Bristol’s beloved SS Great Britain has received loads of awards and is the number one thing to do in the city according to Trip Advisor.
It’s easy to see why.
It’s a gem of an attraction and despite going many times, we always enjoy it and spot something new.
Well, the Britain is now even better thanks to the opening of the £7.2m Being Brunel museum.
First announced in 2015, us Bristolians have been eagerly awaiting its arrival and wondering what has been going on behind the scenes of the building adjacent to the ship.
It finally opened on 23 March and thanks to a special preview organised by the Bristol Bloggers group, I was among the first people to see it.
On the morning of the visit, our little one was performing in another great Bristol tradition, the Bristol Festival of Music, Speech and Drama founded 116 years ago, but I managed to fit in the museum before she took to the stage.
I whizzed around Being Brunel in the hour or so that I had and what a joy it was.
It’s the perfect combination of technology and interactive displays to keep modern millennials and digital natives entertained with original artefacts and detailed facts about Brunel’s life and work for us older history geeks to get stuck into.
From your arrival when you’re encouraged to recreate the most famous image of the engineer by donning a hat and standing in front of iron chains, the museum is a great experience.
At its centre is a gigantic sculpture of Brunel’s head which has dominated social media posts since the museum opened (including ours).
Inside the head, you experience an exhilarating journey inside Brunel’s mind, and a moving train carriage in which visitors are encouraged to draw the perfect circle freehand, just like Brunel could, is brilliant.
There are also superb recreations of many of Brunel’s rooms and offices.
But the big highlights for me were his personal artefacts.
In a quiet corner of the museum, I spotted Brunel’s ‘locked diary’.
While others played in the replica train and pressed the touch screens, I reflected on the insights that in his diary, the genius that brought us the Great Western Railway, the SS Great Britain & the Clifton Suspension Bridge had moments of self-doubt and felt his ambitions seemed like “castles in Spain” and “an impossible dream”.
There’s hope for all us!
There is so much to see at Being Brunel that you could easily spend a couple of hours exploring. Combined with everything there is to see on the ship itself, you’ll need a full day to fit it all in!
I can’t wait to go back with the family.