Days Out: Royal Armouries Museum, Leeds
Sunday 07 May 2006
Rising like a vast monolith on the regenerated Leeds canal-side, the Royal Armouries Museum looks like a modern-day fort, complete with keep and watchtower. The museum is celebrating its birthday (it moved from the Tower of London 10 years ago) with a year-long festival of events and exhibitions. The national collection of arms and armour is brought to life with well laid-out and theatrically lit material - the largest collection of its kind. Actors in costume portray events from history, with archers, jousters and riding displays. Outdoor events take place next door in the Tiltyard, which has tiered seating. In the Craft Court you can see people maintaining guns and scabbards from the collection.
Activities run throughout the year, such as the CraftQuest sessions where kids make swords and shields. Forthcoming exhibitions include Alex Rider, Stormbreaker, a look at spy-world fact and fiction based on the 14-year-old hero of a book by Anthony Horowitz, about to be released as a film. This will include gadgets used in real-life espionage. Birthday parties and sleepovers in the galleries are also possible.
There are five themed galleries: War, Tournament, Oriental, Hunting and Self-Defence. Many of the displays are interactive: you can find out what it is like to hold a 15th-century poleaxe or a powder-firing musket. There is something for all the family at half-term (27 May-4 June). An eight-day exhibition called Piece of the Action has live performances, including chariot racing, gladiator contests and jousting. The Impact exhibition examines the effects of gun and knife crime in modern Leeds with video footage, displays and testimony from victims. It looks at rising gun crime in the UK and debates what should be done.
The Nelson Bistro on the ground floor serves meals, snacks and drinks. Two smaller cafés on the second and fourth floors serve snacks. There is a picnic area on the second floor.
Wheelchair users can gain access to everything except the Hall of Steel. Wheelchairs are also available to borrow.
Open daily 10am-5pm, except Christmas Eve and Day. Entry is free, but some activities carry a charge.
How to get there
The Royal Armouries Museum, Armouries Drive (0870 034 4344; royalarmouries. org) is off the A61 near Leeds centre. A car park is 100m from the entrance; the train station is a 15-minute walk.
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