All aboard the Cutty Sark

Clambering aboard the Cutty Sark was place I visited in London.  For years the Tower of London and the Cutty Sark were London to me.  When she was engulfed in flames in 2007 I wept because I might never get to take my own children there.  Thankfully she survived the flames and has become as much beloved by the teens as my me.  Come with me to discover why the Cutty Sark is the perfect family day out.

Cutty Sark tea clipper in dry dock Greenwich London

All Aboard the Cutty Sark

The Cutty Sark is beautiful, walk around her before you step foot on board.  Once inside I would go to top deck and work down.

Main deck

View from prow of Cutty Sark with rigging in foreground and Canary Wharf in the distance

It is hard to know where to look on the main deck.  Look up and you are treated to miles and miles of intricate rope rigging.

Rigging and ships wheel on Cutty Sark Museum Ship

Look off to the side and you can see across the Thames to the glittering towers of Canary Wharf in the distance.  Closer by is glass dome of the entrance to the Greenwich Foot Tunnel that goes underneath the Thames.

Take a look at the ships wheel.  Looks just like wheel doesn’t it?  In actual fact it housed ground breaking technology when the Cutty Sark was built, with the mechanism taking up significantly less space that the older models.  Less space for steering wheels means more space for profitable cargo.

Ships Wheel with views across River Thames to the Shard from deck of Cutty Sark

Living accommodation for the 26 crew can be found on the main deck.  It ranges from from the luxurious Master’s suite down to the bunks for the lowlier crew members.  Thrillingly young boys can try the bunks for size.  

Tween Deck

Head down from the main deck to the Tween deck.  Headroom is not high here, so if you are even slightly taller than normal take care not to bump into the beams.  Among other fascinating things here you will find Captain Woodget’s navigation game where you digitally try to sail as quickly as possible back to the UK.  Adults and children find this compulsive.

Three adults playing navigation game on the Cutty Sark London

Lower Hold

Deep down in the bowels of the ship is the lower hold.  Here you are told the story of the wool and tea that the Cutty Sark carried back from China and Australia. You can even sit in comfy chairs and watch a video.

Tea chests

Cutty Sark History

Cutty Sark was built in 1869 to ply the tea route between the UK and China. Unfortunately the same year saw the Suez Canal open, giving steam ships the edge on the route East. So wool replaced tea as the Cutty Sark’s cargo and Australia became the destination.  For 10 years she held the record for the fastest journey to the Antipodes.  After that she was sold to a Portuguese company and then rescued by a retired British sea captain who restored her and then deployed her as a training ship.  She sailed into the dry dock in Greenwich in 1954 and opened as ship museum.  In 2007 whilst being restored she was engulfed in flames but reopened again after a five year restoration.

black and white Cutty Sark lifebelt

How the Cutty Sark got her name

We need to head to the Robert Burns poem “Tam o’Shanter” to get to the bottom of name.  Tam, hero of poem is pursued by a scantily clad witch known as Nannie.  Nannie is clad only in a skimpy nightdress known as a Cutty Sark in Scots dialect.  The figure head on the Cutty Sark shows Nannie clutching a horses tale in her fist.  Quite why the original owner decided on a skimpy witches nightdress for a name is anyone’s guess.

Long John Silver Figureheads

One of the things I remembered most about the Cutty Sark was the Long John Silver Collection of figureheads.  Then they crouched in the hold but now they are resplendent in the light filled lobby beneath the ship.  Figureheads once adorned the prow of ships and were the captains pride and joy, there over eighty in this collection making it the largest in the world.  The brightly coloured figures are still every bit as magical to me now as they were back in the 1970s when I first met them.

Long John Silver Collection of ship's figureheads at Cutty Sark London

Afternoon Tea at the Cutty Sark

Well not just afternoon tea, morning coffee or a light lunch are just as nice.  The Even Keel cafe has one of the most spectacular locations of any museum cafe I have ever seen.  The copper clad hull of the ship seems to float above you.  Take time to look as the Cutty Sark is every bit as beautiful below the waterline as above.

Copper hull of Cutty Sark looking toward collection of ship's figureheads

Getting to the Cutty Sark

Travelling to and from Greenwich is almost as exciting as the Cutty Sark herself.  You can arrive in style, as Henry VIII would have done, by boat on a Thames Clipper.  Or you can catch the Docklands Light Railway (ensure you get a seat at the front to get the full driving the train experience).  Fun fact … the DLR station Maritime Greenwich (for the Cutty Sark) is the longest station name on the Transport for London network.  Overground trains arrive in Greenwich from Kent and London Bridge.

ships bell on ship deck

Visiting the Cutty Sark

  • Cutty Sark, King William Walk, Greenwich, London SE10 9HT
  • Open: daily 10am – 5pm
  • Admission: Adults £15, Child £7.50, Members go free, book ahead for cheaper prices.
  • Combination tickets: You can buy tickets that combine many of the attractions at Greenwich check to see if your desired combo is available.

Greenwich is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is perfect to explore with or without children.  Greenwich is one of our favourite days out with the Old Royal Naval College, Queen’s House and National Maritime Museum all to explore.

All aboard the Cutty Sark in Greenwich London.  Discover the beautiful tea clipper, the world's largest collection of ship's figureheads, see fantastic London views and take afternoon tea. #LondonMuseum #ShipMuseum #LondonDayOut #FamilyDayOut

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