I last visited Bletchley Park several years ago with Hubby. We both love history and thought it was fascinating, but the boys were too young to come too. Now that they’re older we decided to go back to Bletchley Park and do a review. It’s just outside of Milton Keynes in Bucks and is the home of the code breakers! Tickets are valid for 12 months and kids under 12 go free.
A brief history of Bletchley Park
Bletchley Park is most well known as being home to the WW2 Code breakers. This is where Alan Turing and lots of other incredible minds worked to crack the Enigma machine. It was all done in total secrecy – even people working there didn’t know what people in other teams were doing. It was here at Bletchley Park that modern computers were first invented in order to help crack the codes.
Multimedia guides and children’s trails
When we arrived we were offered the children’s trails. They’re only £1 each and they were really quite decent. There was a fair amount of queuing on the day that we visited, due to social distancing, so the trails helped to distract the kids. The museum is also quite text heavy, so it was useful for the boys to have something to do during the bits they weren’t interested in whilst Hubby and I read all the information. For £1 I think these are really good value and a lot better than many other trails.
Inside the packs you get various missions to follow, a pencil and lots of games to play. It’s all packaged to look like a secret file. For the amount of stuff that is included I’d have been quite happy to pay £3/£4.
I also highly recommend that you get one of the free multimedia guides. There’s two modes – the adult and family versions. The adult one tells you a bit more about the history of the huts and site. The family version also tells them about the history, but there’s also lots of games for them to play. Again, these were really handy with the kids when we had to queue in the rain. Personally I thought they were really good for the adults too. The videos really were there to supplement, rather than replace, what you’re looking at.
The mansion at Bletchley Park
This review of Bletchley Park is written whilst there are still social distancing measures in place. Currently only certain rooms on the ground floor are open. I can’t remember from our previous visit if there is normally anything open upstairs. Social distancing did mean that the number of people allowed in the house was limited, and you had to wait outside until it was your turn.
The rooms that are open tell you all about what it was like working in the house during the war. There’s also some information about the house before the government got their dibs on it. Two of the rooms are dressed like they would have been during the war, but the rest were empty of furniture. There was a really interesting exhibition about the lives of some of the people who worked there though. The work that was done here was so secret that it’s been quite hard for them to collect information about the lives of the people who worked there.
You can go inside several of the huts which all look exactly like they did during the war. It’s quite a good way of seeing exactly how compartmentalised their work was. The people in each hut knew what they were doing, but had no idea what everyone else was doing. Part of me just cannot imagine that level of secrecy being possible now with 10,000 people working on site.
To be honest there isn’t a huge amount to see in the huts as they’re sparsely furnished, but there are a couple of interactive tables which the kids enjoyed looking through. I think I enjoyed the huts more than the kids did. It was easier for me to imagine what it would have been like in them back during the war.
There’s another couple of huts all about the bombes. One’s got a short video and then you can see a section of how it works. Next door there’s a reconstruction of how one of the bombe rooms would have looked. I swear that when we last visited they had one of the actual machines working and did a demonstration. I think that has now moved into the National Museum of Computing (which has an additional admission charge). These huts are very reading heavy – Hubby and I found it fascinating, but there was only so long that it could hold the boy’s attention. They enjoyed looking at everything, but didn’t really want to read everything.
D-Day: Interception, Intelligence, Invasion
Make sure you have a look at this exhibition during your visit to Bletchley Park. There’s various bits of info to read outside, but then there’s a video all about how the work done at Bletchley Park helped with the D-Day landings. It’s on a massive 22m screen! I think this was particularly helpful for the kids as it helped to bring everything to live.
We missed a bit
So we’re officially stupid. Although we have been to Bletchley Park before when we returned to do this review we completely missed out the museum in Block B! What makes it really stupid is that I seem to remember it’s really good. There’s loads of information about the life of Alan Turing and a massive display of Enigma machines. An exhibition about the transformation of the Government Code & Cypher School’s (GC&CS) into modern GCHQ is also in there.
Our Bletchley Park Review
As an adult, I really like Bletchley Park – it’s fascinating to discover what happened here. There’s tons of information and it’s presented well. Kids do enjoy it, and those multimedia guides make a huge difference. There is only so much that younger kids can take in – and my kids are big readers. We deliberately didn’t take Smallest Child (3) with us as I knew it really isn’t suitable for such young kids. If she had been there there’s no way I would have had chance to read anything! Under 12’s can visit for free, and I think there’s a good reason for that. My two, at 8 & 10 were probably about the youngest that would get a decent amount out of it. Of the two of them, Biggest Child certainly got the most out of the day.
Adults – £21, Children (12-17) £12.50, Under 12’s – free. Tickets are valid for unlimited free returns for a year. You can pre-book via their website.
Parking / How to get there
Parking – There’s a small, free car park on-site.
Address – The Mansion, Bletchley Park, Sherwood Drive, Bletchley, Milton Keynes, MK3 6EB
There’s a cafe on-site. Picnics are also allowed.
What else is nearby?
Hi, I’m Vicky. My husband and I live in Aylesbury with our three children; a 10 year old son, an 8 year old son and a 3 year old daughter. I (mostly) love spending time together as a family. We visit all kinds of places and we’re quite happy to drive a fair distance for a decent day out. A few years ago I decided to set up Free Time with the Kids as a way to share our experiences of these family days out. You know, the essential information you need to know before your visit that can be surprisingly hard to find out. Where do I park? How much will it cost me to get in? Are there any discounts available? Are there loos? Can I take a picnic or get food? My aim is to be your go-to guide for all your free and cheap family days out across Bucks, Beds, Oxon, Herts & slightly beyond. I really hope you find the reviews helpful. If there’s anywhere that you’d recommend please get in touch firstname.lastname@example.org or get in touch via Facebook