Natural History Museum Tring

Tucked away on a little street in the small village of Tring in Hertfordshire, is an amazingly atmospheric collection of galleries containing every type of stuffed animal that you can imagine. Visitors will wander through Victorian galleries, coming face to face with giant polar bears, huge lions, weird fish, birds in flight, sea creatures, giant tortoises, and much more. The sense of adventure is heightened by the maze-like galleries, the Victorian wooden stairs and the old fashioned display cabinets.

Gallery 1 contains birds, large carnivores and primates. This is a very exciting way to start the visit, with a huge polar bear at the very entrance to the first gallery. Lions and gorillas stand majestically next to elephants as excited children look and point through the glass.

Gallery 2 contains temporary exhibitions that change 3 times a year.

 Gallery 3  houses crocodiles, crustaceans, fish, insects, large mammals and marine invertebrates. This is the gallery that makes me shudder, both with horror and excitement. A huge tiger shark hangs from the ceiling and fantastic marine animals hang from the walls. The gallery also contains drawer of creepy crawlies that you can slide out and view. This is my favourite gallery, both in terms of design and content as it is located on a mezzaine gallery and has a very traditional and academic feel. Walking around the wooden mezzanine gallery is always a real thrill as you can look down onto the top of huge exhibits hanging from the ceiling, as well as sliding open the wooden drawers to look at the more tiny and bizarre exhibits such as the Mexican flea collection. With the magnifying glass provided, you can see that the tiny fleas are actually dressed in Mexican costume!

I have never found Galleries 4 and 5 very exciting. Containing hooved animals such as zebras antelope, cattle, deer, goats, hippopotamuses, pigs and sheep, patience is usually running thin at this stage, and children and adults alike tend to pass through this gallery full of rather ordinary looking animals. The most notable exhibit for me was the tapir and the extinct quagga  It is always more exciting to see an animal that has now become extinct – the quagga died in Amsterdam in 1883.

Gallery 6 contains amphibians, bats, British mammals, domestic dogs, flightless birds, reptiles and small mammals. This gallery is always more popular than the hooved galleries, containing some lovely looking dogs as well as more unusual animals such as the duck-billed platypus.

If you ask for a Gallery Trail when you go in, the staff will give children an activity sheet and a pencil which makes the trip even more fun. Running around spotting animals and ticking them off the list is a good way of engaging their interest, and is completely safe. 

The museum used to be called the Walter Rothschild Museum. Lord Rothschild  was born in 1868 into an international financial dynasty and was passionate about natural history and wanted to open a museum from a very young age. His passion for natural history combined with his personal fortune enabled him to amass one of the largest and most impressive collections in the world. His enthusiasm and love of the museum is what still makes is special today. The Rothschild Room tries to give visitors a sense of this history; set out like a Victorian office, it recreates the surroundings the Museum’s original curators, and Lord Rothschild himself, may have worked in. This gives visitors a real sense of the history of the building and the passionate man that created the collection.

Education and research are an important part of this museum. Educational workshops and activity days are run very regularly, and certain restricted access areas of the museum are valued highly by researchers and academics. The  Discovery Room provides a bit of Science Museum type education for kids, with mystery boxes containing fossils and sponges, and lots of books and games around natural history.

In addition to the galleries, there is a nice selection of places to eat, ranging from a deli café with lots of luxurious and tasty options, to a traditional cafe, serving cakes, tea and coffee. There is also a newly opened restaurant which has beautiful surroundings. The usual museum shop has a selection of memorabilia.

Entry to the museum is free.

Natural History Museum at Tring
The Walter Rothschild building
Akeman Street
HP23 6AP
Tel +44 (0)20 7942 6171