The United Kingdom’s music scene is nothing short of legendary, so it’s no surprise that its music venues are an attraction in themselves. But where are the quirkiest places to plug into the local music scene? We’ve rounded up the weirdest and most wonderful live music destinations, from boutique jazz boats in the heart of London to 1920s shacks in the Scottish Highlands. Here's our pick of the best quirky music venues in the UK.
1. Tamesis, London
The jazz nights on board the Tamesis barge are a fine way to catch some great live music while drinking in London’s stunning skyline. Floating Jazz Club tickets (£19) include a glass of fizz on arrival and a line up of some of the best up-and-coming UK bands to boogie to under the festoon lights.
Address: Albert Embankment, Lambeth, SE1 7TP
2. Thekla, Bristol
Loud, grungy and the prime place to spot the UK’s rising stars, this 1958 German cargo ship is the anchor of Bristol’s buzzing music scene. Roni Size, Portishead and Massive Attack have all climbed aboard the Thekla. Nowadays you’ll find everything from indie to punk – and lots of cider.
Address: The Grove, East Mud Dock, Bristol, BS1 4RB
Read more: Weekend getaway: music in Manchester
3. The Bombed Out Church, Liverpool
Completed in 1842, St Luke’s Church in Liverpool was bombed during the Blitz in 1941. The roof was obliterated, but the walls were preserved. Now the venue functions as a memorial space, and an off-beat music, arts and community centre. Gigs give you a true taste of local vibes, from drumming circles to choirs.
Address: Leece St, Liverpool, L1 2TR
4. The Vaults, London
Hidden beneath the train tracks of London’s Waterloo Station, The Vaults is a dimly-lit maze of railway arches that host boundary-pushing performances, from theatre to live music. What’s more, it’s accessed through the Leake Street Graffiti Tunnel – a stretch of vibrant street art founded by the elusive spray-can-wielder, Banksy.
Address: Leake Street, London, SE1 7NN
5. St Mary’s, Argyll
Primarily a boutique recording studio, this deconsecrated church is nestled deep in the wilds of Scotland’s West Highlands, and occasionally welcomes visitors for intimate gigs. The husband and wife team tend to host folksy, acoustic bands, suiting the idyllic backdrop of lochs and mountains.
Address: Fasnacloich, Argyll, Scotland, PA38 4BJ
6. Minack Theatre
Carved into a rocky outcrop overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, Minack Theatre is one of Cornwall’s best known venues to watch a play, but it also hosts gigs throughout the month of May. Concerts are alfresco so be sure to dress accordingly, but with views like this a bit of drizzle won’t dampen the performance.
Address: The Minack Theatre, Porthcurno, Penzance, TR19 6JU
7. The Band Room, Low Mill, North Yorkshire
People travel from across the world to see gigs in this picture-perfect Yorkshire hut. The wood-panelled Band Room was originally built as a brass band practice room in the 1920s, and aside from new management and a well curated line-up of bands, little has changed since then. There’s still no bar so don’t forget to bring your own drinks, and enjoy chatting with others who made the journey across the North York Moors.
Address: Low Mill, Farndale, Kirkbymoorside, North Yorkshire, YO62 7UY
8. Wilton’s Music Hall, London
This Grade II–listed building is bursting with history – not surprising considering it claims to be the oldest grand music hall in the world. Formerly an ale house (1690), Wilton's became a music venue in the 1860s, when it was decorated with ornate mirrors, chandeliers and intricate paintwork. Sadly it fell into disrepair, but thanks to restoration in the '60s many of the original features remain. It’s a decadent space to catch the next big thing.
Address: 1 Graces Alley, London, E1 8JB