Family day out: The Golden Hind, Brixham, Devon
‘Mummy, I can see a rat!’ Not the kind of statement that usually gets me high fiving my daughter when we’re visiting a family attraction on our travels.
On the Golden Hind in Brixham, it’s one of the quirky additions which makes this replica Elizabethan ship as much fun for toddlers as for older kids and history-loving adults.
Right on the harbour in the Devon town, it was top of my list of family-friendly places to visit in Brixham on our last-minute trip. Circumnavigating the globe, the original left Plymouth with four other ships in December 1577, the only one to return after 1,020 days at sea in September 26, 1580.
The figures alone are fascinating. Sir Francis Drake and his crew travelled over 40,000 miles in a ship that was barely 100ft long, starting with 70 crew and officers aboard. His triumphant return brought back around 26 tons of silver, half a ton of gold, thousands of pieces of eight and hundreds of jewels and pieces of jewellery.
Unsurprisingly, if you visit other parts of the world – like Lanzarote’s Pirate Museum – Drake is remembered rather differently to the famous explorer of English history.
But, back to Brixham and the boat in the harbour today. The ship itself is relatively small (it’s hard to believe 70 people crammed in here along with animals) but there’s plenty to see and try both above deck and in the converted below-deck section.
And along the way, there are toy rats strategically situated in displays and on the ship itself – spot enough and kids get a little prize, so it’s a fun way to keep their attention, even if we only found about a third.
There’s other interactive options, including a stocks to pose in, a ship’s wheel to turn (although as the sign points out, that’s not how they’d have steered the ship) and Tudor costumes to dress up in – as well as a statue of Francis Drake to pose next to.
Between that, there’s plenty to learn with different knots used by the sailors on display, a recreation of the captain’s cabin (tiny by modern standards, ultra-luxurious by 16th century shipboard ones) and information about the livestock which would have voyaged alongside. Well, temporarily in some cases.
Below decks, the dark hold is divided up into sections illustrating ship life from the surgeon on board – if you were lucky, although even a trained surgeon was more butcher than precision healer – to the kitchen and the treasure itself.
You can even discover if you were related to one of the crew (I wasn’t…). Minnie was too young to appreciate the magnitude of the journey or properly understand what it all entailed, but for younger kids it’s an adventure just to explore – and hunt for those furry inhabitants.
For adults and older children, it’s a fantastic way of bringing history to life, to get a taste of England’s Golden Age of exploration, including the darker side of sailing around the world.
Then we stepped back off the gangplank into the 21st century again to buy ice cream.
Need to know
Tickets cost £7 for adults, £5 for children aged three to 14, and under-threes are free, available at the ship and online, along with family tickets. A guide costs £4 if you buy it at the ship. Cards aren’t accepted at the ticket kiosk so you’ll need to pay in cash but there are cash machines at banks a short walk away.
Check the website for opening times, currently 10am to 4pm in June, opening later during July and August including late nights on weekdays. There are also guided tours and themed pirate days.
You can’t take buggies on board but you can leave them by the ticket kiosk on the shore. There are also some steep steps, so be prepared to carry toddlers and younger children at times.
There are also public toilets around five minutes away on the harbourfront, and plenty of cafes and restaurants nearby but no facilities on board apart from a shop, which includes very tempting (for two-year-olds) sparkly mermaid and sponge swords among other treasures.
It’s worth noting that there’s another reconstruction, the Golden Hinde on Bankside in London… about four hours’ drive away, so don’t get the two mixed up.
Images: copyright MummyTravels