Today I love: Being Brunel at Brunel’s SS Great Britain
What: The SS Great Britain is one of Britain’s most historically important ships. In 1843, when it was first launched, it was regarded as a incredible feat of engineering. It combined new methods of ship building, innovative technology, sheer size and power to change ship building forever. It’s creation led the way for modern ship building to become what it is now.
Cut forwards to the 21st century and the SS Great Britain is now safely stored and preserved in a special dry dock on the side of Bristol’s floating harbour and acts as both a monument to it’s chief engineer, Mr Isambard Kingdom Brunel and as an interactive, immersive journey through engineering history.
As a visitor, you are given a invite through the ship’s history, then on board, to see what life on board would have been like for passenger and crew alike. There is also an amazing chance to delve below deck and under the ship’s incredible hull.
The final treat, is the new Being Brunel exhibition, which seeks to open up the visitor to the mind, history and legacy of Mr Brunel himself. In this exhibition there are exhibits to explore, games to play, films to watch and even hats to wear!
Where: Great Western Dockyard, Gas Ferry Road, Bristol, England, United Kingdom, BS1 6TY
Why: Most museums invite you simply to observe history from behind a sheet of safety glass, but on Brunel’s SS Great Britain it feels like you really get chance to step back in time and experience history for yourself. In the fascinating museum, you learn about the ship’s surprising history, of which there is enough to spend an entire day learning about. There are also a good number of interactive elements to keep children entertained and engaged.
The new Being Brunel experience was really well thought out. Again mixing detailed history, a diverse collection of artefacts and some genuinely brilliant interactive experiences. Our favourites were the Great Western Railway Experience, the Brunel Top Trumps and Inside the Mind of Brunel (NB. My daughter found the smoke element of this exhibit unnerving, so it might be best to avoid with younger children, or those of a nervous disposition.)
My daughter, who is five, loved finding and answering the lift up “Cat Questions”. These engaged her in the history and taught her a few things too. She also loved her chance to sail the ship, dress up as a Victorian First Class Passenger and eventually clamber aboard to carry out the variety of challenges set out on her interactive ships wheel. She was disappointed not to be old enough to climb the rigging in the ship’s Go Aloft experience, but placated with the promise of a return when she is!
Half way through our trip, we stopped for a rest and had a well-priced, tasty lunch in the Harbourside Cafe.
Overall, we had a fantastic time exploring the ship, plunging below deck, meeting some of the characters on board and finding out lots of fantastic information. We would definitely recommend it to families looking for something to do in the holidays, just make sure that you reserve a whole day to get the most out of all the exhibitions.
Below are some photos to illustrate our experience in more detail:
How Much: Well if your name is Isambard then you get to go for free, but otherwise adults are £15.70, a child ticket is £9.00 and a family ticket £42.75 (when purchased online at a 5% discount) – You can get them here: Online Ticket Site