On the Sunday/ Monday of the early May bank holiday weekend we headed two hours down the coast to Portsmouth to visit the Historic Dockyard. For a few years now I've been seeing posts from other bloggers and FB posts from friends sharing their great day at this huge attraction. It is somewhere I'd been meaning to take the family to explore for a long time but you know what it is like, life is busy!
I'm so pleased we made time to visit, even though the weather was miserable and rainy and I can tell you from the start, we will definitely be going back. We didn't even manage to get half of the attractions done in the five hours we spent there. Portsmouth Historic Dockyard really is a great day out for all the family - old and young. It offers a unique experience which spans 800 years of British Naval history and as it is situated within a working Naval Base, the dockyard is the only place in the world to see the Royal Navy past, present and future
So what attractions are there?
First off there are two main parts of the Historic Dockyard, there is the main site which houses the Mary Rose, HMS Victor, HMS M.33, HMS Warrior 1860, the Action Stations interactive kids area, Boathouse 4, harbour tours and The National Museum of the Royal Navy. Also at the moment there are a couple of special exhibitions in the museum - 36 hours: Jutland 1916 and Women and the Royal Navy. Looking at the map I wondered if we would have to do a lot of walking during the day but actually the site is really compact and whilst we did lots of walking, as we toured the boats etc, there wasn't actually far to go.
Then there is the Gosport site, which you can access by waterbus from the main dockyard site. Here there is the Royal Navy Submarine museum and Explosion Museum of Naval Firepower. There is also the Royal Marines Museum a Eastney too.
During our five hour visit we got to see HMS Victory, HMS M.33, The Mary Rose, Boathouse 4 and Active Stations, as well as enjoying our picnic lunch (in the rain, thank goodness, for undercover picnic areas!).
HMS Victory is the oldest commissioned warship in the world and a proud memorial to Vice Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson, Britain's greatest Naval hero and his stunning victory at the Battle of Trafalgar. It is magnificent to tour and we all really enjoyed the self-led audio tour that is complimentary. As you tour the ship you can use a laser at various points to hear about what was happening on the ship and during various points of the Battle of Trafalgar. It is probably the best audio tour I've ever taken.
We spent just over an hour on the boat as it is huge and you get to see a real variety of what would have been happening on board all those years ago. It is dark and and the head room is very cramped in places but as a larger lady I found it all very accessible.
The Mary Rose Museum
This museum only opened last July and it really is a triumph. I recall being a child and watching the Mary Rose being recovered from under the sea, so it was amazing to come and see it in real life. As it was raining hard at the time we visited it was very busy in the museum and this spoilt it a little as it was hard to get to some of the exhibits but we just had to be patient. It is also worth noting and you can probably see from the photos that it is pretty dark in this museum, I assume to ensure a safe environment for the Mary Rose.
The kids loved the volunteers at various tables around the museum and were happy to chat to them about Tudor dental techniques, cooking and living life on board the ship. They also really enjoyed the animation that happens every so often against the backdrop of the ship and you get an idea of what would have been happening in different parts of the ship. My girls also enjoyed dressing up as Tudors at the end of the tour.
It was good to look at around this First World War ship as it is so different to the HMS Victory that we had looked at before. This ship was lovely and quiet and this meant my kids were able to chat to the staff and ask all the questions they wanted. They enjoyed seeing how the enormous guns would have worked and finding out about the ships cat.
This is an amazing area for kids of all ages and everything within it is included in the attraction price already paid with the exception of Laser Quest. There is a traditional climbing wall, a moving climbing wall, a kick-boxing beat the lights game, sky tykes rope course for smaller kids, you can watch a thrilling short movie, take a ride in a boat or helicopter simulator, attack the Ninja Force activity course or try out one of dozens more smaller games and activities. It really is thrilling fun for the kids and considering it was a busy bank holiday the longest they waited for anything was ten minutes, so it is really manageable.
It is great to be able to see the traditional boat building skills at work in this boathouse but the bit my kids loved was climbing the mast. The staff were excellent, so friendly and encouraging for something that was a tad scary for the small ones. Also in here is the forgotten craft interactive exhibition and the lovely Midships Cookhouse restaurant overlooking the harbour.
As I mentioned before this was all we had time for but from what we saw and experienced I feel sure that if we had visited more we would have been equally happy. We had a Costa coffee when on-site and the price was as you'd expect but we didn't try out any of the other catering facilities. The food and drinks in the Boathouse No. 7 looked really good and there was loads of comfy seating and an undercover lunch area for schools and large parties. We used many different toilets on site and they were all very clean and well stocked which always gives me confidence of the care going into the upkeep of an attraction.
- Address: Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, Visitor Centre, Victory Gate, HM Naval Base, Portsmouth PO1 3LJ
- If you are using a Sat Nav device, our car park postcode is PO1 3GW (Admiralty Road)
- There is a 295 space car park on site where it will cost you £2 per 2 hours up to £8 and then £10 for 24 hours or you can use the Park & Ride out at M275 for £4 for the day.
- Portsmouth Historic Dockyard have tried to make all the attractions as accessible as possible but of course many things are very old and come with their own challenges. There is a very good page on the website with all the accessibility information.
- Opening Hours - 10am to 5pm November - March (winter) and 10am to 5:30pm April - October (summer) Closed on Christmas Eve, Day and Boxing Day. Last tickets sold an hour before closing
- Ticket prices have been reduced this year and the all attraction ticket is fantastic value as once bought you can access all the attractions for a whole year. It is £28 for an adult, £12 for a child aged 5 - 15 years or £60 for a family of 2 adults and up to 3 kids.
I'm linking this post up with Fiona at Coombe Mill for #CountryKids.
Disclosure: My family received a complimentary family pass for the purpose of this review. I have not been instructed what to write and I remain honest.
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