Bristol’s SS Great Britain – Bristol’s #1 Attraction – 175 Years and still going strong

Bristol’s SS Great Britain – Bristol’s #1 Attraction – 175 Years and still going strong

As a born and bred Bristolian, the words ‘Bristol SS Great Britain’ made up a fair chunk of our Primary School education. Being brought up in a maritime City, it felt like each year we’d have a project somehow linked, however tentative, to this ship.

The SS Great Britain has changed A LOT since my visits in the early ’90s. Back then, Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s ship, in all honesty, was nothing much more than a rusting shell of a once-grand vessel. With a hole-ridden hull and rickety wooden boards upon the deck, all set in an uninspiring dry dock.

But WOW! how she has changed!

Bristol’s number 1 attraction has been returned to her former glory. Alas, the SS Great Britain will never be the great ocean liner she once was; the boat will never set sail again. Not that this matters, her final resting place is an absolute marvel, sat in an artificial ‘sea’ at her birthplace. It’s not a bad retirement home for a boat!

Read on to find out about Bristol’s famous and much loved SS Great Britain.

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The Bristol SS Great Britain, built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel recently turned 175! Find out why you should visit Bristol's No.1 Attraction. #Bristol #UK #SSGreatBritain
The Bristol SS Great Britain, built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel recently turned 175! Find out why you should visit Bristol's No.1 Attraction. #Bristol #UK #SSGreatBritain
The Bristol SS Great Britain, built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel recently turned 175! Find out why you should visit Bristol's No.1 Attraction. #Bristol #UK #SSGreatBritain

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO BRISTOLS SS GREAT BRITAIN - 175 YEARS OLD AND STILL GOING STRONG

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On a balmy Bristol evening, the 19th July 2018, The SS Great Britain opened her doors and played host for a fabulous Birthday Party. A celebration in the exact spot from where she was launched 175 years ago!

Walking around the ship and the Dockyard, you would mingle with the Victorian passengers. Actors and actresses dressed in Victorian costume, doing a mixture of activities from their day-to-day lives; deck scrubbing, ship maintenance or just swanning about if you were an affluent Victorian!

The SS Great Britain hosts events like this, during the school holidays where you can mingle with ‘victorian passengers’. They even do a sleepover on the boat sometimes! For the most up-to-date events, check out the SS Great Britain website

The Bristol SS Great Britain, built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel recently turned 175! Find out why you should visit Bristol's No.1 Attraction. #Bristol #UK #SSGreatBritain
The Bristol SS Great Britain, built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel recently turned 175! Find out why you should visit Bristol's No.1 Attraction. #Bristol #UK #SSGreatBritain
The Bristol SS Great Britain, built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel recently turned 175! Find out why you should visit Bristol's No.1 Attraction. #Bristol #UK #SSGreatBritain

BRIEF HISTORY OF THE SS GREAT BRITAIN

  • The SS Great Britain was launched in 1843.
  • She was designed by the engineer Isambard Kindom Brunel (You’ve probably seen Bristol’s famous Bridge – the Clifton Suspension Bridge and Temple Meads Station, well he designed those too! – smart guy!)
  • Isambard Kingdom Brunel was voted the second Greatest Briton of All Time. Winston Churchill pipped him to the post.
  • The SS Great Britain was duel powered (duel-fuel, 1800s style!). She was powered by sails AND steam.
  • Brunel fitted the ship with a Screw Propellor which, in the 1800s was the latest invention in marine-based technology.
  • Not only was The SS Great Britain the first screw-propelled, ocean-going, iron-hulled steam ship* but at the time of her launch, she was the largest ship in the World!

 

If you want to find out more about the history of The SS Great Britain and Isambard Kingdom Brunel, check out the official SS Great Britain story here.

The Bristol SS Great Britain, built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel recently turned 175! Find out why you should visit Bristol's No.1 Attraction. #Bristol #UK #SSGreatBritain

CLIMB THE RIGGING AND 'GO ALOFT!' ON THE SS GREAT BRITAIN

 Ever wondered what it would be like to climb the rigging of a ship? ‘Go Aloft!’ gives visitors to the SS Great Britain the opportunity to do just that, and climb the rigging.

You’ll get to experience what it would have been like to scale up the nets to a platform, 25m metres above the deck of the SS Great Britain. If you’re feeling really brave, then you can even shuffle out the 9 metres of the Main Yard, where you will precariously balance out over the Dockyard. Yes, it’s a long way up, BUT the view from up there is stunning!

Looking ‘awesome’ in your full body to the harness and equally fetching helmet, you’re kitted up and ready to go. After a scramble up the nets followed by a tentative shuffle along a wobbly bit of rope along the Main Yard, you’ll be rewarded with the most stunning views over the harbour. 

You’ll be thankful for your unflattering harness, there isn’t much to hold onto up here and it’s a long way down. Sailors performing this acrobatic manoeuvre while the wind was blowing, the ship rocking with the waves, maybe even rain lashing down or for dramatic effect, in the dark must have had nerves of steel! 

