We seem to visit the Cutty Sark at least once a year, or certainly have in recent years. There is a good reason for that, its in Greenwich, a beautiful part of London with lots of other stuff to do and see, and its appeal is far reaching. In the last few years we have visited with visitors from near and far, with parents, friends, siblings and nieces and nephews, in summer and winter and it has never failed to please all ages.
If you are not familiar with The Cutty Sark. This beautiful tea clipper was built in Scotland in 1869, with the purpose of carrying tea from China to England as fast as possible. This record-breaking ship travelled the globe and visited every major world port throughout its varied history. It has been a London Land mark for some years now, but in 2007 a devestating fire destroyed large parts of it resulting in its closure for some years. After massive restoration and repair it reopened in 2012 as the museum we see today. Its a striking sight as you approach it from the tube station. The gleaming vessel takes centre stage with its towering masts and endless rigging. Its copper coloured hull is now encased in a glass roof structure, making it possible to view the part of the ship that would have been below water, clearly from the outside.
Interactive games and displays, provide plenty of opportunity for children to learn about the history of the Cutty Sark, in a fun and educational way. Boxes to stick hands into, knots to tie and puzzles to attempt. Character actors tell stories of life on the Cutty Sark, involving children in games and activities, even singing the odd sea shanty or two. One of the games we have all enjoyed no matter what age is trying to steer the ship from Australia to England via the winds. Its lots of fun and something even the youngest members of the group can enjoy. In fact on our last visit the younger members of the group were probably more successful than those of us who are are a bit older.
There is neither too much not too little information, and it takes very little imagination to picture the Cutty Sark, at full sail creating a furrow through the oceans loaded with tea; or to envisage what life may have been like on the high seas for weeks and months on end. I loved reading the letters sent home by crew members describing life aboard. There is a short film soon after you enter which sets the scene for the life and times of this enduring ship.
The decks are easy to roam around and there are some great views over the Thames towards the city. Its fun to go below deck and look at the galley area, the tiny cabins and the living quarters. Once you have done all of this, the tour takes you down to the lower area and into the bowels of the ship. Down here is a huge open space, perfect for children to roam (and run) in freely. There is a perfectly nice cafe and a rather odd collection of ship mast heads, just begging to be photographed.
Greenwich is a great place to spend a day. There are lots of green spaces in which to relax with a picnic lunch, and the National Maritime Museum and The Royal Observatory are a short walk away. If coffee and shopping is your thing (and why wouldn’t it be) Greenwich market is a great place to wander through, and a great place to pick up some interesting food.
Our favourite way of getting to the Cutty Sark from where we live in West London involves tube, DLR and boat. We start the day travelling on the tube and then the driverless DLR. Try and get a seat at the very front to watch the streets and waterways of London pass you by. We usually finish our day in Greenwich by travelling by Thames Clipper back to Westminster where we pick up our tube. This is a lovely way to finish, particularly if its becoming dusk and lights are beginning to twinkle in the buildings lining the river.
Like steam travel, there is something inescapably romantic about sailing ships, and the Cutty Sark is the epitomy of those romantic notions
Tickets are £11.50 for adults and £5.95 for children. As London attractions goes, this feels like pretty good value, and with half term on the horizon, a trip to the Cutty Sark may be just what you and your family are looking for.