Ten of the best arty weekends

Let your love of art lead you on a summer tour of weekend mini-breaks across the UK and Ireland
© Jonty Wilde
By Rosemary Waugh |
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There's nothing better than a weekend holiday, apart for a weekend holiday you can return from feeling really smug for having also luxuriated in the reflected glow of art, art and more art. We've compiled a list of the best mini-breaks from London based on the top art galleries and sculpture parks you need to visit. Because there's nothing like dodging sheep poo in search of contemporary sculptures hidden in woodland.

© Paul Allit

Kettle’s Yard (Cambridge)

Kettle’s Yard allows visitors to imagine, briefly, what it might be like to own priceless and beautiful modern art instead of tatty Ikea furniture. Wander around this former home and admire sculptures and paintings in a setting that shuns the studied coldness of most museums.
While you’re in town… The famous Fitzwilliam Museum needs to be on your itinerary.
How far? 50mins from King’s Cross.

Olaf Breuning 'Clouds' (2014) © Cass Sculpture Foundation

Cass Sculpture Foundation (Chichester)

Giving visitors a two-for-one deal on art and rural landscapes, Cass Sculpture grants each new artwork its own generous amount of green space in this 26-acre plot of soul-soothing parkland. Top tip: pack a picnic  so you don’t go hungry stumbling after sculptures.
While you’re in town… Make time to visit Pallant House Gallery, a modern art gallery in the centre of Chichester.
How far? 1hr 30mins from Victoria.

 

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© David Bebber

Hauser & Wirth Somerset (Bruton)

Contemporary art and cows aren’t often found together, but at Hauser & Wirth Somerset, visitors experience the curatorial expertise of a leading art company alongside… not a lot else. It’s proper rural round here, so get ready for expansive skies, open fields and – thanks to celeb gardener Piet Oudolf – a garden filled with colour-shifting, swaying grasses as beautiful as anything Monet painted.
While you’re in town… Keep up the hipster artsy vibe by dining in At the Chapel, or go rustic and stare at a sheep instead.
How far? 2hrs 30mins from Waterloo.

© Jim Varney

Yorkshire Sculpture Park (Wakefield)

Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore are the headline names of the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, but the open-air venue also programmes a rotating schedule of shows from the most talented contemporary artists. Satisfy your hunger for great art and admire the glorious Yorkshire countryside.
While you’re in town… The Henry Moore Institute and Leeds Art Gallery next door, along with the Hepworth Wakefield, and the YSP, make up the Yorkshire Sculpture Triangle, all 30 mins apart.
How far? 2hrs from King’s Cross.

 

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© Graeme Peacock

Baltic (Gateshead)

Baltic is Gateshead's massive gallery in a former mill filled with temporary exhibitions by leading contemporary artists. Baltic’s commitment to experimental, cutting-edge art (even at the expense of being super-tourist-friendly) is commendable. If you’re serious about art, this is your weekend break.
While you’re in town… Go to The Biscuit Factory, Sage Gateshead and the Laing Art Gallery.
How far? 3hrs from King’s Cross.

© Dave Jones

Walker Art Gallery (Liverpool)

If you’re a Londoner who favours the National Gallery over Tate Modern, you’ll enjoy the Walker Art Gallery. The impressively large collection starts in 1300 and goes all the way through the centuries to today.
While you’re in town… If you really want to see the best work of art in the city, go visit the spectacular, ‘Hunger Games’-style Metropolitan Cathedral.
How far? 2hrs 30mins from Euston.

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© Keith Hunter

Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art (Edinburgh)

As you may have noticed, this guide is gradually dragging you further from London. Each summer the Edinburgh Art Festival brings a fabulous programme to the city. The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art’s summer highlights include an exhibition of Jenny Saville’s squidgy are-you-ready-for-your-close-up nudes.
While you’re in town… Head to the Dovecot Studios this summer for the exhibition Liberty Art Fabrics & Fashion, plus the stunning Jupiter Artland just outside the centre.
How far? 4hrs 20mins from King’s Cross.

© Tate

Tate St Ives (St Ives)

The Cornwall branch of Tate is riding high after winning the 2018 Art Fund Museum of the Year award. It’s a deserving champion because this beachside gallery has charm in spades (and buckets too). Tate St Ives has a strong local flavour, and it helps that the ‘local’ artists round here just so happen to also be internationally renowned.
While you’re in town… Head to the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden, then go breathe in the salty sea air, eat some chips, and relax...
How far? 6hrs 30mins from Paddington, changing at St Erth.

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© Marc O'Sullivan

Irish Museum of Modern Art (Dublin)

The most ambitious mini-break on the list, this one requires getting on a plane to Dublin. The virtues of IMMA, as it’s known, include their new Freud Project, a must-visit for any fans of the late Lucian. Also make time to explore the manicured gardens.
While you’re in town… Don’t miss out on the city’s other major galleries such as the National Gallery of Ireland, the RHA Gallery and The Gallery of Photography.
How far? 1hr 20mins, flying from Luton, Gatwick or Stansted.

© Benjamin Beker

Turner Contemporary (Margate)

But if you’re short on time and still want a quick hit of a seaside-and-art, we couldn’t really leave off the list the most obvious destination: the Turner Contemporary in Margate. Although the gallery is named after the artist who regularly stayed here, don’t go expecting to see a large collection of his paintings. Instead, it’s filled with contemporary art more in keeping with Margate’s  own Tracey Emin.
While you’re in town… Head to the Pie Factory, a contemporary gallery and studio space for more artsy activities. Or enjoy the bizarre-but-beautiful Shell Grotto.
How far? 1hr 30mins from St Pancras International.

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