This mighty, innovative steamship was designed by engineering genius Isambard Kingdom Brunel in 1843. You get to wander the galley, surgeon's quarters and dining saloon and see a massive replica steam engine at work. Highlights are going below the 'glass sea' on which the ship sits to view the screw propeller and climbing the rigging in Go Aloft!. The new Being Brunel exhibit has restored the drawing office where Brunel and his team worked to create the vessel.
The SS Great Britain was one of the largest and most technologically advanced steamships ever built, measuring 98m from stern to tip. The ship has had a chequered history. Between 1843 and 1886, she served her intended duty as a passenger liner, completing the transatlantic crossing between Bristol and New York in just 14 days. Unfortunately, enormous running costs and mounting debts led her towards an ignominious fate: she was eventually sold off and subsequently served as a troop vessel, quarantine ship, emigration transport and coal hulk, before finally being scuttled near Port Stanley in the Falklands in the 1930s.
Happily, that wasn't the end. The ship was towed back to Bristol in 1970, and has since undergone an impressive 30-year restoration. It's resulted in a multisensory experience: prepare to stroll the deck, peep into luxury cabins, listen to passengers' stories and catch a whiff of life on board. Those aged 10 and over can also Go Aloft! (£10; noon to 5pm daily April to October, noon to 3.45pm Saturday and Sunday November to March). This sees you donning a harness and helmet to climb 25m up the rigging and along the yard arm. Tickets for SS Great Britain remain valid for a year. Last entry is one hour before closing.