Exploring the Cutty Sark 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.

signposts to visit the Cutty Sark Greenwich. The signposts are just outside the Maritime Museums and point to various Greenwich attractions.

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.

The Cutty Sark Greenwich London - a shot of the whole ship sitting on its raised platform in Greenwich. You can see the glass visitors centre from which the ship rises up out of of. There are no sails on the ship but you can see the hundreds of ropes and wires for the riggin.

Xyuandbeyond is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. You can read my privacy policy here.

Want to get a great deal on a Thames River cruise to Greenwich when visiting London it’s all here in this article.

Cutty Sark Price for tickets

Tickets & prices Adult £16.00 | Child £8.00 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.

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - OCTOBER 07: This is a night view of the Cutty Sark ship a historic ship which is a landmark in Greenwich on October 07, 2017 in London

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.

Cutty Sark teachests on board the ship

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.

copy of Portuguese newspaper detailing the sale of the cutty Sark

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.

an original lifepreserver from the Cutty Sark

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.

cutty sark rigging

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.
Visiting the Cutty Sark, the figurehead on the front of the clipper
By Sanba38 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0
  • 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.
Cutty Sark on display and encased in glass on Greenwich pier

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.

a view of Greenwich from the pier

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.

visual displays on the Cutty Sark

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.

onboard visual displays on the Cutty Sark Ship

This is a true hands-on experience, the writing on the display boards is clear and informative.

a map of the Cutty Sark's cargoes from around the world

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.

a beautiful bronze globe that details the Cutty Sarks journeys

My husband was entranced by the whole experience and as someone who loves sailing he absolutely would go back time and time again

hubs in the riggin

 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.

Exploring the Cutty Sark Greenwich

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.

Exploring the Cutty Sark Greenwich

If you love history older than time make sure you go and visit the Avebury Henge, at this henge you can walk among the stones unlike at Stonehenge where it’s all fenced off. 

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

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?

You might also like

Visiting Downton Abbey – Highclere Castle

The best of Bath in 2 days | What to do in Bath

Things to do in Lincoln, England

23 British Quirks to know before you go to the UK

Escaping London for the weekend

Pin it for later

Exploring the Cutty Sark Greenwich

3 thoughts on “Exploring the Cutty Sark Greenwich”

  1. Scot PIQUETTE

    You forgot to mention her stern adornment « Where A Will A Way » i saw her in 2001 before the huge fire while they were refurbishing. ‘Well Done Cutty Sark!´ ya can burn ´em but ya can’t kill ´em!

  2. Gordon Calder

    The ship was actually built on the River Leven, not the River Clyde. I lived about 2 miles away from the shipyard site.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Scroll to Top