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It’s been 5 years since we visited the Cutty Sark which really feels too long because whilst it is the other side of London from us, it’s really easy to access from the DLR and boy do my children love a trip on the DLR. If you’re not familiar with the Dockland’s Light Railway, they’re driverless trains so the front seats are up for grabs, coveted by all small passengers but any position actually provides brilliant views as you travel around Canary Wharf and the surrounds. Greenwich is a great place for a day visit, besides the Cutty Sark, there are several other museums which include the Royal Observatory where you can journey into space in the planetarium or of course stand on the Meridian Line. Greenwich Park is a lovely spot to stop for a picnic or just to let the children run off steam and it provides some stunning views over the city.
Back to the Cutty Sark and just the sight of this tall ship with flags flying from its masts on the skyline is exciting to the children and they’re desperate to climb aboard to explore. At 7 and 9, the younger children are almost exactly the same age as the older two were the first time we visited and this seems the ideal age to really benefit from the experience. When they were younger they thoroughly enjoyed looking around the boat but this time they were able to engage with the exhibits and understand the history being told.
The ship has been made a fully interactive experience, on entry an audio guide is included in the price of your ticket so they had the story in their ears to tell them what they were seeing as they explored. Even though the audio guide is aimed at adults, I listened too and didn’t notice any facts too complicated for them to understand and they enjoyed listening and didn’t ask any questions. On top of the audio guide, they were given a children’s booklet with lots of fun facts to read and stamps to collect as they moved around the ship.
The Cutty Sark is made up of 3 decks and then a wonderful space beneath the hull. On the lower deck, you can see the skeleton of the ship and watch a film which tells of its history as a Victorian tea clipper, speeding its valuable cargo around the world. The middle (or Tween) deck is where most the interactive experiences are, there’s lots to explore and things to touch, smell and climb on to get a real idea of the senses experienced onboard. There are several digital exhibits too, one which allows you to search your surname to see if you may have been related to a member of the crew and a real favourite amongst the kids; a game where you try to navigate the ship along its course in record time!
Standing on the top deck provides wonderful views across the Thames into the capital and a very dramatic platform to stand and look out from with all the masts and rigging overhead. Here you can explore the living and working space onboard. The children loved climbing into the apprentice’s bunk-beds and sitting around the Captain’s table planning an adventure.
In the dock beneath the hull there is so much more to do and with the beautiful boat suspended above you but windows either side flooding in plenty of light, I find it a really atmospheric and calm place to relax. There’s a cafe and toilets and plenty of space around the sides to sit and take the weight of your feet for a while. Whilst you do there is so much here to entertain the children. First, we listened to the story of Cutty Sark which is the name of the figurehead from the front as well of the ship. She comes to life to tell the story of the boat from her pinnacle position, taking the children on a journey around the world as she does so. After that, the children played a huge board game where they had to be the first to visit a country and buy the correct items before returning to dock. There were 3 teams of 4 or 5 children and they were all fully engaged in this for nearly half an hour!
I was so impressed by our visit to the Cutty Sark and was pleased to return, especially as this year the magnificent ship celebrates her 150th birthday. There are so many great events taking place this year as part of these celebrations and the family fun guide, particularly during the holidays, shows so many great activities planned including making moon kites, bag weaving and spooky stories for Halloween half term.
For more information and to book a visit, which is cheaper done in advance online, visit the Royal Museums Greenwich website. Child tickets start at £6.75 and adults £13.50 but if you think you might like to visit more than once then take a look at a family membership because I thought the prices looked really reasonable. You may also follow the Royal Museums Greenwich on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and be sure to share any of your adventures using #ExploreGreenwich