The heady combination of the summer holidays and the Olympics mean there are events and exhibitions aplenty to tempt families in search of history and heritage this August - regardless of the weather.
Valhalla: In Search of the Viking Dead, , York, until November 5 2012
Anyone who has ever enjoyed over-the-top Hollywood epic The Vikings will have an inkling about the importance of the Norsemen’s vision of heavenly Valhalla.
OK, it's a bit of a romp and this exhibition may not have the same degree of Hollywood glamour (no sign of Kirk Douglas or Tony Curtis) but it does bring the real Vikings who invaded Britain back to life. Based on the archaeological evidence unearthed throughout the British Isles, Jorvik builds a rich tapestry of belief and life from the time of the Vikings in Britain – and even brings you face to face with a Viking warrior.
Endless Summer: The Evolution of Surfing at until October 6
Sometimes it feels like it’s been an endless wait for the summer, but Plymouth Museum and Art Gallery’s surfing exhibition rides an optimistic wave of sun, sea, surf and sand with this honest and appealing appraisal of surfing.
Photos, vintage mags and - of course - some classic surfboards help tell the story of British surfing – and it makes for a fascinating social history.
Viking Week at , August 6 – August 10
Here we they come again – it’s the summer of the Vikings. Regardless of what the weather decides to do, in heritage circles it remains the season of re-enactments. One of the highlights of this packed programme of eccentric wimple-wearing and beardy-broad-sword-wielding is Lindisfarne Priory’s spectacular Viking Week.
Lindisfarne is, of course, an evocative spot. The site of the fearsome Viking raid of 793, which was captured vividly in the Anglo Saxon Chronicles, the Priory will host a Viking & Saxon Boats event that precedes a weekend of “terror and turmoil” as Viking Raiders once again run amok.
Blacksmiths at Ironbridge Gorge and Friday 10th - Sunday 12th August
Seventy-five qualified blacksmiths descend on the place where, more than 300 years ago, Abraham Darby originally smelted coke to produce iron on an industrial scale. Darby’s innovations - and his amazing iron bridge that still stands today - make Ironbridge Gorge the hottest contender for the much used epithet “birthplace of the industrial revolution”.
The blacksmiths, from the British Artist Blacksmith Association, will be working on a 800kg sculpture at the World Heritage Site throughout the weekend to commemorate the tercentenary of Abraham Derby’s Eureka! moment. The public are invited to watch the spectacle and try their hand at this ancient craft.
The Noble art of the Sword, Fashion and fencing in Renaissance Europe at until September 16.
If you’re out and about in the capital during this Olympic summer, escape for a moment to the Wallace collection and catch this captivating exploration of the dangerous world of Renaissance fencing.
This show has been steadily building a reputation as one the best currently showing in the capital. It offers a vivid journey into a strange domain of death and honour and reveals some fine examples of swords from one of the best collections outside The Royal Armouries. All in all a surprising window into the Renaissance world, and a perfect yet gruesome accompaniment to the British Museum’s current Shakespeare exhibition.
The Staffordshire Hoard: Dark Age Discovery at until September 1 2012.
Since its discovery the Staffordshire Hoard has mesmerised people in the Potteries – many of whom queued for hours to get a glimpse of its treasures. Now it’s back with 200-plus specially selected Anglo Saxon specimens in a show full of wonder and wisdom.
As well as looking at these iconic, long-lost treasures you will learn about the world of the Anglo Saxons and the fascinating archaeological techniques used to preserve many of the star items.
Blood Sweat and Gambling: Sport in Georgian England at until September 2
Finally, in a month of myriad sporting and Olympic exhibitions the Samuel Johnson Birthplace Museum in Lichfield transports us back to the Georgian period and a time when sports and games were intertwined with village life, traditions and fetes.
Blood Sweat and Gambling: Sport in Georgian England includes prints, objects and a football from the Royal Shrovetide football match (some would say punch up) that still takes place in Ashbourne in Derbyshire. Visitors can even have a go at some Georgian pursuits including indoor skittles, horse racing, fishing, quoits and cards.