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UK Science Tourism Destinations

Angela Wood

Senior Contributor

If you’ve ever found yourself pondering the meaning of life as you stargaze, wondering how great feats of engineering were achieved during the Industrial Revolution or marvelling at recent advancements in technology and mobile computing, visiting these top UK science tourism destinations will definitely appeal.

Visit the National Museum of Computing, Milton Keynes

How did we work before technology? What is packet switching? What was the world’s very first computer called? If these are some of the questions you’ve found yourself asking, it’s time to pay a visit to the National Museum of Computing in Milton Keynes. Located on the Bletchley Park estate south of the city centre, the museum houses the largest collection of working historic computers in the world. During your tour, you’ll uncover top-secret efforts which helped to crack the Enigma code during WWII, see systems and mainframes used in the 1950s, 60s and 70s and experience the evolution of personal computing from the 1980s to the present day. You can also see the rebuilt “Colossus” - the world’s first electronic computer and explore the PC Gallery - sure to evoke nostalgia with extensive displays of early consoles and computers from BBC’s and Macs to Spectrums and Amstrads! Families will enjoy the day out too as you can experience life as an Air Traffic Controller at the museum’s virtual airport! 

Stargaze at Kielder Observatory, Northumberland

Tucked away along a remote forest track in Northumberland in northeast England, Kielder Observatory is one of the best places to stargaze in the UK. It’s set in an area of natural beauty with birdlife, hiking, boating and cycling to enjoy. However, it’s after dusk that this astronomical facility comes to life. The observatory was designed by Charles Barclay Architects of London using timber from local sustainably managed forests and was built to blend with the landscape. It has access to some of the darkest, clearest night skies in the world, on par with Big Bend National Park and Death Valley in the USA. During summer months, you can view the Milky Way, shooting stars and the sun’s surface and in winter, explore distant galaxies through the lens of a telescope. Events are held year-round with introductions to astronomy, expert talks and animations and when you’ve completed your foray into solving the mysteries of the universe, glamp beneath the stars at a nearby site or partake in one of the star camp’s popular “astro parties”!

Ride on the Falkirk Wheel, Scotland

The Falkirk Wheel sits 50 minutes west of Edinburgh and 35 minutes northeast of Glasgow in central Scotland. This innovative feat of engineering is the only rotating boat lift of its kind in the world and connects the Forth and Clyde canal with the Union canal. It opened to much fanfare in 2002 as it was the first time the canals could be joined since the 1930s. Both canals used to be connected by a series of locks but by the 1930s they had fallen into disrepair and the land was later built upon. Designing and constructing the Falkirk Wheel was no easy task as the Union Canal is higher than the aqueduct. Therefore, boats have to pass through two locks to descend from the canal and enter onto a 35 metre diameter rotational wheel boat lift shaped like a double-headed axe. The boats are then transported from one canal to the other in a gondola on a journey which uses limited power and takes around 5 minutes. Visitors can experience how the Falkirk Wheel works for themselves by embarking on an educational boat trip and the centre nearby also boasts an activity zone, cycling, woodland walks and water zorbing, making it a superb day out for all ages.

Learn about the Industrial Revolution at The Brunel Museum, London

The Brunel name is synonymous with the British Industrial Revolution and today, their achievements are celebrated at The Brunel Museum in London. Their earliest project, the Thames Tunnel was the first to be built under a river anywhere in the world and during construction, which began in 1825, work was halted several times when the river burst in. The tunnel was originally built so people could walk from Rotherhithe to Wapping in London and on completion, to convince the public it was safe, Isambard Kingdom Brunel threw a lavish banquet inside. The Thames Tunnel opened in 1843 and in 1865 it was taken over by East London Railway and is still operational today. You can learn more about the Brunel family’s work on the Thames Tunnel, how they constructed the world’s first modern ocean liner and more in this fascinating London museum. With heritage walks, concerts, boat trips and guided tours on offer throughout the year, there’s much to see and do in and around the Brunel Museum and if you still want to learn more about this innovative family, you can also visit their ship, the SS Brunel, moored a few hours away at Bristol Docks!

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