What?: We’d put off visiting the actual museum bit of the Postal Museum for months, scared away by the faintly horrifying entrance fee (£17.05 for adults, £10.45 for over-ones), disappointing reviews of Mail Rail from friends and the fact that, for just £5 for a 40-minute session, Babu could have just as many lols at Sorted!, the museum’s mail-themed play space for under-8s.
Eventually curiosity got the better of us, we decided we totally had £50 burning a hole in our metaphorical shared pocket, and sucked it up. And do you know what, I’m so glad we did. While relatively small compared with the likes of London Transport Museum (which charges £17 for an annual adult ticket and waives the under-5s fee completely – just sayin’), the museum offers plenty of bang for your buck, with genuinely exciting interactives packed into every nook and cranny.
Expect period postal-worker dress-up, old-school telephone boxes to hijack, a digital stamp-making booth where you can superimpose your own mug over Queenie’s, a pneumatic message-sending contraption and plenty more. In fact the museum was so hands-on we probably ended up spending longer there than we could have in a much larger museum because we physically couldn’t drag Babu away from all the stuff.
We went elsewhere for lunch (Pret) before coming back for our Mail Rail ride, since we didn’t particularly fancy paying museum cafe prices on top of the entrance fee (I think we were vaguely traumatised by having paid that much money for a museum tbh – the pressure on it to be good was real) and, while I loved the open-plan shop with its unusual toys and gifts, I resisted buying Babu the toy post-person bag stuffed with fabric parcels for the same reason.
The Mail Rail ride is short (15 mins), mildly claustrophobic and I’m going to go out on a limb and say probably not the most exciting thing you have or will ever do, but it was kind of cute and interesting, and a good one to say you’ve done. They’ve jazzed it up with film and audio, but you have to remember you’re basically just doing a loop through a narrow underground tunnel originally built for driverless trains carrying letters – so it was never going to be the ride of your life.
To be honest I think we enjoyed the exhibition you walk through on your way out of Mail Rail (again, very interactive) more than the actual trip underground, and if you get at all freaked out by being trapped in an enclosed, underground hole in total darkness then I’d probably skip this bit of the museum altogether. We were absolutely fine but Babu did get a bit freaked out by the ‘powercut’ bit of the ride and kept telling me to turn the light back on – which believe me I wanted to.
At the end of our visit I was asked to fill in a questionnaire that asked how likely I’d be to return to the museum if they made their tickets into annual passes, so it looks like a shake-up might be on the cards. Given the unlikelihood of anyone wanting to pay such a high entrance fee more than once in a 12-month period, I’m convinced the Postal Museum is only set to gain from such a move. Until then, it’s a bloody expensive day out. A good one, but an expensive one nonetheless.
Where?: The Postal Museum and Mail Rail are located at 15-20 Phoenix Place, Clerkenwell, and are a 12-minute walk from both Farringdon and Russell Square stations.
Best Bits: I was so impressed by the inventive interactives and the way they brought the museum’s story alive.
Worst Bits: Eye-wateringly overpriced.
Facilities: Baby change, cafe, step-free access.
Would We Come Back?: Maybe next year. I will be so annoyed if they introduce annual passes in the meantime.
Bab browses the gift shop at The Postal Museum.