Britain’s best rural art galleries

Take a trip into the UK countryside and enjoy local and internationally acclaimed art at a rural gallery

Sir Thomas Gainsborough statue in Sudbury

We’ve selected seven of the best rural art galleries from around the UK, from the foothills of Snowdonia and the Cornish coast to the far-flung islands of Orkney.

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Our top seven includes paintings by Thomas Gainsborough, Barbara Hepworth and George Barret, along with a number of inspiring exhibitions.

1

Tate St Ives, Cornwall

The Tate St Ives, the provincial outpost of the famous London art gallery built in 1993, standing above Porthmeor Beach.
The Tate St Ives standing above Porthmeor Beach ©Getty

The Tate St Ives dominates this small seaside town of winding alleys and fishermen’s cottages; the recently doubled-in-size museum making a big statement on the site of the old gasworks overlooking Porthmeor Beach. Inside, the galleries showcase the best of the avant-garde St Ives School, including Barbara Hepworth and Ben Nicholson.

2

MOMA (Museum of Modern Art), Machynlleth, Powys

Powys, Machynlleth, wide view over town and surrounding hills
MOMA sit in the centre of Machynlleth on the edge of Snowdonia National Park ©Getty

‘The Ancient Capital of Wales’ sits on the edge of Snowdonia National Park. Along with its soaring clock tower, the market town is known for its gallery of Welsh art and artists housed in an old Wesleyan chapel. Look out for Ann Arnold, champion of the countryside and member of the Brotherhood of Ruralists. Learn more about MOMA.

3

Gainsborough House, Sudbury, Suffolk

Gainsborough's Forest by Thomas Gainsborough, oil incanvas
Thomas Gainsborough lived from 1776-1837 ©Getty

Gainsborough’s handsome Georgian home and historic gardens lie at the heart of the Suffolk market town and are filled with his manuscripts, prints, etchings, portraiture and artefacts. Linger in the entrance hall and parlour Gainsborough House, with its canvases of rural Suffolk painted in the 1750s, to appreciate this master of the 18thCentury landscape.

4

The Harley Gallery, Welbeck, Nottinghamshire

Visitors outside the Anglican Church of St. Mary the Virgin at Clumber Park, a country park in the Dukeries near Worksop in Nottinghamshire. (Visitors outside the Anglican Church of St. Mary the Virgin at Clumber Park, a country park in the Dukeries n
On your trip to The Harley Gallery, also visit the Anglican Church of St Mary the Virgin at Clumber Park, a country park in the Dukeries ©Getty

The Dukeries, including Welbeck, are a rich vein of parkland, forest and stately homes slicing through the Nottinghamshire coalfields. Catch an exhibition in the purpose-built Harley Gallery.

5

Lady Lever Art Gallery, Port Sunlight, Merseyside

Lady Lever Art Gallery
Lady Lever Art Gallery in Port Sunlight ©Steve Daniels

Entrepreneur and philanthropist, William Hesketh Lever, commissioned this grand classical museum – Lady Lever Art Gallery – to house his ever-burgeoning art collection in the model village of Port Sunlight. Among the internationally recognised pre-Raphaelites and Wedgwood jasperware there are some fine British landscape paintings, including Constable and Turner.

6

Kirkcudbright Galleries, Dumfries & Galloway

The harbour at Kirkcudbright
The harbour at Kirkcudbright ©Walter Baxter

Kirkcudbright’s town hall, grand and self-important on the outside but bright and welcoming inside, was recently converted to house the growing works of this historic ‘artists’ town’ on the River Dee. The Kirkcudbright Galleries collection includes nationally important paintings from the nineteenth-century Scottish Colourists, also known as the ‘Scottish Impressionists.’

7

Pier Arts Centre, Stromness, Orkney

Stromness, second largest town on Orkney Islands, Scotland
Stromness is the second most populated town in Orkney, home to the Pier Arts Centre ©Getty

The converted merchant’s house, stores and offices – a bold mix of glass, metal and rustic stone – jostle for position on the waterfront of this mainland Orkney town. Inside Pier Arts Centre, a small but impressive collection of twentieth-century art sits side-by-side with local work depicting the wild Orkney sea-and-landscapes beyond the sheltered harbour.

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Main image: Sir Thomas Gainsborough statue in Sudbury ©Getty