In the countryside, not far from Didcot, a stunning flying saucer of a building is home to the UK’s largest particle accelerator, and occasionally, they let the public inside for a look.

(c) Diamond Light Source

Known as a synchrotron, it’s a giant particle accelerator, but rather than smashing atoms together to study them, as is done at CERN, here they are used to generate powerful light beams that can be used to study the inside of materials.

Of importance to science and commerce, the vast facility is a wonder of big machines that are used to study the microscopic, the entire facility sits in a huge silver ring building in the countryside. A visit therefore is to see some very big science in action.

As the synchrotron is in use most of the time, tours are limited to occasional open days, and there will be two in 2024 — the first on Saturday 23rd March 2024.

A visit will take approximately 2/2.5 hours and will consist of:

  • An introductory talk giving a general overview of Diamond and what it is used for.
  • A guided tour – including a trip to see inside the synchrotron and the laboratories – note that extensive walking will be involved
  • An opportunity to talk to Diamond employees and ask them about their work and the facility.

Due to demand for places, they are being allocated by ballot — and you can apply for up to 6 free tickets here.

I visited in 2010 and had a great time.

To get to Diamond Light Source, if coming by public transport, buses from Didcot railway station to Harwell Campus run every half hour on bus routes X34 and X35 with journey times of around 25 minutes.

  • Leaves Didot station at 13 and 43 minutes past the hour.
  • Leaves Harwell campus at 20 and 50 minutes past the hour


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One comment
  1. Simon says:

    We did this earlier this year, amazing place! Lovely friendly people and well presented tour! Highly recommend it!

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