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Being a child of the early 80’s I’m too young to remember the Mary Rose being raised from the bottom of the sea, but I do remember stuff about it on Blue Peter. I’m a fan of the Tudor era and it’s come up in numerous books I’ve read so when I noticed it’s one of the 200 places kids can visit for free with a Blue Peter badge it went to the top of my family day out list.
Yes, it is a fair old way to drive, but it is worth it. It took us about 2 hours to get down there, but that is completely dependent on the traffic on the M25. Coming home took us a lot longer but we don’t talk about that. They currently have a deal with a local car park that means, if you show your ticket, you only have to pay £4 to park all day. Be warned though; the parking spaces are tiny. If you have a particularly large car you might struggle to get it into the spaces. Or if you have an idiot park right next to you so you have to scramble across from the passenger side to get in and then pull the car out so the kids can get in. Obviously I left that muppet a passive agressive note suggesting they learn how to park!!!
The entrance to the museum is actually through the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard (which is also a Blue Peter attraction). That means you get to walk past HMS Victory which was very impressive. It’s not until you are right next to it that you can appreciate how big it really is. If you’re thinking of visiting the dockyard we are able to offer (for a short time) a discount of up to 40% on tickets. Click here to book (affiliate link)
It’s also worth having a look in Boathouse 7 – It has a cafe, the baby change and toilets. It also has rows of old fashioned coin-operated machines like these;
Because we visited during half term they also had various performers and actors dotted around the dockyard who were teaching the kids skills such as thievery and duelling. We were on-site for well over an hour before we even stepped foot in the museum itself. **update** Since April 2019 you might be able to spot their Horrible Histories Pirates and visit their tavern. I have a feeling they’re largely the same but with new branding. Either way, they’re really interesting.
The ship is still in the same dry dock that it was put into back in 1982 and the museum has been (quite literally) built around it. The ship sank at the beginning of its mission and so it was fully laden. As part of the excavation over 26,000 items were recovered from the ship and they have given archaeologists an amazing insight into Tudor life. They even found the wooden chest of the barber surgeon with over 60 medical items enclosed.
The museum itself is laid out over three floors. There are various exhibitions at either end of the ship that tell you more about the items recovered. They’ve created a mirror image of the ship complete with items from the ship such as the guns, tools and even things like shoes. They also project images onto the wreck itself to show you what would have been going on in the various areas.
If you have ever visited the museum in the past you may remember that it used to be constantly sprayed with water to preserve it. That did make viewing conditions somewhat difficult. Now they’ve been able to switch the sprays off and on the top floor of the museum they’ve also been able to take away the glass. For the first time you’re able to see the ship without glass in the way and even smell how it smells. After all that time at the bottom of the sea that’s pretty cool!
As part of the half term activities there were a couple of talks by Henry VIII. I’ve seen lots of actors do talks like this before, but this guy was absolutely the best. He was so engaging, knowledgeable and funny. I hope he’s a regular there because he really brought the stories to life for everyone. Even the smallest children there were captivated.
In terms of access it’s completely accessible. There are lifts at either end of the ship and pushchairs are allowed everywhere. It’s worth using these lifts even if you don’t need to because they actually give you one of the best views of the ship. The only baby change is in boathouse 7 which is a bit of a pain though.
If your kids don’t like history then this probably isn’t the place for them as there is very little hands-on but there are plenty of things to look at.
£38.00 on the door for a family ticket (2A + 3C). Online tickets are cheaper and apparently they pop up quite often on Groupon. Blue Peter badge holders get in FREE.
For a limited time we can also offer up to 33% off tickets when booked through Picniq – click here to book (affiliate link)
Tickets are valid for 12 months for unlimited visits from the date of purchase.
Parking / How to get there
Main Road, Portsmouth PO1 3PY
There is no parking on-site but there is a car park around the corner that charges £4 per day if you show your ticket. Look at the website for more details.
On-site and in boathouse 7. The only baby change is not in the museum itself though – you have to go back to boathouse 7.
There is a cafe within the museum, and another in the main dockyard. There are also picnic benches dotted around outside. A kids box meal in the main dockyard for £4.95 for 5 items.
Our review – 5 / 5
This place is fascinating and one of a kind. We’ll be back and we’re planning on go back to the Dockyard as well.
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