What?: Everything seemed to be against us with this one: the distance (it’s in rural Buckinghamshire), a massive flood that closed the museum for five months and the fact that everyone kept telling me that it’s tiny and not worth the mission. Ok so it is pretty far away, with the train journey taking more than four hours there and back, but I totally disagree that it’s not worth it. The museum is housed in an old coaching inn and yard on the high street in Great Missenden, the tiny village where Dahl lived and worked for 36 years. It might not be enormous – although doing huge museums with a toddler freaks me out anyway – but there is so much packed into the two galleries and adjoining story centre we managed to keep everyone occupied until almost closing time.
The museum might be aimed at ages 6+ but almost every activity was suitable for our two year olds, albeit with a gentle helping hand from us. Of course our kids can’t read yet and as a result aren’t massively familiar with Dahl’s stories, but that didn’t matter in the slightest. The two galleries, Boy and Solo, take their names from Dahl’s autobiographical books Boy and Going Solo and focus on his childhood and career in the RAF respectively. The Boy gallery walls are decorated with short anecdotes from Dahl’s schooldays, including the episode where he played a trick on the local sweet-shop owner by planting a dead mouse in a jar of gobstoppers, and there’s also a trunk full of old-skool school uniform to try on.
The Solo gallery is bigger, containing part of a model fighter jet for kids to commandeer and a rail of tiny aviator jackets and flying helmets to help them look the part. There’s a reconstruction of Dahl’s writing hut in the centre of the room, in addition to information about his family and partnership with Quentin Blake. Babu, being a complete weirdo, gravitated towards the chest of drawers containing various gruesome artefacts, from a (fake) frozen leg of lamb like the one used by Dahl’s character Mary Maloney to kill her husband in A Lamb to the Slaughter to models of the severed fingers chopped off by his character Carlos in Man from the South, to Dahl’s actual false teeth.
The final and largest gallery is the Story Centre, which is stuffed full of interactives as well as housing George’s Crafty Kitchen, a separate room that’s permanently laid out with activity sheets and craft materials to be used as kids see fit. This gallery includes a computer animation activity, a wax-relief word-making task, rail upon rail of dress-up clothes accompanied by a pair of crazy mirrors, a fridge-magnet activity, a mini cinema playing an interview with Dahl on repeat, and quite frankly too much other stuff to recall. There’s also a brilliant cafe serving hot food, kid-friendly lunches and Bruce Bogtrotter-inspired giant chocolate cake, and don’t forget the new Matilda vs Trump statue in the courtyard – although be careful not to pull Trump’s tie, he’s delicate.
Where?: The museum is a five-minute walk from Great Missenden mainline station, which is around a 55-minute journey from London Marylebone.
Best Bits: We loved all of it. It’s inexpensive, the perfect size for a day-trip with a toddler and the wealth of interactives ensured there wasn’t a dull moment.
Worst Bits: The moon is closer.
Facilities: Step-free access, buggy park, baby changing, kids’ meals available.
Price: £7 per adult, free for under-5s. Tickets enable reentry for a year from the day of purchase.
Would We Come Back?: We definitely will one day, but probably not for quite a while because Buckinghamshire.
Babu and Finn make themselves at home in Dahl’s writing hut at the Roald Dahl Museum, Great Missenden.