When I was younger I loved Roald Dahl’s stories so a visit to the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre in Great Missenden was a must as soon as Little M was old enough to enjoy it. It seems an unusual place for such a museum until you discover that Dahl lived here for 36 years and wrote many of his stories while living in the village.
We visited the museum with family members aged between 5 and 80 and spent around 3.5 hours in the complex. All of us returned with imaginations sparked. Here’s what we discovered during our trip.
You can’t miss the Roald Dahl Museum on Great Missenden High Street. The ex-coaching inn is painted with the words It is Truly Swizzfigglingly and Flushbunkingly Gloriumptious painted on the wall in bright letters. There’s also a huge painting of the BFG to top it off. You enter through the arched doorway in the middle and pay for tickets in the gift shop on the left-hand side. The cafe is on the right-hand side.
There’s no car parking on site, but you can easily find a generously-sized pay and display car park 5 minutes around the corner.
The museum is fairly compact. There are 3 main rooms: Boy, which details Dahl’s childhood. This contains copies of his school reports, an audio recording of him talking about his childhood holidays to Norway and a dressing up box full of vintage school clothes.
The next area, Solo charts his adulthood, first with adventures in the RAF and then moving onto his career as his writer. You can climb into a replica cockpit and discover secrets in the cabinets.
His beloved writing shed takes pride of place in the centre of the space with all his possessions laid out in their original places. Dahl owned all sorts of curiosities including a ball made out of hundreds of chocolate wrappers. These are conserved behind perspex but there is a chance to sit in a replica of his chair (which I took full advantage of to channel those creative vibes!).
The Story Centre
The Story Centre occupies the rear section of the complex. This was the most interesting area for Little M who at 5, was just below the advised 6-12 age range. She wasn’t able to take full advantage of the word games but the videos and dressing-up boxes more than made up for it. We really wanted to spend time in George’s Crafty Kitchen, an area devoted to colouring and crafts but it was packed out.
The Roald Dahl Museum Cafe
All this fun was thirsty work so we took a much needed break. We were lucky to find seats inside as the cafe is quite small, but you can sit outside on a sunny day. If you’re planning to visit on a weekend or during school holidays, I recommend eating outside of peak hours.
The prices were surprisingly reasonable (around £4.00 for a toasty or jacket potato) and the drinks were brilliant. I tried the Whizzpopper which was a blend of hot chocolate topped with maltesers, crushed smarties, marshmallows and raspberry coulis – utterly delicious!
To round off the visit Al and I paid an extra £2 each to tour the archives (20 minutes). This was the best bit of the experience for me as we had an opportunity to see some of Dahl’s handwritten manuscripts (all on yellow A4 paper in pencil), letters to his mama, and telegrams from Walt Disney. The storeroom is tiny but it was incredibly exciting to know that some of the most-loved stories in the world are contained in those grey boxes. I’ve since discovered that it’s possible to book more in-depth archive tours so this is so this is something I’d love to do in the future. Unless you have a very well-behaved child, I’d recommend this for 7+ (rather than the 5+ which the museum suggests).
Roald Dahl Museum Gift Shop
We were reluctant to leave, but couldn’t say farewell until we’d bought a book to add to our library. The gift shop is every bit as enchanting as you would imagine and crammed with Roald Dahl merchandise. We had to restrain ourselves but still came away with a limited edition of James and the Giant Peach. If you’re into Dahl then you’ll find everything you need here.
Thanks to all the staff for a wonderful day out. I found the whole experience quite emotional as Roald Dahl’s books have inspired me as both a reader and a writer. We’re looking forward to visiting again when Little M is older so that we can enjoy it all over again.
If you’d like to spend some time at this amazing place, I recommend that you book tickets online in advance. General opening hours are:
Tuesday to Friday 10am to 5pm
Saturday and Sunday 11am to 5pm
We didn’t try all the extras, but the museum offers free storytelling sessions and paid workshops, which change on a regular basis. I’m sure that Roald Dahl would churgled at the very sight of it!
NOTE: The Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre (including online shop) is closed due to COVID-19 at present. I will update this when it re-opens. In the meantime, you can enjoy the Museum at Home.
If you enjoyed this post, you can find our other literary travel experiences here.