Best Heritage Venue

Brunel’s ss Great Britain, Bristol


Accessible Britain Award Winners 2010, Best Heritage Venue: ss Great Britain, Bristol

Address: Great Western Dockyard BS1 6TY
www.ssgreatbritain.org New window icon
Telephone: 0117 926 0680
Hours: Apr–Oct 10am–5.30pm, Nov–Mar 10am–4.30pm
Dates: closed 24-25 Dec
Entry: [D] £10.95 [C] free [A] £10.95 [5–16s] £5.65 [Con] £5.65–£8.25; 12-month free return visit

Accessible Britain Awards 2010

When you step aboard Brunel’s ss Great Britain, you enter the era of Victorian ingenuity and self-confidence. The visit is a slickly presented, behind-the-scenes immersion in the story of the first ocean liner, and the biggest passenger ship of the era.

The Great Britain, for decades a rusting hulk in the Falklands, has been lovingly restored to some of her former glory in the Bristol dry dock where she was built. Visitors journey through the interactive dockside museum and then board the ship. With a choice of free audio and BSL guides you can find out what life was like for passengers and crew, from the elegance of the first-class cabins to the cramped and noisy steerage accommodation. Then, if you descend under the rather beautiful glass “sea”, you can view the magnificent hull, which is now protected by a state-of-the-art system to control moisture that would corrode the metal.

Victorian ship and dockyard

There are disabled parking spaces about 160 yards from the entrance. This is a Victorian ship and dockyard, so inevitably there are sloped areas, uneven paths and tight corners – but the level of effort that has gone into making the site wheelchair accessible is commendable.

Ship in the dockyard

There are many ramps and wide doorways. Lifts are located not only in the museum, but also to take you below the glass sea, and are ingeniously housed in the ship’s funnel to allow wheelchair access to all decks on the ship. Two narrow, manual wheelchairs are available. In wet weather, the wooden deck can be slippery, and in some of the areas below deck the planking is uneven. You’ll find disabled toilets on the ship itself and in the museum and café.

Food & drink: The light and airy dockside café serves delicious cakes and pastries that are prepared on the ship. You can enjoy your lunch and views of the floating harbour.

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Image credits: ss Great Britain water shot © Simon Burgess
ss Great Britain stern shot and underwater shot © Mandy Reynolds