Like so many people in the UK, I’m not an art expert but I do know what I like. The art installations that catch both my eye and my imagination are mostly quirky, outdoors and hands-on.
The more tactile the better.
But unless you live in one of the UK’s bigger cities, or are great at city navigation, it’s not always easy to visit art installations without a car.
Or a few traffic jams.
Outdoor adventures by train
During 2022 I’ve been embarking on a series of outdoor adventures by train. You know the sort of thing; crossing road bridges on foot, following a canal from one city to another, sleeping in a wet tent without a torch.
Plenty to exercise the body there.
But how about the brain? What if I want to find outdoor art that will challenge my mind, and perhaps make me see things from a new perspective? And what if I want to visit that art by public transport?
Visiting UK art installations by train
Google ‘art installations UK’ and you’ll inevitably find London art at the top of the list. Google isn’t wrong; our capital city has plenty of art options, and for most of us it’s easy to hop on board a train for a London art-fest.
But trains to London can be really expensive.
So I decided to look for art installations around the UK. I was inspired by a visit to the temporary SEE Monster art installation at Weston-Super-Mare. Who would have thought a retired oil rig could enhance a traditional British seafront?
But it does. And will continue to do so until November 5th 2022.
SEE Monster Weston-super-Mare
This art installation has now ended and is being recycled. This virtual SEE Monster version will give you a taste of how wonderful it was to be able to visit it.
Staffed to a large extent by local volunteers, SEE Monster is testament to what art can do for a community. Weston isn’t usually my favourite seaside destination but this climb-on-board piece of art has opened up my eyes to the enthusiasm of its people and its natural and manmade beauty.
Not least because the views from the helipad at the top are amazing.
You’ve only got a few weeks left to visit SEE Monster at Weston-super-Mare but it’s really easy to get there by train. Just hop off at Weston-super-Mare Station, then follow signs to the seafront. Turn left at the pier, follow the buzz of people, and you’ll soon spot this yellow spouting giant.
Travel time from London: 2.5 hours
Travel time from Bristol: 35 minutes
Author’s adventure tip: Check the SEE Monster website before you travel because opening is affected by weather conditions. Don’t forget to chat to the local volunteers when you arrive, they have some great stories to tell.
Practicalities: If you don’t have a head for heights, this may not be the art installation for you. That said, it looks fantastic from floor level and there is a slide to help on the way down.
I didn’t partake.
SEE Monster has a lift for those with mobility issues. Otherwise there are lots of steps, and some of them have holes in!
Three more UK art installations you can visit by train
Nothing is permanent but in the list below I’ve tried to avoid art installations that have a set finish date. That way you’ll have more time to plan your art-venture by train.
See what I did there?
Of course, our railway network itself is a rich source of art. Aside from fantastic station architecture and nostalgic poster art, our stations, bridges, walls and hoardings are home to artwork that is both striking and thought-provoking.
Or in the case of Paddington Bear, just plain lovable.
Antony Gormley – Another Place (by train)
Another Place is definitely an art installation for people who love the outdoors. Set on a vast windswept beach, its 100 life-size, cast-iron figures face out onto a sea superhighway. The horizon they seek is interrupted by a stream of cargo ships carrying containers to and from the Port of Liverpool.
What better way to explore man’s relationship with nature?
Location: Crosby Beach, Liverpool
Station: Blundellsands & Crosby
Travel time from London: 3.2 hours
Travel time from Bristol: 4.5 hours
Practicalities: Crosby Beach is a five-minute walk from Blundellsands & Crosby Station. This station has toilets and step-free access to all platforms as well as ramps for train access. There are also toilets at Crosby Beach, which is a non-swimming beach with areas of soft sand and mud.
Author’s adventure: We visited at low tide. It was breathtakingly marvellous. I held hands with several of the figures.
Joseph Hillier – The Messenger (by train)
Until I discovered Plymouth by train, I didn’t visit at all but with marked, off-street walking trails straight from the station, and even the opportunity to hop on a ferry across to Cornwall, this is a city that offers plenty of alternative transport opportunities.
With so much going on on Plymouth Hoe and at the Barbican, and the historical ambiance of the Royal William Yard, I haven’t yet visited the Messenger.
But she and I have an appointment.
Location: Royal Parade, Plymouth
Travel time from London: 3.6 hours
Travel time from Bristol: 2.2 hours
Practicalities: The 12-minute walk between Plymouth Station and the Messenger is mostly traffic-free. Plymouth Station has toilets and step-free access to all platforms, as well as ramp access to the train. There are also toilets available at Armada Way and Hoe Park.
Ugo Rondinone – Liverpool Mountain (by train)
There’s plenty to see along Liverpool’s Albert Dock. Until now Taro Chiezo’s Superlambananas (a comment on genetically-modified food) have been my favourite (the original Superlambanana is a short walk from Central Station) but I’m really looking forward to visiting something even more brightly-coloured and unusual; Ugo Rondinone’s Liverpool Mountain.
We all need challenging once in a while.
Location: Tate Liverpool, Albert Docks, Liverpool
Station: Liverpool James Street
Travel time from London: 3.5 hours
Travel time from Bristol: 4.5 hours
Author’s adventure tip: On my last trip to Liverpool I stayed at YHA Liverpool Albert Dock. It’s bright, modern, and really close to the dock area and James Street Station. It’s also really good value, you can get a bed in a shared room for just £15 a night, and there’s a self-catering kitchen as well as a restaurant.
Practicalities: Tate Liverpool is a pleasant 14-minute walk past the Royal Albert Dock from James Street Station but you can also walk from Liverpool Central Station. There are toilets at both stations as well as step-free access to all platforms, and ramps for train access. There are also toilets at the Royal Albert Dock.
Art for train travellers
Once you start looking, you’ll find all kinds of interesting public art available to visitors by train.
And if you’re on an art-finding mission, next time you’re on the train, why not take a good look around you. Perhaps you’ll spot a quirky piece of architecture or some great poster design.
Let me know if you do #adventuresbytrain.
Fi is an outdoor and travel writer specialising in walking routes and sustainable transport. Things-to-do information is a key ingredient for any effective tourism website. Feel free to get in touch today to find out how we can help you add that touch of something extra to your customer information offering.