Go Aloft is a great opportunity to get a teeny glimpse into what an 1800’s sailor on the ship must have experienced. It’s fun, it’s exhilarating and it’s slightly unnerving, even for adrenalin junkies likes us, and I highly recommend you do this activity when you visit the SS Great Britain. 

Find out more about Go Aloft! 

The Bristol SS Great Britain, built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel recently turned 175! Find out why you should visit Bristol's No.1 Attraction. #Bristol #UK #SSGreatBritain
The Bristol SS Great Britain, built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel recently turned 175! Find out why you should visit Bristol's No.1 Attraction. #Bristol #UK #SSGreatBritain

UNDER THE DECKS

The inside of the SS Great Britain has been beautifully renovated with so much care to detail showing what life would have looked like below the decks.

It was shocking to see how tiny some of the rooms were, particularly if you were one of the lower-class passengers. Their ‘room’ was nothing much more than a very skinny bunk bed with a curtain for privacy. It would certainly have been chaotropic in there. The rooms in the upper-class, although still tiny, had their own private room full of plush furnishings, a real contrast between the rich and the poor.

The SS Great Britain would have had to be self-sufficient for it’s a journey across the ocean, they even have an area where live animals were kept! Check out the kitchens and pantry which would have provided the food for the whole ship.


Compared to my childhood memories of visiting the SS Great Britain, it’s changed so much. There is so much here to get immersed in with loads of interactive, so it’s a top-notch educational attraction for families to enjoy.

The child in me loved one of the interactives in particular. A passenger in a toilet cabin (see if you can find it when you visit!). Thankfully it’s not a real person here! I’m not sure how many times we opened and closed this door, giggling like little children each time. Needless to say, the interactives are fun for both adults as well as the little ones.

The Bristol SS Great Britain, built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel recently turned 175! Find out why you should visit Bristol's No.1 Attraction. #Bristol #UK #SSGreatBritain

MONEY SAVING TIPS AT THE SS GREAT BRITAIN

When you visit The SS Great Britain, your ticket is valid for a full 12 months! So you can keep coming back as many times as you like. There are loads of themed events going on throughout the year.

What’s more, if you purchase a ticket online, you also get a 5% discount off the door price. Click here to take advantage of this offer.

Even better than that, do you want to get in FREE?!

If your parents happened to bless you with the name Isambard then you can visit The SS Great Britain for absolutely nothing. How’s that for a bargain? a cool name AND free entry!

The Bristol SS Great Britain, built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel recently turned 175! Find out why you should visit Bristol's No.1 Attraction. #Bristol #UK #SSGreatBritain

Travelling around the U.K? 

Here are some other great articles to help plan your trip.

Alternatively, if you only have one day in Bristol, then why not book on to one of the great tours that will show you the highlights of the city?

Prebook now: Blackbeard to Banksy The Ultimate Walking Tour of Bristol

Prebook now: Breweries and Brunel Craft Beer Tour

Pin it for later

If you loved this post, found it useful or know someone that will, then please like and share. Or if you’re planning a trip to Bristol, then why not pin it for future reference to remind you what a great attraction the SS Great Britain is?
The Bristol SS Great Britain, built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel recently turned 175! Find out why you should visit Bristol's No.1 Attraction. #Bristol #UK #SSGreatBritain
The Bristol SS Great Britain, built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel recently turned 175! Find out why you should visit Bristol's No.1 Attraction. #Bristol #UK #SSGreatBritain
The Bristol SS Great Britain, built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel recently turned 175! Find out why you should visit Bristol's No.1 Attraction. #Bristol #UK #SSGreatBritain

Bristol's SS Great Britain - Bristol's #1 Attraction - 175 Years and still going strong 1

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Becki from Meet Me In Departures

Adventure travel blogger with a big addiction to the World. An ex-rat-racer who was fed up with sleep-work-eat-repeat materialistic mentality that plagues modern living. I love anything to do with off-beat travel, abandoned places, temples & ruins, street art, wildlife in its natural habitat, adventure sport.....basically anything but the 9-5!

This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. What a beautiful peice of history, its amazing that something that old is in that good of a shape.

    1. Well, when she was brought back to Bristol it’s was just a rusty hull with a rotted top deck. It’s been great to see how they’ve renovated the ship over the years and today it’s in fabulous condition although it’s not ever going to sail again.

  2. This post interests me because I’ve toured the Star of India in San Diego, a ship of about the same vintage. I’ve been to parties on the ship and walked all around, but there’s no option to climb the rigging. How fun! I’d love to visit the SS Great Britain for that alone!

    1. Wow, I’ll have to look out for the Star of India if I ever gt to San Diego, thanks for the tip-off. It must be amazing to have a party on a ship though. Thanks for commenting.

  3. Oh, this sounds fun and educational! I always enjoy reenactors who recreate the atmosphere of a historical time period. This does seem to be a great stop for all ages. Thanks for sharing it.

    1. The SS Great Britain is always a popular pick with families because there is so much to interest the kids and adults, and I agree, the actors really bring the boat to life.

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