The British love a good museum and, as we at Auto Express know only too well, there's no museum like a car museum. Fortunately, this country is absolutely bursting with great motor museums and with the Easter break fast approaching we thought it was high time we had a poke around the best of them.
From the historic Brooklands Museum just south of London to the Beaulieu National Motor Museum in the heart of the New Forest, Coventry's Transport Museum and the Heritage Motor Centre at Gaydon, British car fans are spoiled for choice when it comes to great days out.
There's much, much more too and below is our pick of the best motor museums to visit this Easter weekend...
Where: Sparkford, somerset
Admission: £10.95 (adult), £5.95 (children)
Tucked away next to the busy A303 in rural Somerset sits a collection of motoring prestige and history. The Haynes International Motor Museum at Sparkford, near Yeovil, is home to more than 400 cars and motorbikes, and is Britain’s biggest motor museum.
The museum was originally opened in 1985 by John Haynes, founder of Haynes Publishing Group, who hoped it would run alongside his workshop manual business.
What’s on show is impressive, and represents motoring from the 1800s to the present day. The American Collection packs all the muscle cars from the early 20th century onwards, while the Vroom Room – part of the recent revamp – features a number of supercars, including a Lamborghini Countach. Also new is the MG and Morris Garage, which pays homage to some classic models in British motoring history. The Red Room needs no explanation, though: it’s a hall of red racers, including cars driven by Michael Schumacher and Sir Stirling Moss.
Where: Brockenhurst, Hampshire
Admission: £20 (adults), £9.95 (5-12)
A name that will resonate with all motoring fans, Beaulieu is packed full of history and is a great family day out. Key exhibits include everything from record-breakers to cars that have starred in films to race-bred machines from rallying, Formula One and motorbike championships. Beaulieu is open every day from 10am to 5pm, and until 6pm from May to September.
Where: Gaydon, Warwickshire
Admission: £12 (adults), £8 (5-16)
The Heritage Centre is celebrating its 21st birthday this year, and packs a huge collection of British cars, with 300 in all. There’s a big emphasis on domestically made vehicles, with marquee badge names sitting alongside brands made under licence on these shores.
The museum was reopened in 2007 after being granted £1.3million to carry out improvement work. An Aston Martin-dedicated display will run until December this year, marking the manufacturer’s recent centenary. The museum is open from 10am to 5pm throughout the year.
Where: Alford, Lincolnshire
Admission: £3 (adults), £1 (5-16)
Although there are no real-life scale cars here, this museum is packed full of model cars many would have grown up with through childhood. Highlights include slot cars, models shored up in collectors’ plastic cases and even a Scalextric track.
Just bear in mind that it’s only open on Friday, Saturday and Sunday from April to October, from 11am to 4pm.
Where: Weybridge, Surrey
Admission: £11 (adult), £6 (5-16)
Brooklands is where it all began for UK motorsport, and is host to the world’s first purpose-built motor racing circuit. The museum pays homage to this, displaying British engineering and technological marvels from throughout the 20th century. Alternative means of transportation are covered, too, with a Concorde exhibit and other pieces of aviation history, while there’s a host of specialist car days held throughout the year. Brooklands is open from 10am to 5pm during the summer.
Where: Coventry, West Midlands
This is home to land speed record holder Thrust SCC, and there is even a simulator to go with it, in which visitors can get a taste of what it’s like to go quicker than the speed of sound. Coventry also claims to be the home of the world’s biggest collection of British road transport, with a huge display of cars, commercial vehicles and bikes. It’s open from 10am to 5pm all year.
Where: WindeRmere, Cumbria
Admission: £7.95 (adult), £5 (5-15)
Set against rolling hills on the outer edges of the Lake District, the easy-on-the-eye attractions don’t stop with the surroundings at Lakeland Motor Museum, as a huge selection of transport icons made over the last 100 years awaits. Models from Aston Martin, Jaguar and DeLorean are among the highlights. Opening times are 10am to 4.30pm all year round.