From deadly gardens and underground cult temples to a land of cats
You don’t have to leave Blighty for the weird and wonderful.
We are a deliciously eccentric island, as illustrated by our pick of the 10 most bizarre and remarkable UK attractions you can visit.
From deadly gardens, mannequin graveyards and mysterious, underground cult temples to magical wells, cress festivals, worm-charming championships and a kingdom of cats. Read on for premium, peculiar pilgrimages
The World’s Most Deadly Garden
Take a trip to the world’s most dangerous garden, filled exclusively with more than 100 toxic, intoxicating and narcotic plants.
The boundaries of The Alnwick Poison Garden are kept behind black iron gates, emblazoned with skulls and crossbones and only open for carefully guided tours.
Visitors are strictly prohibited from smelling, touching, or tasting any plants, although people occasionally faint from inhaling toxic fumes while walking in the garden. One cyanide-filled tree can kill just by trimming it. Gardeners wear full hazmat suits for some of the work and the most deadly plants are imprisoned within giant cages.
Foragers can also learn what not to pick, if you want to keep your green fingers above the ground.
The Alwick Poison Garden, Open every day from 10am - 5pm. Adults from £15. Children go free.
Fancy a trip to an impossibly creepy, mannequin graveyard, being eyeballed by more than 15,000 dummies?
Lincolnshire’s Mannakin features a 20 foot mountain made from body parts and the most unusual souvenirs - for £50, visitors can fill their car trunk with limbs and heads in the “drive through body part heist."
Unsurprisingly, it is also a popular music video and horror film location and they host special Halloween events, which have seen the very brave attempting to stay the night in the graveyard.
Mannakin, Brant Road, Fulbeck Lowfields, Grantham, Lincolnshire, NG32 3JD.
The Land of Cats
It might be called the Isle of Man, but six acres of it are ruled entirely by cats and it's purr-fect if you’re feline like a dramatic change of scenery.
The Mann Cat Sanctuary was created in 1996 to provide a safe and peaceful haven for unwanted, disabled and traumatised cats.
The army of cats roam freely and the feral community even has a luxury home within the grounds.
Visitors are welcome to hang our with the cats every Sunday to Wednesday in the summer between 2 and 5pm.
Entry is free… although visitors are expected to bring six packs of Whiskas for the cats' tea.
The Mann Cat Sanctuary, Main Road, Santon, Isle of Man, IM4 1EE
Mother Shipton’s Cave
No quirky UK attraction list would be complete without England’s oldest tourist attraction.
This ancient, Knaresborough cave was once home to the famous prophetess, Mother Shipton. Her witchcraft was thought to be responsible for the astonishing, Petrifying Well, which can turn objects to stone.
The well was opened to paying visitors in 1630, when they believed the water had magical healing properties.
Now, visitors can leave objects in the well’s gushing water and watch them turn to stone, as if by magic - Jonathan Ross recently left his pants there to become rock undies.
The museum sells “stone” teddies and petrified curiosities are on show, including a shoe left by Queen Mary in 1923.
According to legend, Mother Shipton was born in the cave during a violent thunderstorm and she gained her witchy reputation from predicting the Great Fire of London and Spanish Armada defeat.
She probably didn’t forsee Wossy’s petrified Y-Fronts, though.
Mother Shipton's Cave, Prophecy Lodge, High Bridge, Knaresborough, North Yorkshire, HG5 8DD. Tickets from rom £33 per car or £12 per pedestrian.
Underground Roman Temple for Mithras Cult
A secret Roman temple, created nearly 200 years after the founding of London for the mysterious cult of Mithras and hidden beneath the City of London? We’re in. This extraordinary, immersive experience in London Mithraeum is staggeringly FREE. It was discovered during a building’s construction in 1954 and now sits beneath the Bloomberg London building. The multi-sensory experience takes you seven metres below the city streets, where the river Walbrook once flowed, to where the Roman’s cult god, Mithras the bull slayer was once worshipped by cult followers shrouded in a veil of secrecy. And it houses Britain’s largest and earliest collection of its kind, including the first known reference to London, Roman waxed writing tablets and the earliest hand-written document in Britain. London Mithraeum 12 Walbrook, London EC4N 8AA
God’s Own Junkyard
Inside an unassuming, Walthamstow warehouse, you’ll find this neon wonderland, fizzing and burning with the glow of the world’s biggest neon sign collection. More than four decades ago, late owner, Chris Bracey started making signs for Soho strip clubs and his incredible talents led him to create props for directors including Stanley Kubrick and Tim Burton, as well as some of the globe’s most iconic signs. This Aladdin’s cave of more than 1,000 neon lights is a museum to his life and the history of neon art, as well as an art gallery - with pieces you can buy or rent - and is home to The Rolling Scones cafe and bar. God's Own Junkyard, Unit 12, Ravenswood Industrial Estate, Shernhall St, London E17 9HQ
A Watercress-Worshipping Festival
This deliciously eccentric, annual event celebrates the start of the UK watercress season and features a watercress king and queen throwing free bunches of watercress to the crowd, The Watercress Line steam train and the World Watercress Eating Championships.
Arlesford Watercress Festival also hosts cress-centric cookery demos - this year's includes one from Mark Hix - and more than 100 craft and food stalls, live music and kids’ entertainers. Alresford Watercress Festival, West St, Alresford SO24 9AB. 21 May 2023. 10am - 4pm. Free.
World Worm Charming Championships
That’s not a euphemism for a speed-dating event… although “charming, grunting and fiddling” are the most popular ways to attract earthworms in this annual competiotion.
Each year in Cheshire, people of all ages compete to try and extract as many worms from the soil as possible. Each participant gets a three-metre square plot of land.
And the record to beat is 567 charmed worms in 2009. Competitors (and it draws a big crowd each year) use a variety of techniques, from vibrating the ground to playing music. But digging is against the rules. Prizes are awarded for the single heaviest specimen and the largest quantity of worms. Afterwards, the worms are released back into the wild.
World Worm Charming Championships, Willaston County Primary School in Willaston, Cheshire.
Llama and Alpaca Treks Across the Lake District
You can take friendly llamas and alpacas with you on a trek across the Lake District.
Your furry pals will walk with you and guide you around the beautiful, boulder-strewn World Heritage Site. You can take part in feeding time, pose for selfies and admire summits, looking down over vast moors, lush parklands and through charming woodlands and trails.
Alpacaly Ever After, Numerous locations.Prices from £50 per llama per adult and £20 oer accompanying child (10-15 yrs)
Incredible Hindu Temple… in Neasden
You are many moons away from the well-trodden tourist track in these northwest London ‘burbs. But make the trek and you will be rewarded by the jaw-dropping sight of Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, a 70 feet high, Hindu Temple carved by 650 artisans from 8,000 tonnes of Indian and Italian marble and Bulgarian limestone. This magnificent mandir is the largest Hindu temple outside India and will make it impossible to believe you are in what was one nicknamed ”the loneliest village in London.” There are free guided or audio tours, you can watch the Arati Puja ritual or Abhishek worship and stroll the formal gardens. Parking is also free. Remember to check the modest dress code requirements and remove your shoes before entering. Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Pramukh Swami Road, Neasden, London NW10 8HW. Free.