I’d like to tell you about the SS Great Britain but that might spoilt it. Countless times we’ve passed the great ship, she stands resplendent in a dry dock, ships flags fluttering in the wind. A very visible symbol of Bristol and yet, we’ve never visited, I’m not sure why. So it was with some excitement that, as a family, we finally got to climb aboard.
Bristol Harbour is one of our favourite places to visit as a family. In the water there are boats, paddle boarders and rowers. On the harbour edge, on the right day, find steam trains or a festival. It’s a great place to wander, free of cars, kids have space to run. Rest and refreshment spots are plentiful. A magnificent fixture of the harbour is the SS Great Britain.
Now this is my dilemma, I was delighted and surprised by so many aspects of my visit and if re-tell too much, I will ruin the surprises that await you. What I can tell you is you can climb the rigging, visit the museum, touch the hull and that you can explore the nooks and crannies of this mighty ship.
Layer upon layer of history take visitors through the various occupations of the SS Great Britain from when she initially set sail in 1843 as engineer Brunel’s technological innovation. How she carried passengers to Australia, her voyages across the globe and ultimately, her difficult journey home to Bristol in 1970. I found the story of her return, crowds greeted her along the banks of the Avon, emotionally very touching.
Sealed under a water lined glass enclosure, which gives the illusion of being below the waves. Her iron hull lives in a humid and controlled environment and allows the visitor up close to a part of a ship rarely seen.
A new addition to the ship is; ‘Go Aloft’, an opportunity to climb the rigging, should you meet the height restrictions and have the ‘nerve’. The rewards are not just an insight into life as a Victorian sailor but also views across Bristol. I imagine there is probably an adrenaline rush to be had too. The deck is a lovely place to linger, both to discover more of the ship and watch the passing activity of Bristol Marina.
Below deck is a treat, a detailed reconstruction of life aboard, visual stories, sounds and smells. I’d love to tell you more but I think, if you have the opportunity, you should discover the SS Great Britain for yourself.
A timetable of additional activities makes it worth checking the website when planning a visit. You might wish to listen to stories or see ship’s artefacts up close.
Because ships have a gender and a name, because the sea is both magical and an unforgiving opponent, it creates a definite depth of individuality and personality to great ships. They become more than a vessel. The history told via the museum and through the ship herself un-peels the skin of this Grand Old Lady. There is much to discover, stories to become absorbed in should you be a fascinated 70-year-old. Things to try out and touch should you be a restless 7-year-old.
Definitely worth visit, be you a visitor to the city of Bristol or a resident with a love of your home city. The story of the SS Great Britain is part of the fabric that made Bristol; a vibrant port; imports, exports, sea faring individuals, engineering innovation; all intrinsically woven into the history that created the city we have today.
Access for people with disabilities
Fully accessible for wheelchair users. Guides for BSL users. Facilities for Blind and partially sighted visitors. Free entry for carers and assistants.
The Dockside cafe sells reasonably priced drinks, food and cakes.
Entry prices (at the time of writing) are £14 for an adult. Under 4 free. 5-17 year old; £8. The price of the ticket includes free unlimited return visits for a year (excluding group tickets, schools, or venue hire guests).
Disclosure: I was given entry for myself and my family to SS Great Britain and asked for social media shares; twitter, instagram etc. I was not asked to write a review. I wrote this because I loved the ship and wanted to share that. All words and opinions are therefore, as always, my own.