If you’re anything like us, once restrictions are removed there’s nothing more you want than to head out to a museum or exhibition. Here at Pax Romana we’ve done our research to help you plan ahead. In our list of the Best Ancient History Museums to visit, you’ll find a great mix from across the country. Of course, restrictions do mean that everything can change, so we recommend checking each individual venue in advance. In general, it’s good to plan ahead because lots of museums will be working on a booking system.
Scottish Crannog Centre – Perthshire, Scotland
Our first museum to recommend is the Scottish Crannog Centre on the banks of Loch Tay in Central Scotland. An open-air museum, it wants to tell the story of Scottish prehistory, with an indoor museum and recreated prehistoric buildings. Indeed, the ‘Crannog’ is a type of prehistoric dwelling found in Scotland and Ireland. These dwellings were built over the surface of lochs on wooden stilts or piles of stone. Following this traditions, the Crannog centre built its recreated Crannog in the 1990s. The project wanted to encourage more research into this often neglected part of Scottish history. For an added bonus, nearby you can visit the Croft Moraig Stone Circle. This is small prehistoric monument that fits into a larger pattern of stone circles across the ancient landscape.
Corinium Museum – Cirencester, the Cotswolds, England
The Corinium Museum in the Cotswolds has traditionally been known for its Roman displays. However, we want to recommend it in our prehistoric section as its just opened a brand-new Stone Age Gallery. This Gallery allows you to travel through the Stone Age of the Cotswolds, looking at over 600 objects. The exhibition has been six years in the making and has had to delay grand opening plans twice; so it feels only right to check it out this summer when you can!
Ulster Museum – Belfast, Northern Ireland
In the largest of Northern Ireland’s National Museums, Ulster Museum, there is an unrivalled collection of prehistoric material from the region. Their collection includes Neolithic Axes and dainty gold jewellery; earthenware ceramics and bronze finery. They explore the shifts in the Ancient Ulster population as they settled, went through wars and mourned their dead. Additionally, as it is part of a wider museum, you can learn about the Vikings and the coming of Christianity to Ireland.
Nero, an Exhibition, The British Museum – London, England
It wouldn’t be a list of museums in the UK if we didn’t talk about our neighbour, the British Museum. Of course, they have large collections of ancient art from all over the world, but specifically this summer they have an exhibition on Nero. One of the emperors of the Pax Romana, he’s gone down in history with a savage reputation. This exhibition wants to challenge this view and look at the nuances in his story. The display will include over 200 incredible objects; amongst the collection are never before shown items damaged in the great fire of Rome. However, perhaps most importantly, once you’ve explored the story of Nero you can come over to our London Gallery!
National Roman Legion Museum – Caerleon, Wales
Located in Caerleon, near Newport in South Wales, the National Roman Legion Museum celebrates the world of a Roman military outpost. The museum holds and preserves over 500,000 pieces from the Roman forts at Caerleon and nearby Usk. It’s key features include a Roman garden and recreated barracks. Overall, the experience wants to help you understand what life would have been like on the boarders of the Roman empire. However, best of all? For all of this, your entry is free.
Sutton Hoo – Suffolk, England
One of the most impressive burial sites in England, Sutton Hoo is now a National Trust property. Shrouded in mystery, there is much speculation about who the spectacular burial was for. You should note, its treasures lay at the aforementioned British Museum. However, we think there’s always something special about visiting the place such a discovery was found. The Burial Mounds are a feat to behold and the installations and exhibitions really help you understand the gravity of the find. Better still, it’s open right now as it’s also an open air park!
Jarrow Hall – Jarrow, South Tyneside, England
If you’ve studied any medieval history in depth, it’s likely that you’ve heard of the Venerable Bede and his history of England. This museum, Jarrow Hall, was originally just a museum of Bede and his life. However, it has recently morphed into a larger attraction about the general world of the Anglo Saxons. It includes large collections of ancient coloured glass, artefacts from the monastery Bede lived at and interactive outdoor exhibits to immerse yourself in this ancient world.
Sir John Soane’s Museum – London, England
One of London’s hidden greats is definitely the Sir John Soane Museum. The home of a Regency Architect, lovers of ancient history may well over look it. However, Sir John Soane was an avid collector of antiquities and ancient art from across the world. Most famously is the full sarcophagus of Seti I that lives in his basement. The house is full of incredible pieces that really tell a story; not only of their own histories but of the fascination of imperial Britions with collecting relics from across the world.
World Museum – Liverpool, England
The World Museum in Liverpool holds all sorts of artefacts from across history. However, we’ve included it in our list for its World Cultures and Egyptian permanent exhibitions. Its Egyptian exhibition takes you through 5000 years of history, with a diverse selection of artefacts. These artedacts include a girdle from Rameses’ tomb and a beautifully preserved mummified cat. Secondly, the World Cultures exhibition includes pieces from all over the world. It includes an African collection built on the city’s ancient trade links and an Asian collection that has been described as one of the finest of its kind in the UK.
Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology – Cambridge, England
One of the most diverse museums on this list, in terms of the geography of its contents, has to be the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology in Cambridge. With a collection based off the hoard from colonial journeys to Fiji, it hosts a considerable collection of artefacts from the Pacific and Indian Oceans. However, these items are often not ancient, even if they represent and tell the stories of ancient cultures. Alongside these collections, you’ll find detailed galleries about the Anglo Saxon archaeology from the local area.
We hope you enjoyed our list of Best Ancient History Museums in the UK for 2021. We hope to visit them ourselves, and maybe see you there!