Britain’s 10 quirkiest attractions

Published on: Monday, August 24, 2015
Britain’s 10 quirkiest attractions - feature


As the enigmatic street artist, Banksy, opens his own bemusement park in Weston-Super-Mare, we take a look at some of Britain's other weird attractions.

1) Dismaland, Weston-super-Mare

"A family theme park unsuitable for children," is how celebrated Bristol-born artist, Banksy, described his latest show. Dismaland (open for five weeks only) features thought-provoking work by more than 50 artists, including Damien Hirst, Jenny Holzer, Jimmy Cauty and Banksy himself.

Visitors can expect all sorts of weird and wonderful exhibits taking the Mickey out of the traditional theme park experience, from a distorted mermaid to a dilapidated fairy castle and a beach ball hovering above upturned knives. One of the most controversial pieces, however, is undoubtedly the model boat pond filled with overcrowded migrant boats and floating bodies.

2) The Crooked House, Staffordshire

It’s not just the punters who are on the piss in this Midlands boozer… the whole building is skewwhiff. Located in Staffordshire, this legendary pub was a victim of subsidence in the 19th century and was due to have an appointment with the wrecking ball in 1940.

But a local brewery pitched in to save the lopsided pub, which it shored up with steel girders. With one side of the building 4ft (1.2m) higher than the other, it remains a curious place to prop up the bar.

3) The Headington Shark, Oxford

It will turn 30 next year. The Headington Shark has its own birthday, you see. It even has a Facebook page. The work of English sculptor, John Buckley, the shark was quietly installed atop a house one summer night in 1986, causing immediate controversy amongst the local community.

The council, in particular, tried time and time again to have it removed on grounds of safety and absence of planning permission. Thankfully, the central government ruled in 1992 that the shark could remain, and it has been one of Britain’s quirkiest tourist attractions ever since.

4) Electric Brae, Ayrshire

The A719. It doesn’t sound much like a tourist attraction, but incredibly this scenic highway in rural Scotland (also known as Electric Brae) boasts a cult following thanks to its ability to seemingly defy physics.

So what’s the craic? Well, while the road appears to go downhill, it’s actually on an incline (and vice versa, depending which way you approach it). Motorists and cyclists take great delight watching their cars and bikes roll uphill, though it’s not much fun on the way back. Magic? No, it’s just an illusion.

5) Dennis Sever’s House, London

Discarded clothing, part-eaten meals and burning fires: signs of life fill this Georgian town house, but no one actually lives here. That’s because Dennis Sever’s House, at 18 Folgate Street in London’s East End, is an art installation pieced together from an American’s fascination with English life.

Explore the day-to-day of the fictitious Jervis family, journey through a candlelit collage of history and delight in a jumbled world that encourages you to enter rather than simply spectate.

6) Teapot Island, Kent

There is nothing more British than a decent brew, so it’s little wonder that this obscure museum in Yalding, Kent has managed to amass an almighty array of different teapots.

Filled to the spout with some 6,700 individual designs (and rising), visitors can peruse pottery pourers that depict everything from Sherlock Holmes and Karma Sutra to Westminster Abbey. It even has a 3m-high (9.85ft) teapot from Saudi Arabia in the garden. Naturally, there’s an on-site café too.

7) Kelvedon Nuclear Bunker, Essex

Built to resemble a quaint farm cottage in the Essex countryside, Kelvedon Nuclear Bunker was in fact the would-be home of central government in the event of a nuclear attack. Its vast coolers, giant blast doors and meticulous air filters could keep 600 people alive for up to three months.

Established during the Cold War, it remained active until 1994, and today runs as an off-the-wall tourist attraction presenting the stark metal-clad realities of preserving society in the face of nuclear action – as well as a few dubious-looking mannequins.

8) Mental Health Museum, Yorkshire

Located on the grounds of a working mental health facility (Fieldhead Hospital in Wakefield), this museum has amassed a huge and varied collection of mental health objects from the early 19th century until today.

Among its most interesting pieces are straitjackets and padded cells from the West Riding Pauper Lunatic Asylum as well as some pioneering electroconvulsive therapy machines. It even houses artwork created by those who use the mental health services in Wakefield today.

9) The Gnome Reserve, Devon

Frequenting more British gardens than political campaigners during election time, the Gnome Reserve in Devon is home to over 1,000 of these tacky little fat men (gnomes that is, not political activists; that would be awful).

Set in an enchanting 1.6-hectare (4-acre) woodland reserve, visitors can meander through the rural forest trails spotting the comical figurines as they go. Gnome hats and fishing rods are provided. Oh the hilarity.

10) Museum of Witchcraft and Magic, Cornwall

When English folk magician Cecil Williamson set about opening his witchcraft museum, it was unlikely he anticipated such heated opposition. After being run out of both Windsor and Bourton-on-the-Water, the peculiar attraction found its spiritual home in Cornwall where it grew to house one of the largest collections of witchcraft objects in the world.

Located in the fishing boat bobbing village of Boscastle, artefacts in the black magic museum include potion ingredients, fortune-telling teacups and a doll with a dagger embedded in its abdomen and real pubic hair between its legs.

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