“Under such circumstances I naturally gravitated to London, that great cesspool into which all the loungers and idlers of the Empire are irresistibly drained” – Dr. Watson, A Study in Scarlet
Much like my dear colleague Moz, I too recently upped sticks from the west of Ireland and moved to London Town. Many trips back and forth over the years cemented my love of the city and I felt the best thing to do on my first full weekend as a new inhabitant would be to combine fond childhood memories with beloved literary idols – which of course meant a trip to the Sherlock Holmes museum on Baker Street.
I first visited the museum over ten years ago having stumbled upon it by accident. Cast your mind back, dear reader, to a time before Robert Downey Jr’s and Benedict Cumberbatch’s portrayals, and the Holmes museum was not as big a draw as it proves to be this day. In fact I only happened to find it as they had an actor dressed as Watson loitering outside of Baker Street tube handing out business cards with the museum’s location to mostly ambivalent commuters. Not so the case in this day and age, as the intervening decade or so has made everything Homes related a very hot commodity indeed – as seen by the queue of people looking to gain access to the museum and gift shop on my visit last week.
The museum itself is a treasure trove for Holmes fans, both casual and ardent. The creaky narrow staircase guides you to the first floor where Holmes’s bedroom and living area have been lovingly imagined and recreated. Deerstalker hats are aplenty and visitors get the opportunity to take a closer look at Holmes’s belongings. There are some lovely additions here for Holmes fans – a personal favourite being Watson’s diary left open on a writing desk to reveal his handwritten notes from The Hound of the Baskervilles.
Some things to note for visitors however – the museum is not for the claustrophobic. It is incredibly narrow and the rooms are quite small so some manoeuvring is required to see everything without bumping into people. Also, if you have a fear of waxworks the third floor isn’t for you! Seminal characters from the short stories have been recreated and are housed here, but some are lifelike enough to cause momentary panic!
If the £15 museum entry fee proves too steep for you however, it is worth a trip to see the gift shop alone. Everything any Holmes fan could possibly want is featured here at a variety of price points. I have made frequent trips just to the gift shop in the years since my first visit to the museum (however for my own sake, I’d rather not think of all I’ve spent there!)
When making your way back to the Baker Street tube, I recommend stopping by the statue of Sherlock that stands in front of the entrance. If you look behind the statue you’ll notice there’s a web link that allows you to receive a “phone call” from Homes himself as he tells you all about the statue and its sculptor John Doubleday. I found it utterly delightful.
Lastly, no Sherlock day out is complete without a quick stop to the Sherlock Holmes pub on Northumberland Street (short walk from Charing Cross tube). With its casual food and drink – and even an opportunity to try their Sherlock or Watson ales! – it was a perfect end to the day. Whether a die-hard fan or a casual observer, Sherlock Holmes is one of the most iconic literary figures ever created and as lovers of literature (which I imagine all of you are if you’re visiting this humble blog) you owe it to yourself to pay homage to this most charming of creations.
(All images Die’s own unless otherwise stated)