A short break in Bristol for Graham Yandell revealed the delights of going back on-board Concorde and a visit to SS Great Britain.
As a born and bred Bristolian, and now living near Milton Keynes, I am acutely aware that I do not get back to my home town (or should I say city) anywhere near enough. So a short break together with my grandson Ryan was a real tonic recently; it enabled me to enjoy some nostalgia and also see what is happening to a destination that is high on the agenda of many groups looking for great shopping, iconic history, good food and quality entertainment.
My visit to Bristol may not have been long enough but I had to make time for these three attractions, and you should too.
Bristol Museum & Art Gallery was a big draw for me in years past and I still find it a great venue to visit. There are some superb exhibits and the Egypt area has always had a particular fascination for me, as does the world wildlife exhibits – many of which have been available to see for decades.
In total there are 20 galleries over three floors and with dinosaurs, gems and much more to discover when visiting.
However, one key part of our visit was to see the SS Great Britain – Brunel’s famous iron ship. This is Bristol’s number one attraction and it does not disappoint.
My last visit was around 20 years ago and since then a brilliant museum has been added, which you walk through before boarding, and includes a range of unique experiences. It is extremely well done and adds great value to the overall visit.
The ship had enjoyed a long working life from 1845 to 1933 thanks to Brunel’s engineering skills but she was badly damaged in a storm in 1886, bringing her ocean-going career to an end. Years later, in 1969, naval architect Ewan Corlett helped to organise an audacious rescue mission to bring SS Great Britain home to the UK, saving her from rusting and rotting away in a floating warehouse in the Falklands.
The ship has been painstakingly restored to recreate what life was like on the world’s first great luxury liner and is now a quite remarkable visitor attraction. You will experience the sights, sounds and smells of life on-board, and volunteers are on hand to illuminate your experience with further information should you want it.
There are also special rates and lunch arrangements for groups, and a visit to Bristol wouldn’t seem complete unless it was on your itinerary.
My other main visit was to a newer kid on the block – Aerospace Bristol, based at Filton, which is already famous for having a real Concorde on its premises that you can not only see but go on board. For me, having flown Concorde back in the ’80s, this was a real trip down memory lane and I thoroughly recommend it.
The star attraction is without doubt Concorde Alpha Foxtrot, stunningly displayed in its own purpose-built hangar, but the museum tells a much wider story – of Bristol’s aerospace achievements, including aeroplanes, helicopters, engines, guided weapons and even space technology, such as satellites and rockets. I saw a Harrier Jump Jet and various other aircraft which are very well displayed with lots of innovative interaction and information.
For over a century, Bristol has been and still is at the forefront of aeronautical and space technology, breaking boundaries to create the fastest, the biggest and the highest. For me, Aerospace Bristol is special and will entertain groups with stories of human endeavour, individual genius and ordinary people achieving extraordinary things.
I cannot recommend a visit highly enough and the museum loves groups and you will be sure of a warm welcome. I can see why it has been voted Best Museum or Gallery by Group Leisure & Travel readers.
Bristol can offer GTOs a great range of opportunities for group visits and is also the gateway to the South West of England. Go to visitbristol.co.uk to find out more.