August 7, 2019

Visiting Bristol’s SS Great Britain

When people ask what they should do when they visit my hometown of Bristol, I often suggest they take a trip to the SS Great Britain.

But embarrassingly, I have never been! Well, that was until this Monday when I took my 12-year-old cousin to visit the ship and experience the Summer Spectacular.

What is the SS Great Britain?

The SS Great Britain is the world’s first passenger steamship. It was designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel – the inventor also created the Great Western Railway that still runs today from Bristol to London Paddington (a route I use every time I travel home!).

SS Great Britain ship

The SS Great Britain was the longest passenger ship in the world from 1845 until 1854.

It sailed from Bristol to New York. And was then used to transport people from the UK to Australia from 1852 – 1881.

She was then retired and then SUNK! Until she was then rescued in the 1970s and became the museum we know to this day.

What’s it like to visit?

Firstly, the museum has a clever way of explaining the ship’s history.

It’s a real hands on experience where you can step back in time and see some of the stories behind the ship.

You can see the kitchen and cabin  – and you can even try your hand at sweeping the deck!

I really liked the section where you could learn about what it was like for people onboard the ship for the 65 day trip to Australia – there were letters and pictures from some of the passengers who made the trip.

There’s also a great exhibition on Brunel himself with some of his personal items which allow you to gain an insight into his life.

I think it’s a great experience for children – you can even see Isambard Kingdom Brunel walking around the ship with his top hat on!

There also some great talks on offer about what it would have been like for the sailors on the ship that are well worth it.

Climbing the rigging – Go Aloft!

I’d seen adverts at the train station about climbing the rigging at the ship for a while and knew it was something I wanted to take my cousin on.

One thing I would say, is that it is first come first served so make sure you allow plenty of time to queue and go on. We missed the first go but had a look around the ship and then came back for the next session.

The experience allows visitors to climb the main mast of the ship and stand 26 metres on the platform above the ship.

It’s not too bad getting up there – mainly because you feel entirely secured by the harness and wires. But it’s hard to believe that sailors used to climb up there by themselves while a ship was bobbing about!

When you’ve climbed to the platform, you then have the option to step onto the main yard, 9m across the ship. I chose to do it and I have to say it was a tad nerve-racking but the instructors were lovely!

Summer spectacular

We were lucky enough to visit during the Summer Spectacular where circus performers perform stunts and aerial performances while keeping in character as those onboard the ship.

The Summer Spectacular runs until September 1 with multiple performances every day.

We managed to see some of them dangling from the rigging that we eventually climbed. They also sung traditional ‘pirate’ songs from that time – great voices too!


This visit was gifted by the SS Great Britain but as always all views and opinions are my own. Click here to book tickets and for extra information. 

One response to “Visiting Bristol’s SS Great Britain”

  1. Tash M says:

    I didn’t know this was in Bristol. I’ll have to add it to the UK itinerary. Cheers!

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