What do you look for when choosing a weekend getaway? For me it is Culture, History and Architecture. Add to that being easy to get to, ideally by train. Here are my Inspiring UK Cultural Travel Destinations 2024.
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Ten UK Exhibitions outside London 2024
The UK is packed with excellent museums and culture packed stately homes. Most can be reached within a few hours from London. Here are my 10 must see openings and exhibitions to leave London for in 2024.
Elizabeth Frink lived and worked in North Dorset, when she died a significant quantity of her work and archives were left to the Dorset Museum. This exhibition has items never seen in public before from the bequest including letters, sketches and plaster models of famous finished work. Dorchester, home of the Dorset Museum, is Casterbridge in the Thomas Hardy novels. I had an ardent Thomas Hardy phase in my early 20s and love walking around the town replaying the scenes from his novels in my head.
- Until 21 April 2024
- Admission: £14
- Trains from London Waterloo to Dorchester South take about 2¾ hours
If you have ever passed stood on the escalator at Tottenham Court Road station and admired the colourful tiles, you have seen the work of Edouard Paolozzi. To celebrate 100 years since his birth, Modern Two in his home town of Edinburgh has a special exhibition. On show will be the sketches for those tiles, his Mickey tapestry and plates he designed for Wedgwood.
- 27 January – 21 April 2024
- Edinburgh is 4½ hours from London Kings Cross and there is also a sleeper option.
My teenage notebooks were awash with pasted William Blake images and his inspirational quotes. I thought he was marvellous. Still do. William Blake’s Universe will take a look at the world in which he created his incredible work. It was a time of upheaval with war and revolution sweeping Europe. Blake’s work will be seen alongside Philipp Otto Runge and Caspar David Friedrich who were working at the same time. I was also a huge fan of Caspar David Friedrich and German Romanticism in my teens, so I’m really excited by this pairing.
- 23 February – 19 May 2024
- £ Yet to be fixed, Art Fund members free
- Fast trains from Kings Cross to Cambridge take 50 minutes
The Plantin Moretus Museum in Antwerp is one of my favourite museums in the whole wide world. They have an outstanding collection of prints of drawings from Flemish masters, the cream of the crop has been selected for this show at the Asmolean. Expect Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Peter Paul Rubens and Anthony Van Dyck among others. When you are booking your exhibition tickets be sure to book a table for lunch at the excellent rooftop museum cafe.
- 23 March – 23 June 2024
- £15.30, Art Fund members half price
- Trains to Oxford take about an hour from London Paddington or the Oxford Tube bus runs every 10 minutes from Victoria coach station
Imagine 100 life sized Antony Gormley figures installed across 100 acres of landscaped parkland and the stately home at the the park’s centre. That is what Time Horizon at Houghton Hall will be. Add into the mix that every figure will be at the same height. So some will be buried and others on plinths. Given that the north Norfolk countryside is not known for its steep ascents, the installation may serve to illustrate that Norfolk is gently undulating rather than flat.
- 21 April – 31 October 2024
- Admission: £24
- Trains take just under two hours from London to Kings Cross to Kings Lynn from where it is a 25 minute car journey taxis are available from Kings Lynn station
Tony Cragg at Castle Howard and York Minister
30 sculptures will be on show at Castle Howard and York Minster this summer. At Castle Howard the works will be both inside the house and across the estate. In York, Field of Heaven will be on show inside the incredible Chapter House.
- 3 May – 22 September 2024 at Castle Howard
- 3 May – 29 September 2024 at York Minster
- York Minster: £16 tickets become an annual pass
- Castle Howard: £ Not yet fixed
- London Kings Cross to York is 2 hours by train
Steam power and industry are central to how Newcastle upon Tyne looks today, so it is fitting that Turner’s The Fighting Temeraire should be visiting the city for the summer. The painting, one of Turner’s most famous, shows the Temeraire sailing ship veteran of Trafalgar being towed to the breakers yard by a steam paddle boat. The old besting the new. In fact both boats shown in the painting were built on the Tyne. 20 works by Turner, as well as work by Tacita Dean, Lowry and Whistler will be on show exploring the depiction of the industrial in art.
- 10 May – 7 September 2024
- £ Yet to be fixed, Art Fund members half price
- Arriving in Newcastle by train is one of the finest railway experiences anywhere. Trains from Kings Cross to Newcastle take about 3 hours
The words Still Life bring me out in a cold sweat. I’m straight back to art lessons in 1973. No matter how I try the marks I make do not look anything like the objects in front of me. Thankfully others are more skilled. The list of artists on show in this survey reads like a Who’s Who of modern and contemporary artists. Vanessa Bell, Eric Ravilious, Stanely Spencer, Rachel Whiteread and David Hockney were the ones that really caught my eye.
- 11 May – 20 October 2024
- £14, Art Fund member £7.25
- Chichester is 1½ hours by train from London Victoria
Norwich Castle keep looks just like a castle should. Stood square and round on a large mound with proper crenellations. William the Conqueror had it built in 1067 and it has been at the centre of Norwich life for over 900 years. For many years it was a prison. A bit of personal interest here. When it was converted from a prison to a museum my great great grandfather was the architect. Anyway for the past few years the keep has been undergoing major restoration and is set to reopen in Summer 2024. There will be a brand new medieval gallery as well as Norwich Castle museum’s fine existing collections. My first ever museum and I’m really excited to see its new look.
- Summer 2024
- £ Yet to be Fixed
- London to Liverpool Street to Norwich by train takes two hours
You will be familiar with L S Lowry’s stick men. You might not be quite so familiar with Norman Cornish who painted and drew the miners who he saw all around him in Country Durham. The Bowes Museum is bringing together the work of both artists inspired by the working life of the North.
- 20th July 2024 – 19th January 2025
- Admission: £18, Art Fund members free
- Trains to Durham or Darlington from London take about 2¾ hours but you will need a car to get to Barnard Castle.
Which inspiring UK Cultural Travel Destinations to you want to visit do you want to visit in 2024?
Check out my guide to Exhibitions Worth Travelling For 2024 for more cultural travel inspiration.