"Scattered across the globe are some weird and wonderful museums. The US has the Cockroach Hall of Fame, Italy has the Pasta Museum and Greece boasts a museum containing more than 400 worry beads (‘komboloi’)."
Scattered across the globe are some weird and wonderful museums. The US has the Cockroach Hall of Fame, Italy has the Pasta Museum and Greece boasts a museum containing more than 400 worry beads ('komboloi'). Wherever you go, you can always track down a gallery of oddities. 'One man's rubbish is another man's relic,' says Michelle Lovric, who recently wrote a guide to weird museums, called Cowgirls, Cockroaches and Celebrity Lingerie. 'No subject, it seems, is too small or strange to have a whole museum devoted to it.'
The First TransPennine Express network is no different. Here's our pick of the region's most unusual museums and galleries…
At 14, Edward Chambré Hardman was winning photographic awards; in 1923, aged just 25, he set up a 'celebrity' portrait studio in Liverpool. When Hardman died in 1988, at the age of 90, he left his entire life's work in an elegant Georgian house in Rodney Street, Liverpool, now known as Mr Hardman's Photographic Studio. Visit this charming museum and gallery and you'll see the studio where his photos were taken, the darkroom where he developed them and his living quarters.
If words are your thing, there's The Writers' Museum in Edinburgh. This 17th-century house holds a collection of portraits, manuscripts and personal knick-knacks relating to Scotland's great literary figures - including Robert Burns and Robert Louis Stevenson.
In York, the new Quilt Museum and Gallery is far more exciting than it sounds.
A changing series of stunning exhibition pieces, both vintage and contemporary, illustrates the skill and imagination involved in quilting and textile art. The building is special, too: a medieval guildhall with a colourful past.
Save Your Soul
Religion has left its mark on many British cities and Glasgow is just one of them. In an effort to promote religious harmony between different faiths, St Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art features displays and installations relating to the world's six main religions. While you're there, take time to visit Britain's first permanent Zen garden nearby.
In Manchester, the Jewish Museum is also worth a visit. Located in a beautiful Grade II-listed Moorish-style synagogue, the museum brings to life the Jewish religion, its history and its culture, with a combination of permanent collections and changing exhibitions.
Finally, why not worship at a very different altar in Preston, home of the National Football Museum. Find out how the game was invented and gaze upon the 1966 World Cup Final ball. And if you visit before 8 March, you can reminisce about your own childhood goals with the Jumpers for Goalposts exhibition.
War and Peace
If you want to feel thankful not to have lived in war-torn Britain, take a tour around the Stockport Air Raid Shelters. As you shuffle through the red sandstone tunnels, you'll hear the sounds of the 1940s - from the songs and stories to the wails of the bombs. You can even take a peek at the 16-seater toilets!
Doncaster also played a key role in both World Wars, so it's only fitting that the city should play host to AeroVenture, an aircraft museum on the former site of RAF Doncaster. If you love all things airborne, this is the place for you.
Magic and Medicine
Would-be doctors everywhere can let their imagination run riot at the Thackray Museum in Leeds. Medicine past, present and future is examined here and, with lots of interactive exhibits, the museum always gets a clean bill of health. Catalyst, in Widnes, is another favourite among science-lovers: this exciting museum and discovery centre tells the story of the chemical industry. Find out how chemistry has transformed our lives, and dabble with colourful crystals and solar power.
Talking of crystals… did you know that salt has been produced in Cheshire for 2,000 years? You'll learn this fact and many more at the Salt Museum in Northwich, which celebrates the many uses of salt through the ages - some 14,000, according to the museum.
Finally, two of the most eccentric museums of the lot. Lawnmower fans will be bowled over by the British Lawnmower Museum in Southport: a collection of quirky exhibits, plus spare parts, vintage machines and mowers owned by the rich and famous, including Prince Charles, Brian May of Queen and Alan Titchmarsh.
Over in the pretty town of Knutsford, you'll find the Penny Farthing Bicycle Collection displayed at the Courtyard Coffee House. This perilous-looking bicycle was the height of fashion in the late 1800s, but it's hard to imagine what made them so popular. If you happen to have a penny farthing of your own, take it along and enjoy a free cup of tea!
For more information:
Tel: 01302 761616,
Edinburgh: The Writers' Museum,
Tel: 0131 529 4901,
Glasgow: St Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art,
Tel: 0141 276 1625,
Knutsford, Cheshire: Penny Farthing Bicycle Collection (at the Courtyard Coffee House),
Tel: 01565 653974
Leeds: Thackray Museum,
Tel: 0113 244 4343,
Liverpool: Mr Hardman's Photographic Studio,
Tel: 0151 709 6261,
Manchester: Jewish Museum,
Tel: 0161 834 9879,
Tel: 01606 271640,
Preston: National Football Museum,
Tel: 01772 908442,
Southport: Lawnmower Museum,
Tel: 01704 501336,
Stockport: Air Raid Shelters,
Tel: 0161 474 1940,
Widnes, Cheshire: Catalyst,
Tel: 0151 420 1121,
York: Quilt Museum and Gallery,
Tel: 01904 613242,