Wednesday 12 June 2019

A Family Day Out at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard

We're a stones throw away from Portsmouth so it has been the perfect place for a family day out a number of times now. We're right by a train station that goes direct to Portsmouth Harbour in 45 minutes so in the time it takes to drink a hot coffee we're where we need to be for Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, Gunwharf Quays and Southsea Beach. 

It makes for a really great, local day out with not much timely travel involved. 

Portsmouth Historic Dockyard is somewhere I've visited many times before but it's not somewhere Arran or Joshua have been so that's exactly where we headed one Saturday in May. 

Stepping into the dockyard takes you back in time and there is so much more to see and do here than I ever realised. From historic ships such as HMS Victory and HMS Warrior to educational museum exhibitions and harbour tours, there is something for all ages.

Entry was quick and easy, we arrived around 10am so time was probably on our side. There's a Costa Coffee just inside the ticket hall so after being given our tickets for the day, we grabbed a coffee and looked out to HMS Warrior. 

HMS Warrior was built in 1859, had a crew of 705 men and was in service for forty years. It's the largest and fastest of all Royal Navy ships and has attracted thousands of visitors year on year. The last time I stepped on HMS Warrior was almost twenty years ago so I really enjoyed being able to see it again. 

There was somewhere to park your buggies and most of the ship was open to be explored, I actually prefer Warrior to Victory, I just love how it looks and I think it's a beautiful ship. The captain's cabin and gallery have been reinterpreted to reflect how it was 156 years ago and with audio guides available, you'll be clued up on all things HMS Warrior before you know it. 

I can't wait to take Joshua back when he's a bit older, he did shout boat when he saw HMS Warrior, our next word will have to be ship!

As Joshua was due a nap, the very first place we headed was the Horrible Histories Pirates Exhibition which was brilliant. I loved Horrible Histories when I was younger so Arran and I really enjoyed this bit too. The hands on exhibition features interactive exhibits, a soft play area, dress up and a creative space to design your own pirate flag. The area was huge, I was so surprised by how much space there was which meant it was really enjoyable as you weren't bumper to bumper with others. 

Joshua was able to run wild and I was able to shoot soft cannonballs at Arran while I did my best pirate impression. If you have little ones, they will really love Horrible Histories Pirates. They're such fun and educational books anyway so to be able to experience the exhibition was great.

Joshua loved it so much that he promptly fell asleep after we escaped the pirates clutches which left Arran and I to explore more of the dockyard. 

We headed straight to HMS Victory which is the Royal Navy's most famous warship, best known for her role in the Battle of Trafalgar. The Vice Admiral Lord Nelson's flagship really is something quite special and has fast become one of the UK's best loved attractions. 

HMS Victory had a crew of 821, was built in 1759 and was in service for 206 years. Before stepping on to the ship, you can't quite comprehend just how many men lived and worked in such a small space and there is now an audio tour available which is full of facts and stories from some of those who served onboard during the Battle of Trafalgar. 

As Joshua was asleep, we were able to access HMS Victory via the lower gun deck with the pushchair where there is a DVD tour to give you more information on the ship. We're hoping to go back to explore as we didn't get to venture any further on the ship due to Joshua being asleep in the pushchair. It is worth noting, accessibility is well thought of at the dockyard and we didn't feel like we struggled it was just due to timing that we weren't able to do much due to having a sleeping toddler with us. The site team at HMS Victory were really accommodating and helped us get on and off as well as explaining where we could and couldn't go which we found really helpful.

HMS Victory is currently undergoing a 13 year, £35million conservation project, with experts from fields such as timber preservation, shipbuilding, rigging, conservation, engineering and heritage. This is an exciting time for the ship. The most obvious sign of the project is that her masts have been temporarily removed, and visitors are also able to see first hand some of the work that is being carried out on board to save HMS Victory for future generations to enjoy.

While we were visiting we did get to see the 25ft statue Embracing Peace which many will recognise as the iconic American kiss between a sailor and a nurse taken on V-J Day. This was unveiled as part of the cities D-Day Commemorations in June. 

While the bambino stayed napping, it gave us an opportunity to have a look around the National Museum of the Royal Navy and the Victory Gallery. The museum holds treasures from the past 350 years and gave an unbelievable insight to life at sea and the conditions. It was incredibly interesting and the perfect way to educate little ears of our countries history at sea. 

The artwork was a personal favourite so much so that I picked out some bits I liked in postcard form which is something I've always done. We also bought a pirate book for Joshua as they had a wonderful selection of gifts and books available for all ages. 

Next up was the antique shop, one of my favourite places to explore while at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard as there is just so much to see. I found a postcard of Cunard's Queen Elizabeth 2 during the Falklands War this time which I bought for my Dad as he was on the ship when it sailed down to the island. The shop is quite literally an Aladdin's cave and you'd be hard-pressed not to find something that will wow you. 

As much as we felt we saw a lot, there was still so much more we could've seen. There are twelve attractions on-site as well as three off site so there really is an incredible variety of things to see and do

 I would've loved to do a harbour tour and to see more of HMS Warrior but we're so local that we can just pop down again. It's such a great day out for all the family and as there are restaurants and cafes on sight, you really can spend the entire day there. 

I'd really advise checking out the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard website which holds mountains of information on what you can see and do as well as ticket information. There's also a handy tab to tell you what's coming up so you won't miss out! They're also on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter so make sure you give them a follow there too to keep up to date with all the comings and goings of the dockyard. 

A HUGE thank you to Portsmouth Historic Dockyard for having us for the day, we really did have a fabulous time and can't wait to come back again soon. 

Complimentary tickets in exchange for review - see disclaimer.
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