Exhibitions can be truly inspiring, but what about the buildings themselves? In the UK there’s a great variety of museums and galleries to explore, and many of them are spectacular pieces of art in their own right. 

From the quirky family home of a former Tate Gallery curator in Cambridge to a stunning concrete structure in Yorkshire, these nine UK galleries and museums are as beautiful as the exhibitions inside them.   

The concrete, conch-shaped Radić Pavilion at Hauser & Wirth Somerset sits amidst a colourful garden of wildflowers.
The Radić Pavilion, along with the main gallery at at Hauser & Wirth Somerset, sits amidst colourful wildflowers © Jason Ingram / Hauser & Wirth

Hauser & Wirth Somerset, Bruton 

The humble county of Somerset is up there with the best of them according to Hauser & Wirth, the multinational art moguls with posts in New York, London and Los Angeles. Surrounded by wildflowers and fields, this converted barn maintains its higgledy-piggledy layout and features an on-site restaurant, making for a wholesome day out. 

An interior shot of Kettle's Yard, Cambridge. Stairs lead up to a white-walled room furnished like a regular house, but the walls are lined with works from Jim Ede's collection.
Kettle's Yard is a unique gallery in the restored home of former Tate Gallery curator Jim Ede © Paul Allitt

Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge 

After a huge two-year refurb completed in 2018, Kettle’s Yard has never looked better. It was originally the home of Jim Ede (1895–1990), a former curator at the Tate Gallery, London. Now the Cambridge gallery offers cosy living spaces lined with Ede’s impressive personal collection, alongside changing exhibitions of contemporary work. 

A shot of the minimalist, block-like concrete structure that is The Hepworth Wakefield; trees soften the stark exterior and a glass-like river tumbles down a gentle slope alongside the gallery.
The Hepworth Wakefield is named for renowned British sculptor Barbara Hepworth © Hutton Crow

The Hepworth Wakefield, Yorkshire 

At the opposite end of the architecture scale, this stunning £35-million structure in Yorkshire is a vision in clean lines, angles and concrete. Launched in 2011, the award-winning gallery gets its name from Barbara Hepworth, the Wakefield-born sculptor. What’s more, The Hepworth Wakefield is just a 15-minute drive to Yorkshire Sculpture Park – another gem in Yorkshire’s arty crown. 

The Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester; two people walk along a path in landscaped gardens towards the red-brick-and-glass building housing the gallery's cafe.
It's worth stopping by Manchester's Whitworth Gallery just to enjoy the views from its glass-walled cafe © Alan Williams / Whitworth Art Gallery

Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester

Don’t be fooled by the Victorian red-brick facade of Whitworth Art Gallery: inside it’s all streamlined modern interiors. The Manchester gallery benefited from a £15-million redevelopment which blurred the lines between exterior and interior; its hero piece is a glass-walled cafe which stretches into the park and seems to levitate among the trees. 

View looking down from a mezzanine level in a room in Gallery at Home, Usk. Black and white landscapes are hung on the monochrome walls while a minimalist dining table and chairs sits in the centre of the room.
A former cow shed is now Gallery at Home in Usk, Wales. © Gallery at Home

Gallery at Home, Usk

On a mission to be stylish yet accessible, Gallery at Home is a welcoming, minimal space that could be on the cover of a lifestyle magazine. Based in Usk, the converted cow shed offers exhibitions by artists from around the world, and glorious views over the Welsh mountains. 

The exterior of the traditional stone watermill building in Aberfeldy, Perthshire. It has a pyramid-shaped turret and lattice windows.
A former watermill in the Perthshire town of Aberfeldy now displays local artworks and ceramics © The Watermill

The Watermill, Aberfeldy

The big cities of Scotland have some stellar museums and galleries, but it’s worth seeking out the wee town of Aberfeldy for this converted water-powered mill, which dates back to 1825. Pass the log-burning stove in the ground floor cafe, browse travel books on the second floor and then peruse the local artwork and ceramics upstairs. 

A narrow, high-ceilinged room at Sir John Soane's Museum in London. A sarcophagus in a glass case sits in the middle of the room, which is lined with plaster busts, reliefs and casts.
Sir John Soane's Museum in London is a showcase of British eccentricity © Gareth Gardner

Sir John Soane’s Museum, London

Rifle through an exquisite collection of curios – from Egyptian artefacts to architectural models – in the sprawling Sir John Soane’s Museum, the former home of architect Sir John Soane (1753–1837). The labyrinthine building is made up of three houses, one of which dates back to the 17th century. It’s a wonderful example of British eccentricity, with narrow hallways and winding stairways punctuated with grand domed ceilings. 

The minimalist interior of a vast, long room at Salts Mill in Saltire; the room has floor-to-ceiling arched windows running each side and is filled with tables displaying artworks, books and other items.
Alongside its gallery space with rotating exhibitions, Salts Mill is also home to the largest collection of works by Hockney © Salts Mill

Salts Mill, Saltaire 

Another beautiful building repurposed, Salts Mill is based in a former textile mill in Saltaire, a Victorian model village and Unesco World Heritage Site in West Yorkshire. Artist David Hockney was born nearby, and the old mill is now home to his largest permanent collection, as well a gallery space with changing shows. Finish the day in the excellent espresso bar, where cups are branded with Hockney’s doodles of his beloved sausage dogs. 

The unassuming exterior of the Francis Gallery, Bath, located in a traditional sandstone building.
Bath's Francis Gallery highlights the work of emerging European artists © Rory Gardiner

Francis Gallery, Bath

Korean aesthetics meet the elegance of Bath’s Georgian architecture in the Francis Gallery. It’s the first bricks-and-mortar project by Rosa Park, editor of Cereal magazine, and showcases the work of emerging European artists. The pared-back space is filled – sparingly – with meticulously-curated exhibitions.  

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