Did you know there are two Natural History museums in the UK? There is the famous, South Kensington one, but there is another outpost of this most famous of child-friendly of museums in a small Hertfordshire town. The Natural History Museum at Tring is less famous than its larger sister in London, but we still thoroughly enjoyed a day out there on a rainy Saturday.
Disclaimer from the off: if you’re not keen on taxidermy and natural history specimens, this is probably not for you. I’m really not keen on anything stuffed just for decoration, but it feels completely different to me if it’s for a scientific purpose.
The collection at Tring came about in the 19th century when a member of the hugely rich Rothschild family, Walter, decided to build a natural history museum as a child – as you do – and was given the land and money to do just that on his 21st birthday. He built up one of the largest private natural history collections in the world, which was then gifted to the nation and is now part of the Natural History Museum. On a side note, he also taught zebras to pull his carriage.
The building where he founded his museum is still open to the public. It is simply the best day out if you’re one and are obsessed with animals, as Felicity has been pretty much since we knew she could be interested in anything. We first discovered her love of stuffed animals in the Castle Museum and Gallery in Norwich last year, so thought Tring might be a hit. I’m not sure we have ever seen her more excited at being able to get nose to nose with a polar bear though. She was literally running around shrieking with happiness at all the different exhibits (apologies to anyone visiting on the same day we did!)
The museum is free to enter and is reasonably small, spread over four floors. It still feels very Victorian and the specimen drawers look like they are the originals from Walter Rothschild’s day. Unlike the London museum there are no dinosaurs, but being able to stroke a stuffed badger more than made up for that in Felicity’s eyes!
There is a cafe within the building but it is tiny and doesn’t have the widest choice so we walked to Tring High Street, which is a couple of minutes away and had lunch there instead. The cake did look good in the museum cafe though! If you wanted to bring a picnic there are lots of places to eat outside, but as you can see from the rain sodden butterfly sundial, it really wasn’t eating outside weather when we visited.
Very helpfully there’s also a free cloakroom where you can leave buggies and cloaks. We caused enough chaos with out toddler running underfoot to go and gesticulate at the latest exciting specimen she’d spotted without blocking people with the buggy as well!
I would thoroughly recommend it as a slightly quirky museum if you’re ever near Tring. We will definitely be visiting again. I am loving doing the #take12trips challenge from Need Another Holiday as it encourages me to discover some local places I’ve never explored.