Wednesday, 31 July 2013

A day at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard with young children

Last year, we were sent some Epic Straws to play with and review. They were, and still are, a huge hit in this household. I'm afraid that I have to hide them, otherwise Harry would be playing with them all the time and we would have constant puddles all over the floor! With my post, I was lucky enough to be chosen as the winner in the competition hosted by BritMums, and I received a fantastic £200 of Virgin Experience vouchers. We deliberated for a long time over how to spend them, and this month we finally exchanged them for some days out vouchers. The first one was for Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, and we visited on a lovely hot day last week.

Portsmouth Historic Dockyard is made up of three large historic ships - HMS Victory, The Mary Rose and HMS Warrior. Your site ticket also includes a Harbour Tour and entry into several other museums and attractions. There's definitely enough there to fill up your day.

The new Mary Rose museum only opened a couple of months ago, and as it's popular you must choose a time slot to visit when you buy your tickets, it's definitely worth making sure that you arrive early. Once in you can spend as long as you like there. It's incredible really, the Mary Rose was built in 1510, sank in 1545, was rediscovered in 1971 and salvaged in 1982. The museum is very dark inside, and you view the ship through small windows in a corridor down one side. This makes it a little difficult to get a sense of the scale of the ship, although this is only a temporary measure to dry out the ship before it is opened up in five years time. The most impressive part of the visit is towards the end of the tour, when you ascend the height of the ship in a glass sided lift and can really appreciate the sheer size. Among the accompanying exhibits, faces of some of the crew members have been reconstructed and they are presented alongside the items with which they were found - identifying among others a carpenter and archer. It's all fascinating.

Portsmouth Historic Dockyard visit

Next door is HMS Victory, Nelson's flagship and site of his death in the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. She has been restored as she was then, and you can take a self-guided tour around the ship. Pushchairs can't be taken on board, so you'll need to carry little ones (and in our case also bigger ones) up and down lots of flights of narrow stairs! There is lots to see, and the children loved exploring the ship. Harry in particular was very taken with the cannons, and spent quite some time pretending to load and fire them.

HMS Warrior was launched in 1860, and was the world's first iron-hulled and armoured warship powered by steam as well as sail. Again, you are free to take yourself around. It's very spacious inside and you can roam across four decks, although it's a bit scary and dark down at the bottom and Harry made me turn back!

Portsmouth Historic Dockyard visit

We found a nice spot inside the National Museum of the Royal Navy, where there is a lovely enclosed area set aside for young children, including toy ships, books and jigsaws. We spent quite a while here enjoying some chill out time, and it's well worth looking for if you are visiting with little ones. We also spent quite a bit of time in the Action Stations attraction. Although at first glance it seems more suited for older children, on the first floor there are some nice interactive exhibits. We didn't manage the Harbour Tour on this occasion as it was very hot and a long day, but as all tickets are valid for a year after purchase we'll definitely be fitting in another trip or two before they expire!

We used the rest of my winnings on tickets to Whipsnade Zoo, and Ram and I are also going to enjoy a chocolate making workshop. Look out for how we get on with those!

6 comments:

  1. Fantastic - Portsmouth is on my to do list - and I'm looking forward to the chocolate making post, I've always fancied having a go at that x

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    1. I'll definitely blog about it, it sounds really fun, we just need to arrange some babysitters!

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  2. Can't wait to go and see the Mary Rose, we will wait until after the school holidays though!

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    1. Probably a good idea, it was busy when we went and it was still term time (there were a few school groups though)

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  3. Very jealous! We went to the victory when I was very small and I remember it as being huge - although I'm sure it's not. But I would dearly love to go to see the Mary Rose

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    1. Well, it's pretty big, there is a lot to see! The Mary Rose is fascinating.

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