Unusual attractions on the Greater Anglia network
The pub with a mummified cat hanging from the ceiling, a shop selling dragon food, competitive snail racing… no, we’re not making it up. Rob Crossan goes in search of the most bizarre and bonkers attractions across the network
THE NARNIA-STYLE COCKTAIL BAR
Callooh Callay, Shoreditch, London
Eccentric credentials A cocktail emporium where you have to step through a wardrobe to order your drinks.
Please elaborate… Callooh Callay’s idiosyncrasies don’t end there. JubJub is the bar’s members’ area, accessed only if you hold a key. But first, you need to answer questions such as ‘who would play you in a movie of your life?’ Be entertaining enough in your replies (which you submit online) and free membership is yours.
While you’re in the area Pop into the bizarre world of The Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities (thelasttuesdaysociety.org) – a short stroll away on Mare Street – which features everything from a lion skeleton to a hair ball taken from a cow’s stomach.
Nearest station London Liverpool Street
THE ARTWORK-CUM- HOLIDAY COTTAGE
A House for Essex, Wrabness, Essex
Eccentric credentials From the mercurial mind of Grayson Perry, alongside FAT Architecture, comes a house that might be a gallery, a chapel, a fictional biography or all three.
Please elaborate… You have to win a ballot online in order to slumber in the most unusual accommodation in Essex. Dedicated to a Grayson-imagined saint called Julie Cope, the two-bedroom house is full of tapestries and ceramics showing the story of Julie’s Essex-based life, from her 1970s wedding to her fatal collision with a curry delivery moped driver.
While you’re in the area The port of Harwich is just six miles away and is where the Mayflower set sail for America almost 400 years ago. Follow the progress of local efforts to build a replica ship for the anniversary in 2020 at harwichmayflower.com.
Nearest station Wrabness
THE TEENY-TINY TAVERN
The Nutshell, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk
Eccentric credentials You can barely swing a cat in The Nutshell, which claims to be Britain’s smallest pub, in Bury St Edmunds. Though you can admire the mummified cat hanging from the ceiling.
Please elaborate… Boozy and bijou, The Nutshell has been pouring pints since 1867 in a room that measures a mere fifteen feet by seven feet. Diminutive it may be, but manager Jack Burton reckons the public house can squeeze in around 20 customers – not to mention the upstairs ‘dining room’, which seats two.
While you’re in the area Taste Justin Sharp’s Suffolk-meets- Spain menu at Pea Porridge (peaporridge.co.uk) where unusual creations include grilled ox heart or, for the connoisseurs, a sauté of snails and bacon on toast.
Nearest station Bury St Edmunds
THE SHOP FOR THINGS THAT GO BUMP IN THE NIGHT
Hoxton Street Monster Supplies, Shoreditch, London
Eccentric credentials This shop prides itself on being the sole purveyor of quality goods for monsters and dragons of every kind.
Please elaborate… The temptation to buy a jar of ‘Thickest Human Snot’ or some ‘Fang Floss’ may be enough to lure you in. But stocking up here also helps to fund the writing clubs and workshops at the Ministry of Stories, a project launched by author Nick Hornby (and located just across the street) to encourage kids in creative writing.
While you’re in the area Prepare your monster grub with some of the retro kitchen apparel found at Labour and Wait (labourandwait.co.uk) on Redchurch Street, a one-stop shop for old fashioned teapots, chutney spoons and vintage bottle openers.
Nearest station London Liverpool Street
THE HOUSE WITH MULTIPLE PERSONALITIES
Talliston House & Gardens, Great Dunmow, Essex
Eccentric credentials A journey through history and time, all within the confines of a three-bedroomed, semi-detached, ex-council house, near Bishop’s Stortford.
Please elaborate… A New Orleans-style kitchen, a Moorish bedchamber, an Edwardian study. Oh, and a Cambodian tree house in the garden. This project, by author and artist John Trevillian, has taken 25 years, during which he’s specially created appropriate smells, sounds, tastes and feels in each of the 13 spaces. All come together to make a home in which, as Trevillian insists ‘time has no power’.
While you’re in the area The Flitch House (theflitchhouse.co.uk), also in Great Dunmow, is on a mission to bring quality tapas to Essex. This old beamed pub serves up chorizo with red onion and red wine and some authentically fiery gambas pil pil.
