The first day I moved to Bristol, I offloaded my bags at the hostel that would be my home base until I found somewhere to rent and went off to explore with no real destination in mind. Luckily I was close to the Harbour and figured there would be no better place to start my exploration. Cruising around towards the M-Shed (A museum of Bristol City history) and 10 minutes down the way I came across this massive ship. I told myself that at some point (aka once I got a job and settled in) I would return and visit the boat. Fast forward a little and I found myself up early on a Saturday to get a glimpse of the stunning boat that is the S.S Great Britain and for the opening of the newest exhibit that opened on Friday March 23rd 2018 - Being Brunel.
Before I jump right into this amazing exhibit, a little back story on the S.S Great Britain and what, or rather who Brunel was.
She sailed around the World more than 30 times, travelling more than 1 000 000 miles at sea following her launch in 1843. She was the largest and most advanced ship on the daters and could sail to Australia and New York City fast & more reliably than any other ship. 20 000 passengers used this vessel to travel to another World (aka Australia) and after her eventful life at sea and a rescue from the Falkland Islands she has come to rest in the very dry dock where she was built - in Bristol. So that’s the majestic ship that is the S.S GB, so what about this Brunel character…well he was formally known as Isambard Kingdom Brunel (regal name right?) and he was the man behind this beauty (+ so much more but I’ll get to that soon).
Isambard Kingdom Brunel, referred to as on the the 19th centuries engineering giants, and was voted in second in a list of 100 Greatest Britons via public poll on the BBC. It should then be no surprise to hear that he was the man behind the Great Western Railway here in England. While I had never heard of it before moving here, its now something I use frequently and am astonished that it was brought to life by a man such as Brunel. He is the brain and creative behind other works for the sea that include The S.S Great Britain, The S.S Western , and The S.S Eastern. On dry land he brought to life the Thames Tunnel which now connect the London Underground lines, The Clifton Suspension Bridge (here in Bristol & one of my favourite landmarks here), The Maidenhead Bridge, The Royal Albert Bridge and The Hungerford Bridge. He was a visionary and after seeing the exhibit, Being Brunel, I can truly say his mind was far ahead of the times. So let’s jump into the museum, I’ll share some of my favourite bits but leave lots to the imagination so you have even more reason to visit on your next trip to Bristol!
One thing that came to mind when I walked through the doors of Being Brunel was that it felt like a fun house. No there weren’t those warped mirrors or chairs on the ceiling but the decor and the vibrant colours were incredible for the senses. The art pieces, and the way the exhibit was designed will have people of all ages engaged instantly as they step foot back in time and into the land of Brunel. Interactive maps let you see the Great Western Railway come to life, a moving train car will let you get a sense of what it felt like to ride those very tracks from London to Bristol. There is no mistaking who the man behind all this is because not only can you find Brunel walking around to answer all your questions (seriously this guy was a dead ringer for Isambard) but the centre of the main level is a MASSIVE head of Brunel, fully equipped with a top hat & a cigar - the details are amazing and something I seriously couldn’t get enough of.
As you head up you’ll be gifted with view finders to get a better sense of the mind of Brunel, and an incredibly vibrant and amazing timeline of his life and his works lead you into my favourite part, a viewing room where you’ll get a look inside his mind in a whole new way. A trip into his London office and seeing his famous words on screen & in print will end your time in the exhibit but don’t be fooled, you’ll be able to spend hours here.
In addition to giving you entry to the Being Brunel Museum your ticket gives you entrance to the S.S Great Britain as well, and it’s a must do while you’re here. From the upper decks where you have the opportunity to see the views of Bristol Harbour & the coloured houses, to the lower decks where you’ll experience how the passengers and crew lived on those lengthy trips between New York and Bristol. All in all the experience I had at the S.S Great Britain was one I’m stoked to have had the opportunity to take part in. The creative design behind the Brunel Exhibit is one best experienced for yourself, so definitely pack up the kids, hope on the train or in the car and get down to Bristol to see it all for yourself!
Admission to the S.S Great Britain will run you 16.50 (adults) & 9.50 (children 5-16, under 5’s are free) a range of other prices (students, seniors etc) can be found on their website here . Purchase of any ticket gives you access to the S.S Great Britain as well as Being Brunel, and as an awesome bonus your tickets are valid for free unlimited return visits for 1 year. That in itself is something I’ve never experienced with any tourist attraction or museum along my travels and makes the trip out one you’ll want to take again and again.
A huge thank you to Heather over at Bristol Bloggers and the whole crew at S.S Great Britain for organizing this opportunity, I'll definitely be back!