 items in the museum collected by Dr Isabel F. Grant, the museum founder.
The largest collection includes agricultural equipment. There are more than a thousand items in this collection – horse-powered to mechanized farming implements. The second-largest collection ranges from heating to cooking materials, laundry and lighting. You also have traditional house furniture and fittings.
This is a living museum, and so you’ll see traditional crafts such as wheelwright, shoemaker, mason, joiner, smith and others. In addition, you can find small collections relating to industries such as fishing, forestry and textiles. Visitors will also meet Highland characters in different buildings.
The museum opens seven days a week, 10am-5pm.
Find out more: Highland Folk Museum!
- Location: Auchindrain, Argyll
- Cost: Adults – £8, Child – £5.50
With 22 acres of historic landscape, the Auchindrain Township open-air museum is the ideal place for a family day out. It’s also a unique opportunity to travel to the past in Scotland’s last surviving township. The site has historical buildings dating back to the 16th century.
The visible structures were part of a small farming community. Between the 18th and 19th centuries, these townships changed. However, Auchindrain remained a farming township until the 1930s. Today, the Auchindrain Township is part of Scotland’s history.
Visitors step into the restored longhouses, see and learn about the past inhabitants. Explore the fields, stables and byres to understand how families worked the land. Cakes, biscuits, hot and cold drinks are on sale at the visitor centre. You are welcome to bring your own picnic.
The museum opens from Wednesday to Sunday, 11am-4pm.
Get your Auchindrain Township Tickets!
Open-Air Museums in Northern Ireland
The following are open-air museums in Northern Ireland.
- Location: 6 Queens Rd, Belfast
- Cost: Adults – £19, Children (5 – 16) – £8.50, Under four – Free
Located in Belfast, Northern Ireland, the Titanic Quarter is the birthplace of the Titanic. As Europe’s largest waterfront regeneration project, it’s home to the Harland and Wolff shipyards. Here, other famous liners were originally built. This includes the Titanic’s sister ships.
At the Titanic Quarter, you also have the main drawing rooms. This is where builders and designers originally imagined massive liners. Today, its renovated and restored into the Titanic Hotel and café. A stone throw away is the Maritime Mile, with many tourist attractions to explore.
You can explore Belfast’s iconic waterfront, its vibrant quaysides and historic docks. Don’t forget the SS Nomadic, Slipways and Plaza. Opening times for the museum – 9am-7pm.
Book your Titanic Quarter Tickets!
Ulster Folk Museum
- Location: 153 Bangor Rd, Holywood
- Cost: Adults – £11, Children – £6
Explore rolling hills of the countryside and rediscover Ulster at the Ulster Folk Museum. Comprising authentic period buildings, the open-air museum recreates the rural Irish life as it were 100 years ago. Set on a hilly side, Ulster Folk Museum has a whole range of buildings relocated from around Ireland.
There are Church of Ireland and Catholic churches, a small theatre and schools. Visitors can see daily demonstrations of traditional crafts, from printing to basket weaving. You can take a stroll through the bustling town of Ballycultra. It’s filled with authentic buildings and shops.
Costumed guides with stories that bring the site to life are available. While exploring the exhibits, do not handle the objects and artefacts. Don’t forget to stop by the farm and say hello to the animals. Opens daily from 10am-4pm.
Get your Ulster Folk Museum Tickets!
Ulster American Folk Park
- Location: 2 Mellon Rd, Omagh
- Cost: Adults – £9, Children – £5.50
Located just outside Omagh in Northern Ireland, the Ulster American Folk Park has more than 30 exhibit buildings for you to explore. The site recreates the perilous voyage taken by millions of people from Ulster to America in the 18th and 19th centuries. There are well-trodden pathways of rural Ulster with authentic buildings and shops.
They developed the museum around the Mellon house, the birthplace of Thomas Mellon, banker and lawyer. He was also the founding father of the Mellon banking industry. In the museum, visitors can taste traditional Irish and American pioneer foods. They include freshly baked pumpkin pie and soda bread.
There are several agricultural displays and farm animals. Opening times for the museum – daily 10am-5pm.
Book your Ulster American Folk Park Tickets!
Open-Air Museums in Wales
Castell Henllys Iron Age Village
- Location: Meline, Crymych
- Cost: Adults – £5, Child – £3.50, Family – £13.50
In North Pembrokeshire sits an important archaeological site called Castell Henllys Village. For over 20 years, there has been ongoing excavation on Iron Age hillfort. Today, there sits four roundhouses and a granary reconstructed on their original foundations. As a family-friendly museum, it takes visitors back to 2,000 years ago, where they learn about the Demetae tribe and their lifestyle.
In fact, the museum has costumed guides who represent members of the tribe that lived during and after the Roman invasion. The fort sits on an island outcrop. It offers stunning views of the countryside and the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park.
With your ticket, you’ve three hours to explore the sites, including the Barefoot trail and woodland. You and your family will also have an opportunity to take part in craft activities or watch demonstrations. The museum opens daily from 10am-5pm.
Book your Castell Henllys Iron Age Village Tickets!
St Fagans National Museum of History
- Location: St Fagans, Cardiff
- Cost: Entry – Free
The St Fagans National Museum of History is one of the most popular attractions in Wales. The open-air museum stands on the grounds of St Fagans Castle and gardens. This is a late 16th-century manor house. Donated by the Earl of Plymouth in 1948 to the people of Wales, the open-air museum has forty original buildings erected in the 100-acre parkland.
Among the buildings are houses, a chapel, a school, and a Workmen’s Institute. At the museum, you can explore the story of Wales. In addition, there are workshops where craftsmen demonstrate their traditional skills. As a visitor, you gain insight into the rich culture and heritage of the Welsh language and people.
Besides buildings, the open-air museum comes to life as dance events and festivals celebrate how the Welsh people lived. The site opens every day – 10am-5pm.
Find out more: St Fagans National Museum of History.
Open-Air Museum on the Isle of Man
- Location: Cregneash Road, Cregneash
- Cost: Adults – £9, Students – £4.50, Children – FREE
Sitting on an upland plateau is the Cregneash Village. Overlooking the Calf of Man, the open-air museum is the last stronghold of the Manx customs and language. The site has several Manx cottages where visitors can learn how crofters lived through their crafts, skills and stories.
Edward Faragher, the last significant Manx speaker, lived in one of the cottages. Besides the cottages, there are several indigenous animals, including a four-horned Manx sheep. You may also see cats with no tails.
As one of the 26 registered Dark Sky Discovery Sites, the museum is a stargazing destination. This is due to the lack of light pollution on the remote island. The museum is open for pre-booked tours and special events only.
Find out more: Cregneash Village.
The UK open-air museums capture and bring to life the history and ways of its rural and industrial past. These museums let you travel back in time a few centuries through historical enactments, stately castles, and more. If you’re craving for a museum fix, we highly recommend a visit to one or all of the open-air museums above.