Nearest station Bishop’s Stortford, then a short taxi ride
THE GIANT METAL SHELL ON A BEACH
‘Scallop’, Aldeburgh, Suffolk
Eccentric credentials A 12-foot high stainless-steel scallop shell devoted to a legendary composer. It’s also the source of a long-running row in this sleepy corner of Suffolk.
Please elaborate… Some locals have complained that the sculpture, located on Aldeburgh beach, spoils the view and should be moved. But artist Maggi Hambling’s installation, a tribute to former local resident and legendary composer Benjamin Britten, has been in situ for 15 years now. The crustacean curio, made from four tonnes of steel, was inspired by Britten’s opera Peter Grimes about the life of a fictional local fisherman.
While you’re in the area Catch a film at the tiny 99-year-old Aldeburgh Cinema (aldeburghcinema.co.uk), complete with mock-Tudor frontage and Art Deco lights.
Nearest station Saxmundham. We’ve just introduced the option to add a bus ticket to Alderburgh. See bit.ly/2M2QvwR
THE ADRENALINE- FUELLED ADVENTURE
Lockhouse Escape Games, Cambridge
Eccentric credentials Flee from a Cold War era safe house or navigate your way out of an Egyptian pyramid without ever leaving central Cambridge.
Please elaborate… Half adventure game, half psychological battle of nerves and wit, the Lockhouse is a subterranean shape-shifting universe all of its own. No matter what type of game you play, be prepared to find secret doors, deduce hidden codes, break padlocks and generally unleash your inner superhero sleuth. Laser Quest this most certainly is not.
While you’re in the area After all that derring-do you may well be in need of a drink. The Cambridge Brew House (thecambridgebrewhouse.com) is the city’s only brewpub that opens seven days a week and serves pints of ale created on the premises by in-house brewer Mark Burton.
Nearest station Cambridge
THE ALTERNATIVE AMUSEMENT ARCADE
The Under The Pier Show, Southwold, Suffolk
Eccentric credentials Tim Hunkin’s emporium of hand-made, coin operated games mix satire with surrealism.
Please elaborate… If you’re looking for standard pinball and fruit machines, forget it. Instead choose from quirky home-made slot machines and simulator rides such as ‘Mobility Masterclass’ where you play a pensioner, ‘Whack A Banker’ or ‘The Housing Ladder’ in which your challenge is to get your mortgage paid off before you reach 80.
While you’re in the area Feast on some of the best fish and chips in Suffolk at The Little Fish & Chip Shop (solebayfishco.co.uk), which also serves up oysters and Champagne.
Nearest station Halesworth, then the number X88 bus or Darsham, then a short taxi ride.
THE RACE WHERE SLOW WINS
World Snail Racing Championships, Congham, Norfolk
Eccentric credentials The incongruous proverb ‘slow and steady wins the race’ actually rings true at this, the annual F1 of snail racing.
Please elaborate… Usually held each July, this is a date for your 2019 diary. Well, OK, demand for tickets doesn’t quite match Wimbledon Centre Court; but you can use this interim time to train your own snail to compete in next summer’s big (13 inches long) race – which is dramatically started by a snail trainer shouting “Ready, steady, SLOW!”
While you’re in the area A hop away by train and you’ll arrive in Thetford, home of the Dad’s Army Museum (dadsarmythetford.org.uk) – a must-visit for any fans of the cult TV sitcom.
Nearest station Kings Lynn, then a short taxi ride.
THE BAT SAFARI
Bat Safari Punting, River Cam, Cambridge
Eccentric credentials If you don’t think wielding a ‘bat detector’ while floating in a punt at dusk is slightly offbeat then, well, we’re not sure we can help you.
Please elaborate… The bat safari tours are run by punting specialists Scudamore’s in conjunction with the Wildlife Trust. Armed with your ‘bat detector’, which convert the bats’ click signals into audible frequencies, and a high-powered lamp, the chances of seeing Daubenton’s (aka water bats) dip and swerve as they hunt for insects are high in summer and early autumn.
While you’re in the area If the bats haven’t spooked you then perhaps you also have the stomach for secret graveyards, tales of ghostly dogs and seeing the former home of the local hangman on a walk with Black Shuck Cambridge Ghost Tours (cambridgeghosttours.com).
Nearest station Cambridge