I’m not ashamed to say I’m a complete history nerd and so when we were offered the opportunity to check out The Historic Dockyard in Chatham, Kent we had to go along – I’ve been a couple of times but not in recent years.
We headed along at half term with our pals Whinge Whinge Wine plus Helen and our children all aged three and four for some nautical fun.
A little history
The Dockyard covered a huge area and was one of the main Royal Naval facilities for several hundred years until it’s closure in the eighties. Thousands of ships and in it’s later years, submarines, were built at Chatham and nowadays the site is a maritime museum and tourist attraction.
We arrived at the Dockyard nice and early as we wanted to pack as much in as possible and it’s clear to see a lot of upgrading has happened since I visited a few years ago. You can book online or pay at the gate and once inside you need to book a time slot for certain attractions – the staff were really friendly and arranged our times so we could get around easily and even slot in lunch.
Submarines and big boats
We headed straight to HMS Ocelot, an oberon-class submarine built at the dockyard in the sixties. You can go inside the submarine however my little man threw a massive wobbler and refused to go in – I have been inside previously and it’s fun to go through the hatches and learn about life on board. Plus you can have a peek through the periscope!
In the adjacent dry dock is HMS Cavalier, a destroyer from WW2 and the little ones enjoyed running around and looking inside the cabins. There is also HMS Gannet to explore.
Next we headed to the Ropery, another time-ticketed attraction which is a fascinating insight into rope making and how it changed over the years at the dockyard. This is a long tour, at over an hour long and again my little man got a little bit bored so we tapped out early. Towards the end of the tour you get to make a little bit of rope and it’s really interesting and well worth doing.
We stopped for lunch in The Railway Workshop, which has a café and soft play area as well as outdoor seating and a nearby play area. It was a chilly day and a cup of tea was much needed – it was reasonably priced and good quality although we didn’t eat so I can’t comment on the food.
As well as the two tours mentioned above there are seasonal activities on in The Commissioners Garden; half term was The Enchanted Garden and we’d pre-booked the time at the start of the day. We were greeted by a fairy and within the garden we tried to wake the sleeping wizard, made wands and enjoyed the story telling. It was a really good idea and awesome use of the landscaped gardens plus the little ones could run free for a while and not stray too far.
It was 3pm and we still had quite a bit to see – we headed back to the café for a cuppa before wandering towards the covered slips which house a collection of vehicles and a lifeboat exhibition. The kids were shattered and so were we so we decided to head home after a full day of fun.
Ideal for families?
I’d probably say it’s better for slightly older children – my four year old got quite bored at parts and I got frustrated at not being able to enjoy everything. Saying that there is lots of things to do, such as the soft play and special events so it’s worth a look.
Would I go again?
Abso-blooming-lutely – anything historical is right up my street and there is so much to see and do, I’d like to go back minus the child so I can do the tours and bits I missed. They also do Call the Midwife tours throughout the summer season – I’ve never missed an episode and I’m a huge fan so I’m keen to do one next year.
A ticket gives you 12 months admission into the dockyard and an adult(16+) ticket is priced £24 on the gate, children(5+) are £14 and family and concessions are available. You do get a discount for booking online, which always helps save a few pennies. Admission price includes the tours of HMS Ocelot and the Ropery; the tours do alter slightly between weekdays and weekends so check online before you go.
There is plenty of parking, toilets, a restaurant and café plus seating, play areas and everything is well mapped and easy to find. It’s a really well run attraction and the staff and facilities are very much geared towards an awesome customer experience.
Thank you for having us – check out The Historic Dockyard’s website here. I’m planning a return visit so watch this space…
**We were given tickets to The Historic Dockyard in exchange for this review. As always all opinions are honest and my own.**