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Is the Cutty Sark just for tourists?

Written by
Nick Thompson

We look at London’s most popular landmarks and decide if they’re worth the cost and the crowds. This time, we climb aboard the famous clipper ship of Greenwich

They say 
Discover what life was like on board the Cutty Sark, the world’s only surviving tea clipper and the fastest ship of her time – now an award-winning visitor attraction in Greenwich.

We say 
Explore a breathtaking Rule Britannia-era ship wedged inexplicably into and above the ground in Greenwich. 

The set-up 
Make your way from the lower hold through various levels to the main deck, taking in all sorts of historical tidbits and bric-à-brac, before gazing up at the copper-lined hull from beneath the ship. It’s all made possible by an extremely ambitious renovation and brought to life by attentive, deeply knowledgeable staff.

What’s the sweetest spot?
It has to be by the wheel on the main deck, with the whole ship stretching out before you. Seeing the twenty-first-century modernity of Docklands across the Thames through the majestic masts and rigging really is something.

Did you learn anything? 
In the ship’s tea-trading heyday, the Cutty Sark would ship 10,000 tea chests from China to the UK, taking about ten months.

Is it worth the money? 
Pretty much. Adults pay £13.50 for a mosey around or can buy a combined admission to the Cutty Sark and the Royal Observatory for £18.50. Staff are on hand, ready to regale you with stories of the old girl; and at off-peak times they seem to have the time to escort you round as much as you like. Family tickets start at £24 – it’s surely a winner with children for its make-believe potential.

Insider tip?
Check out the ship’s original figurehead which can be found beneath the Cutty Sark. And look out for the largest collection of ships’ figureheads in the world off to your left: great for kids, though possibly the stuff of nightmares.  

Just for tourists? 
Not necessarily, although it might help to have an interest in Britain’s maritime history, tea-trading past or opinion-splitting restorative architecture. Whichever way you lean, it makes for an enjoyable afternoon out, and the love that’s gone into its preservation through the centuries comes across with every added touch. T
here’s also something about a nineteenth-century wooden ship hoisted above the ground within stone-throwing distance of a Nando’s that truly captures the spirit of London in 2017.

Interested? You can book tickets here

Find out if the Tower of London and afternoon tea at The Ritz are just for tourists

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