Unusual museums to muse on

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BIRCHINGTON The Powell-Cotton Museum

Celebrates the life of Powell-Cotton (1866- 1940), the Victorian naturalist and explorer who, at the age of eight, began collecting African and Asian animals. More than 500 animals are preserved in a re- creation of their natural habitat. Quex House and Gardens Birchington, Kent (0843 42168)

GLASGOW Haggs Castle Museum

Restored 16th-century castle with a reconstructed Victorian nursery, 16th-century kitchen and an emphasis on learning-by-doing for children. Opportunities to try butter- and cheese-making. Christmas events begin 24 December; must book. St Andrews Drive (041-427 2725)

HEREFORD The Cider Museum and King Offa Distillery

Displays illustrate cider-making through the ages, including harvesting, milling and pressing. Exhibits include a 300-year-old beam press from Normandy, and a section warning of the effects of overindulgence. Visitors can view the Herefordshire Farm Cider House and the Champagne Cider Cellars. 21 Ryelands Road (0432 354207)

KESWICK Cumberland Pencil Museum

Traces history of the pencil from discovery of graphite in the 1550s to present manufacturing methods. Includes a video of pencil production in the Keswick factory, and 'the world's longest pencil' (7ft). Keswick, Cumbria (0768 772116)

LONDON Tea and Coffee Museum

First of its kind in Britain. More than 1,000 teapots on display, with coffee grinders and other drinks machines, a variety of teabags, tea cosies, caddies, photographs, and maps and drawings that chart the history of tea-and coffee-drinking over the past 400 years. Also features a tearoom in which visitors can sample 10 varieties. Current exhibition runs until 8 January. Maguire Street, SE1 (071-378 0222)

LONDON The Old Operating Theatre, Museum and Herb Garret

Recalls the 19th century when surgery was performed without anaesthetics. Includes displays of surgical instruments and pathological specimens. 9a St Thomas Street SE1 (071-955 4791)


Tells story of silk production in Macclesfield. The display is housed in the Heritage Centre, built as a Sunday school for the industry's child labourers. Roe Street, Macclesfield, Cheshire (0625 613210)

MORPETH Chantry Bagpipe Museum

Focuses on the history and development of Northumbrian small pipes and their music, bringing the sounds to life through personal headphones. Bridge Street, Morpeth, Northumberland (0670 519466)

MUCH HADHAM Forge Museum

Restored blacksmith's forge, with Victorian cottage garden. Blacksmiths and farriers give demonstrations. Much Hadham, Hertfordshire (0279 843301)

NOTTINGHAM The Tales of Robin Hood

'The world's greatest medieval adventure' takes visitors back to 13th-century Nottingham through audio-visual shows. Children can do battle with the evil Sheriff, escape on a magical ride and feast under the greenwood tree. 30-38 Maid Marian Way (0602 483284)

READING Douglas Electric Clocks

Features 70 pre-1930 battery-driven electric clocks, and a grandfather clock that draws its power from the ground. Entrance by appointment; donations to Cancer Research. Details from James D Brown (0734 345192)

RIBCHESTER Museum of Childhood

Eight rooms containing more than 50 doll's houses and 250,000 exhibits. Plus teddy bears, including those by Steiff, Canterbury, Merrythought, Bing and Nisbet, and Tom Thumb Memorabilia. Church Street (opposite The Black Bull pub), Ribchester, Lancashire (0254 878520)

SOUTHPORT British Lawnmower Museum

More than 100 exhibits including a 2in-high lawnmower, a hand-powered rotary lawnmower, and models from Rolls-Royce, Royal Enfield and Hawker Siddeley. Most have been rescued by the former lawnmower racing champion Brian Radam, curator of the museum. 106-114 Shakespeare Street, Southport, Lancashire (0704 535369)

STRATFORD Doll and Toy Museum

Margarette Clift's collection of antique dolls and toys includes lead farm animals, toy cars, a three-storey furnished doll's house; Victorian dolls and other toys dating from 1880, and lots of teddies. Features special floor-height cabinets for children. 30 Henley Street, Stratford-upon-Avon (0789-292485)