Dead Zoo


Weather: Doesn’t matter, it’s indoors. Though if you are lucky enough to feel some sun there are meadows and Tring Park just across the road for wholesome romping in the countryside. 

Logistics: It’s just off the A41 and is well signposted. There is a small car park attached to the museum but it’s often full;  there is a larger car park next to the meadow now, which means you don’t need to worry about parallel parking at all. Which is nice. 

Activities: Well, if looking at dead animals is your thing, this is the place to be. On first sight it does all seem a bit creepy - the baby animals in particular - but Tring Natural History Museum is a treasure trove of weird and wonderful beasts to look at that no zoo would be able to house. Whilst I am acknowledging the creep-factor I feel I should warn you that there is a very detailed video on how to skin and stuff a dormouse that left Big Kid sleepless for about a month after he realised just what he was watching. 

Other than that, the kids seem entirely unphased by being surrounded by dead creatures and get into the spirit of the thing - that spirit being an unquenchable love of animals, living or dead. There are stuffed zebra from every species in the world (well, Africa which is where they hang out). There are fish, fowl and mammals on the walls, on top of displays, hell there are even some hanging from the ceiling. It definitely helps that the collection is exceptionally well curated and follows a coherent display scheme - my personal favourite is the collection of dogs ranging from chihuahuas to wolf hounds, in order of size. There are some incredible finds here; I won’t spoil it for you by detailing them but I will say that every time we go with someone new, they find a creature I haven’t noticed before. 

There are other activities to do as well - there’s a rolling exhibition space which offered some lovely varied activities and multi-media presentations. on various biological or archaeological themes. There is also the Rothschild Room which is invaluable if you want to know what happens when your family are billionaires and you are likely to bankrupt them if they make you work in the family bank. (Spoiler alert: they buy you your own museum to fill with your beloved animals.) 

Also a giant tortoise...

If your kids are still of an age where they need a reason to pay attention there is a game they can play - for a sheet that only costs a quid, the kids can tour the gallery ticking off animals beginning with every letter of the alphabet. (I’m sure you won’t be surprised to learn that X is x-ray fish.) They also have a collection of dressing up clothes for kids on the top floor and I assure you every child looks 100% cuter in a pith helmet standing next to a bloody great walrus. 


The gift shop is reasonably priced and pleasingly optional as it’s tucked away in a side room - I’m sure most kids wouldn’t even be aware of it’s existence if it wasn’t for my two shriekingly demanding yet another geode for their collection (which is 50% stones they found in the garden FFS).

Coffee: It wasn’t great last time I tried it but that was well over two years ago - it may well have improved. 

Food: The Zebra (of course) Cafe can only be accessed by walking around the building but does a pretty functional range of picnic type foods for kids.  Mind you I like to stop off at the farm Shop next to the Tring Brewery and pick up some freshly made goodies (also beer) there and then use the picnic area. 

Grounds: The whole area around the museum is chocolate-box pretty and a pleasure to look at. The meadow is fantastic if you have the weather for it and there are plenty of trees for climbing if you need the kids to burn off energy before seriously studying dead things. 

Channelling their inner Tarzan

Accessibility: There is a lift and disabled access has been added - having said that it’s a victorian building and they didn’t really think about this kind of thing at the time so I imagine the mezzanine level could be pretty hairy for anyone in a wheelchair or anyone supporting people with impulse control difficulties.

I also want to give special mention to the staff here who have always been supportive, enthusiastic and willing to engage with children more feral than the beasts in the cabinets. I commend all of you for the way you have enthused my children about learning and science. 

Overall: Walter Rothschild showed his love of animals by blasting a veritable ark’s worth to death, stuffing them and adding them to his collection. Actually, in fairness, he didn’t kill every animal he met - thanks to Rothschild there are feral glis-glis gnawing on electrical wires across Hertfordshire. Thanks to Rothschild you can walk where a zebra drawn carriage used to roam down Tring High Street.  Thanks to Rothschild we have this gem of a museum that is always worth the trip.