The Museum of English Rural Life’s intriguing galleries tell the story of an important part of England’s history, exploring countryside, identity, environment, technology, culture and health. Exploring the galleries, you’ll discover stories that fascinate, surprise, and reveal the heart of rural England past and present.

We welcome groups! From Uniformed Groups to WIs, U3As and the Travel Trade, we can customise a group visit to meet your needs and have a variety of packages available to choose from. Add refreshments, a meeting room, or a themed talk or tour! We even have speakers who can come to you to set the scene before your visit – find out more.

We are proud to be a member of Tourism South East, winning a Bronze Award in the Small Visitor Attraction of the Year at the 2019 Beautiful South Awards. We are also an Ambassador on the Great West Way, and encourage visitors to explore Reading and everything it has to offer. We can work with partners across Reading to combine your visit with other activities, such as a visit to Reading Abbey or a river cruise.

To ensure you have enough space to explore the galleries, advance booking is highly recommended (and very helpful) for groups of up to 10 people and essential for all groups of over 10 people. To avoid disappointment, we recommend booking as far ahead as you can.

New for summer 2022

As Reading celebrates 200 years of biscuit history, Museums Partnership Reading is offering groups a chance to explore collections relating to Reading’s famous biscuit manufacturer at The MERL and Reading Museum, with the opportunity to create a full biscuit-themed day out. Find out more:


Choose a package below, and then add optional extras such as refreshments to enhance your visit.

Further details are available in FAQs and useful information for Groups. Please read this before completing the form below.

People on a group visit at The MERLStandard Group Visit

Groups of up to 10 people 


  • Reserved car (2 spaces max) or minibus parking in the MERL carpark.
  • You are welcome to buy refreshments in the MERL café. A selection of English teas, quality coffee, cakes, cream teas, sandwiches and snacks are available.  However, The MERL Cafe is small and has limited indoor seating. To avoid queuing and to guarantee availability (of cakes, sandwiches and seating), please book refreshments in advance  (see below).

£5 suggested donation per person.

The Blackbird Package

Groups of 10-40 people*


  • An introduction to the Museum by a Welcome Host. After a short introduction to the Museum by your Host, you will be free to visit the galleries at your own pace. Your Host will stay with your group to answer questions and provide fascinating insights into the stories behind the displays. You’ll soon love the collections as much as they do!
  • Reserved car or minibus parking in the MERL carpark or coach parking on the University Whiteknights Campus (drop-off at The MERL) 
  • Exclusive use of The Studio, adjacent to the cafe and welcome area, for up to 3 hours, or other meeting room depending on availability. This room can be used for your refreshments (see below for costs)

£45 per group 

*COVID restrictions may mean max numbers are affected. Find out more about the measures we have in place on The MERL’s COVID updates blog 

Additional Extras

Customise your visit to with these optional extras to suit the needs and interests of your group.


For groups of up to 10, seating can be reserved. For groups of more than 10, please book the Blackbird package and add the cost per person below for refreshments.

Tea, coffee and a slice of cake: £3.50 per person.  

Sandwiches: £3 per person.

Room hire

From £35

Use of a private space is included in the Blackbird Package. if you wish to extend your visit for a meeting or event, we have a variety of rooms and spaces for hire. Costs are available on request.

Evening Visits

Charges vary

You can book a visit during normal museum opening times. (9am to 5pm, Tues to Fri and 10am to 5pm at weekends). Evening visits can be arranged, subject to availability. Contact us for details of charges.


You can now book a speaker to bring a taste of The MERL to you! If you are interested in having one of our expert volunteers come to your venue to deliver a themed talk to your group about the museum, its history and collections, find out more here!


Please view the FAQs and useful information for Group Visits. To book, or for further information, please contact us at or call 0118 378 3112. Please note your booking is provisional until you have received a confirmation email from our Programmes Assistant.