SS Great Britain
SS Great Britain
Having fun
Having fun

A fantastic insight into the life of the SS Great Britain

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Kids in Museums volunteer Rachel van Koningsveld happened to be in Bristol and decided to visit Brunel’s SS Great Britain with her 9 year old and 5 year old twins. Her dad, who’s a “total boat nut”, recommended it, but she wasn’t sure how her three very girly girls would enjoy it…

The museum is in three parts, the dry dock, the dockyard museum and then the boat itself. The dry dock is beneath a glass ‘sea’ where you can see the hull of the boat and the huge anchor and propeller. My 9yr old was fascinated by the dock itself and how they would have got the boat out by flooding the dock. Being under glass it didn’t matter that it was raining outside.

You have to go through the Dockyard Museum to get up to the boat.  Had there not been plenty of things here to keep the kids interested, they would have tried to rush through at lightning speed to get to the boat.  A ship’s wheel that you can navigate on a big screen and a boarding ticket that you have to stamp at various points in the museum were a hit.

On the boat itself you can use the audio tour, which is included in the price. There are different versions for children and adults and whether you want to hear the 1st class or 3rd class commentaries. I opted for the adults audio tour, but on hindsight I should have listened to the same audio as the children. They rushed through theirs, which was obviously shorter..

The inside decks of the boat have been set up to look like they did during its heyday. It’s fantastic for kids because they can get up close and touch the items inside because most of the things are replicas. They even have mannequins dressed up as crew members and passengers. Many of the rooms have sounds and even stinky smells, which the kids loved. The highlights for them were being able to sit at the dining tables in 1st class and pretend they were eating a fine dinner, the half closed toilet door with the sound of someone inside telling them that the toilet was occupied (in lots of funny ways) and the kitchens with the food, the ovens, the smells and the rats.

We’d intended visiting the café, but by the time we’d finished exploring the boat it was very busy. I did check out the menu, though, and it looked reasonably priced with plenty of things that the kids would like to eat.

The SS Great Britain has four types of family tickets, with reductions when only one adult is present, whether parent or grandparent. I was really impressed with this because I nearly always take the kids to museums on my own and family tickets are normally for two adults. The best thing, though, was that the ticket price gives you unlimited return visits to the museum for a year. Also, the museum and boat have lifts, so are accessible for wheelchairs and pushchairs.

All in all we had a thoroughly enjoyable time. The kids loved it and are looking forward to going back. Next time I will definitely listen to the kids audio tour and plan it so that we visit the café at a quieter time.

Family tickets are £33.50 or £22.00 for a “mini” family. Grandparent family tickets are £30.00 or £20.50 for a “mini” grandparent family.

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