IT’S easy to be dazzled by the array of entertainments on offer in the city of Manchester, because there is something there for pretty much anyone.
Although I have always known Manchester is a great place for party-animals and shopaholics, I never knew much about the museums it has on offer...until recently.
Manchester can be easily accessed on a train from Northampton (changing in Milton Keynes) in little over two hours and, once in its centre, visitors are just a short walk away from The University of Manchester’s Manchester Museum in Oxford Road.
To be honest, my husband Payat and I headed there as - despite being grown-ups - we are both dinosaur geeks and were attracted by the amazing number of fossils and skeletons on display at this free museum.
The museum is a bit of a labyrinth in terms of finding your way around and, once inside, a visitor can easily get lost while discovering all the unexpected curios on display.
Of course, one of the highlights for us was seeing Stan the magnificent Tyrannosaurus Rex (named after the palaeontologist who found the remains in 1992).
The original skeleton was found near Buffalo, South Dakota, USA and its towering and rather fearsome looking cast can now be found in Manchester.
It is not easy to encapsulate everything held at the museum in a few paragraphs, but its artefacts seem to be displayed based on how much they reveal about important periods in the evolution of mankind and animal life. Objects on show range from prehistoric remains to artefacts from ancient Egypt.
I was surprised to find a fascinating section focusing on live animals, which proved a real learning experience thanks to the informative texts accompanying the enclosures.
Often the challenge is to spot well camouflaged reptiles amid a tank full of foliage. Species on show include Fijian banded iguanas, green tree monitors and he endangered tomato frogs of Madagascar.
The main displays include a “rocky desert” with monitor lizards, giant cacti and a termite mound.
The museum is a real study of animal life and, as well as many living creatures, the zoology section includes very old examples of stuffed animals which, although macabre, are interesting to see.
The museum is also the proud possessor of a huge collection of insects and it is believed that it houses all but a small number of the known British varieties.
The museum’s sections are so widespread, we did not have the time or energy to enjoy everything on show in one day but, according to a little plan we picked up, the other sections also include ancient, medieval and modern money and more about the links between the museum’s collections and the people and history of Manchester itself.
The venue is not really on the commercial tourist trail for Manchester, but one to which one must make a determined visit, bypassing a road full of academic buildings. Nevertheless it is well worth a trip, and would make an educational day out for children and grown-ups alike.
-Payat and Anna travelled to Manchester via a fast Virgin Trains service from Milton Keynes. For more information log onto www.virgintrains.co.uk
-The address of The Manchester Museum is The University of Manchester, Oxford Road, Manchester, M13 9PL.
-Entry to Manchester Museum is free.