What are the top spots of interest in Swindon? Where shall I take my kids this Saturday afternoon? Questions that have eluded mankind since the dawn of civilization. Well, with the assistance of threebestrated.com, a website that compares attractions to a rigorous fifty-point standard, we would like to finally provide some concrete answers. So, without further preamble, here are the TOP THREE places to visit in Swindon right now!
The Steam Museum
Undoubtedly a worthy frontrunner on this list, the Steam Museum is a much-cherished delight in Swindon’s old industrial heart. Located in a gorgeously preserved Grade 2 listed building next to the McArthurGlen Designer Outlet, the Steam experience takes visitors back in time to a period where the railways were the king of British enterprise, where visionary industrialist Isambard Kingdom Brunel was busy redesigning the economy and transport of the United Kingdom for the modern era. The building that houses Steam was part of one of the largest railway engineering complexes to have ever existed. By the start of the twentieth century the facility employed over twelve thousand workers and could produce three locomotives a week, which, when you consider the size and complexity of the engines, is a staggering thought.
After its eventual closure in 1986, after a century and a half of innovation and production, the site was converted into a museum dedicated to the men and women who made it all possible. Visitors to Steam are treated to an interactive journey through recreations of the roaring furnaces and busy offices of Swindon’s railway past. Rare archive footage and booming audio brings the meticulously detailed sets and models to life, whilst towering GWR (Great Western Railway) engines stand as centerpieces throughout. Moving through the administration sections, the foundry works, an area dedicated to the further expansion of the GWR network, and then finally an exhibit dedicated to the ‘Holiday Line’, the railway routes that took passengers to the traditional seaside holidays as popularised in Christie novels, Steam provides a comprehensive and stimulating glance into the recent past. The care and devotion of the curators is evident throughout the experience, and I certainly remember being impressed by Steam when I first visited as a teenager!
Steam is open daily and is complete with a cafe and a shop to commemorate your museum experience. steam-museum.org.uk
The Museum of Computing
This quaint educational experience is dedicated to the development of digital technology and the history of our essential daily gadgetry. Located at the top of town near Swindon’s central library on Theatre Square and containing over five thousand unique items in its collection, the museum was the first of its kind in the UK. Visitors are invited to discover the myriad artifacts of technology that illustrate our virtual past, exploring the timeline of gaming, virtual reality, and home computing.
However, the museum is more than just a static installation. Stations containing consoles from the plug-and-play age have been set up to allow for interactive experiences with gaming’s history. Early computers stand ready to be explored. The attraction also acts as a forum for lectures upon all aspects of computing history, and frequently hosts or takes part in events and conferences dedicated to education and technological preservation. The museum also runs local skills-based events, such as computer skills club for girls. It is a volunteer-run enterprise, accredited by Arts Council England and supported by passionate enthusiasts. If you’re in the mind for learning something new and having fun in the process, this attraction is the right one for you.
The Museum of Computing is open Saturdays between 10am and 4pm. museumofcomputing.org.uk
The Richard Jefferies Museum
Mentioned recently in our guide to Coate Water, one of Swindon’s most recognisable beauty spots, this museum is dedicated to the life and works of Richard Jeffries, Victorian naturalist, conservationist, and author. Jeffries was a man passionate about the richness of the English countryside. The imagery and themes of nature’s prosperity and demise riddled his works, including Bevis (1882), a classic tale for children, and After London (1985), an early work of science fiction. Having been born and lived in the thatched cottage that now houses the exhibits, the surroundings make for a perfect exposé into the man’s life and works.
Complete with artifacts, manuscripts, photographs and paintings, all lovingly preserved and displayed in the rooms in which he lived, the museum offers a deep dive on a beloved yet niche figure who was the Sir David Attenborough of his day. The site maintains a scenic garden to be enjoyed by guests, accompanied by cream tea, of course. It also hosts frequent community engagement events throughout the year, such as poetry readings, arts and craft sessions, and free tours at select times. It is a charming and sanguine place with much to offer those with an interest in the natural world and the legacy of conservation, and is a grand addition to this list of Swindon’s most reputable attractions.
The Richard Jefferies Museum is volunteer-run and opening times can fluctuate. Visit richardjefferies.org to learn more and plan your visit.