The Cavern Club
Back in February 1961, the first incarnation of the Beatles played their first ever gig at a sweaty jazz club in Liverpool’s city centre. The band would go on to make nearly 300 appearances at the venue, cementing its place in music history. Today’s Cavern Club is actually a replica, located across the street from the original, but remains a mecca for Fab Four fans.
10 Mathew St, Liverpool, L2 6RE
Dulwich Picture Gallery
When Sir Francis Bourgeois bequeathed his collection of old masters for “public inspection” after his death in 1811, his friend Sir John Soane set to work designing this, England’s first purpose-built picture gallery. Bourgeois himself is buried on site in a mausoleum.
Gallery Road, Dulwich, London, SE21 7AD
Yorkshire Sculpture Park
Spread across 200 hectares of the Bretton estate in West Yorkshire, this open-air gallery was the first of its kind in the UK. Opened in 1977 as a public annex to Bretton Hall college – then an art and teacher training institute – the site was from the outset dedicated to providing artists with an open-air space to install contemporary sculptural work. Yorkshire Sculpture Park’s prestigious permanent collection includes works by Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth, which sit alongside limited exhibits by young and emerging artists such as Thomas J Price, and international luminaries such as Joana Vasconcelos. One thing you surely won’t miss? Damien Hirst’s 10-metre tall The Virgin Mother, one of four of the artist’s outlandish, large-scale sculptures on display across the site until April 2022.
West Bretton, West Yorkshire, WF4 4LG
Bekonscot Model Village
More than 200 buildings, 3,000 inhabitants and 1,000 animals – plus cable cars, cricket greens and a mini Hampton Court maze – make up the seven tiny towns at Bekonscot, all of them delightfully stuck in a 1930s timewarp. The world’s first model village, Bekonscot was opened in 1929 by creator Robert Callingham. Bekonscot has been added to and augmented significantly over the years, but it has lost none of its original charm – providing a delightful panorama of English village life.
Warwick Road, Beaconsfield, HP9 2PL
Not only the first public museum in the UK but the oldest university museum in the world, Oxford’s Ashmolean started life in 1683 as a single room of antiquarian objects and curiosities donated to the University of Oxford by the polymath Elias Ashmole. It has expanded vastly in the more than three centuries since it first opened its doors and is home to a collection that is breathtaking in its historical scope – holding objects from as far back as 8,000BC through to Renaissance masterpieces and artworks by 20th-century giants such as Picasso and Lucian Freud. Completed in 1845, the present Ashmolean building has had two major new galleries – one focusing on Egypt and Nubia, the other on 19th-century art – added over the past decade.
Beaumont Street, Oxford, OX1 2PH
Scotland’s first free public lending library opened all the way back in 1680 in rural Perthshire. Today, visitors can browse books that
date back as early as the 15th century in a beautiful setting next to the River Earn. Take a moment to marvel at some of the earliest entries in the borrowers’ register; with the names of farmers, blacksmiths and scholars among them reflecting every strata of 17th-century Scottish society. A hidden gem for any bibliophile.
Crieff, Perthshire, PH7 3RF
The East Anglian Railway Museum
It might not seem the most rock‘n’roll of venues, but it was in a converted goods shed in this steam railway museum in 1989 that Blur played their first ever gig – when they were known as Seymour. The band returned to play a concert here in 2009, and a special plaque now marks the spot where one of the two titanic bands of Britpop was born.
Station Road, Wakes Colne, Colchester, CO6 2DS
Richard Booth’s Bookshop
Hay-on-Wye, famous for its literary festival, is known for being the world’s first book town. The man who started it all was Richard Booth, who first began selling books there in 1961. Booth passed away in 2019, but this treasure of a shop still bears
44 Lion Street, Hay-on-Wye, Hereford, HR3 5AA
St Andrews Links
Like to spoil a good walk with a game of golf? The Old Course at St Andrews is the oldest in the world and considered the home of the sport by millions of fans. It was also the first to introduce the 18-hole game in 1764.
West Sands Road, St Andrews, KY16 9XL
Dundee has the honour of being the first (and so far only) city in the UK to be awarded the title of Unesco city of design. In 2018, it also became the home of Scotland’s first design museum – the only other branch of the V&A outside of London.
1 Riverside Esplanade, Dundee, DD1 4EZ
Bekonscot Model Village, Dulwich Picture Gallery and the Yorkshire Sculpture Park
When it scooped the prestigious title of World’s Leading Tourist Attraction in 2016, this monument to Belfast’s maritime heritage became the first site in Ireland to do so. Here, you can explore the history of the world’s most famous ship in the city in which it was designed, built and launched.
1 Olympic Way, Queen’s Road, Belfast, BT3 9EP
The UK’s first zoo, which opened to the public in 1847, is also home to the world’s first reptile house, the first ever public aquarium and the first insect house. And it has lost none of its pioneering spirit either – being behind the creation of the world’s first ever plant-powered camera in October 2019.
Outer Circle, London, NW1 4RY
Trampolines are nothing new. Putting them in a slate cavern is, though. This attraction – the first of its kind in the world – lets visitors bounce about in an enormous underground playground twice the size of St Paul’s Cathedral.
Zip World Slate Caverns, Blaenau Ffestiniog, LL41 3NB
Northern Ireland is full of Game of Thrones locations, but this 630-hectare (1,560-acre) park appeared in the first episode – and was used as a location throughout. Walking tours point out specific sites, such as the spot where Ned Stark stumbled upon a dead stag and the Wilding Pit, where the Night’s Watch made one of the show’s most famously grisly discoveries.
Bryansford Road, Newcastle, BT33 0PR
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