A visit to the SS Great Britain in Bristol

We last visited Bristol back in 2016 and fell in love with the vibrant city and there was one attraction that we wanted to visit, but sadly ran out of time – the SS Great Britain.

Now, with Kian at university in Bristol, we have an excuse to visit more and when we headed there last month, I made a plan of places to go and the SS Great Britain was top of my list.

The SS Great Britain was designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel,  one of the world’s most pioneering engineers – surveyor of the Great Western Railway, architect of the Clifton Suspension Bridge, digger of the Thames Tunnel and promoter of the screw propeller and although the ship is the focal point of the visit, there is so much more to see, do and learn.

So why is the SS Great Britain so important?

When the SS Great Britain was launched in 1843, she was hailed as one of the most significant innovations in maritime history. By combining size, power and innovative technology, including designing a new screw propeller, these key innovations created a ship that changed history.

The first thing that struck me on our visit, is how well presented the ship is, with luggage and personal belongings all looking like it is being ready to be loaded. Although the historic ship is in the dry dock she was built in, she looks as if she is floating on water from path, yet you can go beneath the ‘sea’ in the dry dock for amazing views you would never normally see.

SS Great Britain

It is ‘under the sea’ where you can see how impressively huge the ship is and the kids started busily exploring, looking for clues to answer the questions in their quiz.

It was then onto the Museum which is packed full of artefacts and interactive exhibits for adults and children to get their hands on. The kids were especially drawn to sailing the ship, although I did have to remind them that the idea was to sail away from the Lighthouse – not towards it.

Sail Away Kids

For lovers of dressing up, there was also the chance to dress as a passenger from 1843 and take your own very special boarding pass.

From the museum, it is then time to board the ship, to get an idea of what life might have been like onboard for the passengers.

Isaac was desperate to “Go Aloft” and climb the rigging, which takes you over 25 metres above ground level, but sadly it wasn’t quite tall enough – you need to be 1.4m.

We made do with wandering around the ship, which has been restored to its former glory with rooms being furnished to how it would have been back then and the kids found their toilets very amusing, particularly one that was “occupied”!

They struggled to comprehend how people could have lived in such small cabins  and sleep in the tiny bunk beds – even they struggled to get in one, never mind an adult.

From the ship it was then on to the new Being Brunel exhibition, a celebration of everything Brunel; from a top hat wearing, cigar smoking work obsessive to a thoughtful genius determined to push the boundary with every project.

You are positively encouraged to don a top hat as you enter the museum and are immediately greeted by three talking pictures, sharing anecdotes about Brunel.

You not only learn about his successes, but also his failures too like the South Devon Atmospheric Railway………it’s a very bumpy ride!!

A visit to the SS Great Britain is a fascinating day out for all the family. There are plenty of activities to keep the kids happy and entertained and I strongly recommend you borrow their activity bag for added fun.

A family ticket to the SS Great Britain costs £45, plus book online for a 5% discount.

Disclaimer: We were guests of Visit Bristol for the purpose of a review. All thoughts and opinions are our own.

16 thoughts on “A visit to the SS Great Britain in Bristol

  1. This place has changed a little since 2013. But still gives off that lovely vibe. Seems you had a great time there…

  2. Brunel was a true genius. The way in which this ship is crafted is beautiful. I love the idea of being able to see the bottom through glass. It’s a great learning experience for the children and I love how they could dress up and go back in time. I’ll admit I would struggle with the small spaces that the sailors had to live in!

  3. This place sounds amazing, so fun and educational too. I have never heard about the SS Great Britain before. £45 for a family ticket these days isn’t bad either.

  4. We absolutely loved our visit to the SS Great Britain in Bristol! It is a fascinating museum with terrific history and exhibits. It’s great that our ticket is good for a year, so when we visit our daughter in Bristol, we are able to return! This is terrific for both adults and kids. We learned so much. Great read on a wonderful place to visit in Bristol!

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