What the Cutty Sark is really like with kids
I've long loved Greenwich - it is one of those destinations I always recommend to London visitors. This time we we're invited by Royal Museums Greenwich to visit Cutty Sark, the big historic sailing ship right on the riverfront in Greenwich. It is one of those sights you can't miss when you are wandering about the area, and a gorgeous sight at that. I've long wanted to see the ship myself too so was glad to take my family along to review the Cutty Sark experience - this is what we thought of Cutty Sark!
Please note, this post is in collaboration with Royal Museums Greenwich.
Cutty Sark is a historic sailing ship built in 1869 - it was one of the fastest at the time, reaching speeds of about 20 miles an hour. It was used as a cargo ship for a while, first for tea from China, then for wool from Australia, until steam boats took over. Then, after 3 decades of use as a training ship, it was finally retired on a dry dock in Greenwich in 1950s.
I loved that there was so much to learn about ship building and you could see it all with your own eyes. Some of the things we learned were that the skeleton of the ship was made out of steel. Even if it was more expensive than wood, it's less bulky, so you could fit more cargo in. And they did - some of the loads were more than £1m in today's money! You could even touch the copper hull when walking underneath the ship. I actually thought the copper was just a decorative touch, but no - it was installed to stop barnacles and others from attaching to the wood.
There was so much for kids to learn about and try. Down below the decks there were different interactive things to touch and play with, such as a wooden play ship, a steering wheel with mechanics on show, moving seats to demonstrate what being at sea might feel like, demonstrations of cargo and so on and so on. On the decks, you could visit the living quarters of both the officers and the ordinary seamen. You could see the kitchen, carpenter's work station, the toilets and even try one of the beds if you fancy being a sailor, and much more. There were talks by Cutty Sark characters we managed to catch a bit of, and during half term also story-telling for kids.
My daughter loved interacting with the exhibitions, trying the sailor beds, and pretending to be a pirate. I especially loved walking underneath the ship. It was beautiful, and you could appreciate the ship from a very unique angle, and like I mentioned, touch it too. It was also fun running around the deck, imagining what life must have been on the ship, and certainly gave my daughter much to think about.
Other big plus from me was that nearly everything at Cutty Sark was accessible - probably about 95%. We brought a buggy with us, and could use a lift to reach all areas, except one part of the top deck. There we did the traditional parental tag teaming, so we could both see what was going on while our baby slept in her pram. I thought it was great for visitors with mobility issues as well, as you could see much of the exhibitions from the accessible deck areas, although some indoor areas (like the officer's living areas) were not possible to enter if you have difficulty mobilising.
I really think it was such a fantastic place to visit with the kids, there was lots for them to do. My 5 year old daughter said: "I loved touching the ship, being in the ship, and being on the ship. ... It was really good, I loved it". Big thumbs up from us!
Top tips for Cutty Sark:
- You can book tickets to Cutty Sark on their website, or walk up on the day. You can also get combined tickets with Royal Observatory.
- Nearest DLR station is Cutty Sark - go figure ha ha! DLR is quite easy to take, and you get good views too via Canary Wharf.
- The other great way to get to Greenwich is to take a boat to Greenwich Pier, which is right in front of the Cutty Sark. My favourite route is from Westminster to Greenwich Pier, so you get to see all the sights on the way.
- Check out their events - especially around school holiday times. During half term there is story-telling for kids. There are quite a few other events after half term too. We also saw Cutty Sark characters telling stories of the ship's past which was good fun.
- You can take a buggy - it is nearly all accessible with the help of lifts! This is also fantastic if you have any mobility issues. Alternatively, you can leave the buggy downstairs in a buggy park and have your kid walk around.
- You can get a trail map for kids (great for kids of reading age), or ask for a backpack with toys and stories (possible good for the younger guests).
- The experience takes about one to two and a half hours. We took our time and sat down for quick drinks, so we were there well over two hours.
- You can have an afternoon tea, if you book 3 days ahead - looks like a lovely experience! For food, there is a small cafe at Cutty Sark, and if you want a bigger meal, right outside on the riverfront there are a few family friendly restaurants. We visited Byron Burgers on the day.
- Have a chat with the attendants - they are very knowledgeable and helpful. We had some great chats with them and learned a lot about the ship's past!
- Fab for a rainy day visit as well - it will just add to the feeling of being at sea! And there are plenty of indoor areas to shelter in.
Have you been to Greenwich? What would you recommend there?
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