Visiting the Cutty Sark in Greenwich
I last visited the Cutty Sark in Greenwich, London around 20 years ago long before it became the attraction it is now and when it was exposed to the elements. We were housesitting in London and it was a beautiful day to cruise the Thames after a ride on the London Eye.
We took a River Cruise down the Thames heading to the National Maritime Museum, the river cruise allowed us to hop on and hop off which was brilliant as it meant we got to see so many sites along the Thames River. If you are visiting London with kids there are so many things to see in southeast London beyond the Cutty Sark Greenwich from museums to aquariums you can keep the kids busy for days.
The Cutty Sark Ship is placed in a prominent position on Greenwich Pier and is quite outstanding with its clear encased support system and views of the ship rising above the pier. If you are a London Marathon fan then you will know the Cutty Sark is a landmark on the race trail.
The Cutty Sark is part of the Royal Museums Greenwich, a collection of historic monuments also including the Royal Observatory, the Queen’s House, and the National Maritime Museum.
The Royal Museums Greenwich are located within Maritime Greenwich, one of four UNESCO World Heritage sites in London.
Cutty Sark Price for tickets
Tickets & prices Adult £13.50 | Child £6.75 Open daily from 10 am – 5 pm Including Bank Holidays
History of the Cutty Sark Greenwich
The Cutty Sark is a British clipper ship that was built on the River Leven in Dumbarton Scotland in 1869 for the Jock Willis Shipping Line, she was one of the last tea clippers to be built, and one of the fastest. The building of Clipper ships was soon to be abandoned due to the advent of the steam engine.
In the same year, the Suez Canal opened which meant that Britain gained a faster route to China to ply the tea trade. With massive amounts of competition, the Cutty Sark turned to the Australian wool trade where she held the record for the fastest time to England for over 10 years.
In 1895 the Cutty Sark was sold to a Portuguese company that operated it as a cargo ship. In 1922 she was sold to a British sea captain and moved to Falmouth Cornwall was she was used as a training ship. In 1938 she became an auxiliary cadet training ship but by 1954 she was transferred to dry dock at Greenwich for public display.
The Cutty Sark is listed on the National Historic Ships and she is one of only three remaining original wooden hulls on iron frame clipper ships from the nineteenth century.
The Cutty Sark has been damaged by fire twice in recent years, in 2007 she was going through a complete restoration when she caught on fire. In 2014 there was also a small fire where some damage occurred. It does make you wonder though why it is that these historic ships and buildings seem to be prone to these fires. In recent years with Notre Dame, Windsor Castle, and the Glasgow School of Art you have to wonder what is going wrong during these historic restoration projects.
6 Facts about the Cutty Sark
- The Cutty Sark is looked after by the Cutty Sark Trust and its president is the Duke of Edinburgh who set up the trust in 1951.
- She has the world’s greatest collection of ship figureheads displayed in the gallery.
- If you are a whiskey drinker you are probably quite aware that there is a Cutty Sark whisky which my husband tells me is “not bad” for a non-Irish whiskey.
- The ship was named after the witch Nannie Dee who appears in Robert Burns’ poem Tam o’ Shanter. The ship’s figurehead is a carving of a bare-breasted Nannie Dee with long black hair holding a grey horse’s tail clutched in her hand.
- The Cutty Sark is a magnificent sight on the Greenwich Pier. She is raised about 3m above her dry dock to give visitors this view. This part of the restoration garnered the Trust much criticism and a Carbuncle Cup award by Building Design Magazine.
- One of the fundraisers to save the Cutty Sark and restore her was undertaken by Jerry Bruckheimer the Oscar-winning film producer. A collection of his photos taken during the film Pirates of the Caribbean: At Worlds End was placed on display and auctioned to add to the restoration coffers.
How to get to the Cutty Sark Greenwich
Cutty Sark station on the Docklands Light Railway is a one-minute walk away, with connections to central London and the London Underground. Greenwich Pier is next to the ship and is served by scheduled river boats from piers in central London. You can get a great deal on the cost of transportation if you grab a 2 for 1 Thames River Cruise coupon and sail down the Thames to Greenwich.
The Cutty Sark has a variety of animators and interactive projections playing various roles on different days that introduce you to life onboard a vessel like the Cutty Sark. You can meet Captain Woodget the ship’s longest-serving master. Nannie the Witch was carved into immortality as the figurehead. Then there’s Mrs Ray who misses her son Clarence and his letters from around the world.
You will also meet the cook of the Cutty Sark and find out what they ate onboard the ship, and Jock Willis the man who built the Cutty Sark.
You can explore the ship from top to bottom and take in several interactive displays that show you life at sea on board a tea clipper.
This is a true hands-on experience, the writing on the display boards is clear and informative.
You get to learn about the world and all its wonders in maps of the era, images, and video presentations. There are even benches that simulate the ship’s movement.
My husband was entranced by the whole experience and as someone who loves sailing he absolutely would go back time and time again
After exploring the ship and meeting the characters onboard, relax and enjoy the British tradition of afternoon tea. Located underneath the world’s sole surviving tea clipper, the Cutty Sark café is a great place to relax as well as being in a unique setting underneath the original hull of this spectacular ship.
The Cutty Sark was built in 1869 to challenge the best tea clippers on the China tea run. While Cutty Sark’s days of racing across the oceans to get the finest and freshest teas back to London may be over, the tradition continues under its copper hull of bringing a tea experience to our visitors.
Celebrating a birthday or special occasion? Visiting Cutty Sark is a great family day followed by a tasty afternoon tea for the whole family.
Afternoon tea includes:
A selection of finger sandwiches
A homemade traditional raisin scone, Devon clotted cream, and strawberry jam
A selection of mini cakes
A pot of English breakfast tea
Why not make it even more indulgent by enjoying a glass of Prosecco? Book online your afternoon tea at £27 per person. Please note this includes admission to the ship. Pre-booking is essential with a minimum of 72 hours in advance. See the Afternoon Tea menu here.
Have you seen the Cutty Sark?
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