Natural History Museum at Tring
The Walter Rothschild building Akeman Street Tring Herts HP23 6AP
Your degree of enthusiasm for this Hertfordshire outpost of the Natural History Museum will depend largely on how much you like stuffed animals. If you do, you'll be in heaven: Tring houses one of the world's finest collections, amassed in the 19th century by Lionel Walter Rothschild and gifted to the nation in 1937. On arrival you're greeted by a wryly smiling polar bear, and from there the taxidermy extends to emperor penguins, mandrills, gorillas, zebras (of which Rothschild was particularly fond) and a tiger shark. Spread over six galleries in a gabled Victorian mansion, it's not just big beasts either: there are cabinets of butterflies and creepy-crawlies, fleas dressed up as Mexican dancers (don't ask), extinct species including the South African quagga – and a rather eerie collection of domestic dogs. There's also a globally important bird collection, and the office-like Rothschild room, which gives a good sense of the banker-zoologist's working methods. Entry to the museum is free, making it a hugely popular family excursion. There's a hands-on discovery centre, Zebra café and well-stocked shop too.