Britain has a long seafaring history, from fishing and trading to its time as the head of the largest and most powerful empire in the world. Once the only way Britain could connect with the rest of the world, it’s no surprise that the sea has played such a vital role in our past.
From ancient vessels to historic ports and dockyards, Britain is home to some fascinating maritime museums - where you can find reminders of Britain’s naval legacy and the country’s close relationship with the sea.
Here at Parkdean Resorts, we’ve unearthed some of the best maritime attractions to visit on your next holiday with us, so you can learn all about Britain’s naval past.
Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, Portsmouth
Climb aboard historic vessels and find out more about Britain’s journeys on the high seas at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. Discover the role of the Royal Navy and how they have developed over time, as well as the ships used by them, and their impact on the world.
The Historic Dockyard at Portsmouth is Britain’s biggest maritime museum, and is a great way to spend a morning while you wait for your ferry out of Portsmouth to the Isle of Wight. One of three operating bases of the Royal Navy, the dockyard is also open to the public - and is home to several heritage attractions, exhibitions and historic ships which tell the stories of Britain’s naval past.
See Henry VIII’s true love, the Mary Rose, which is the only 16th century warship on display anywhere in the world. Lost to the depths of the Solent, the Mary Rose was raised from the waters in 1982 and carefully restored. Sunk off the coast of Portsmouth in 1545, she was rescued from the seabed after over 470 years - and now tells the fascinating story of Tudor naval warfare. Go back in time to the moment she was lost to the sea, and explore the award-winning exhibitions which tell of her history.
Step aboard Nelson’s HMS Victory, the Royal Navy’s most famous warship, and HMS Warrior 1860. Explore these historic vessels, and discover the roles they played in some of the world’s biggest wars.
One of the best ways to discover Portsmouth Historic Dockyard is from the waves, on a harbour tour. Set sail for views of the historical buildings, as well as the fortifications created to protect Portsmouth over the years.
Video sourced from PortsHistDockyard
Hull Maritime Museum, Hull
Hull has a fascinating maritime past, with a history of fishing and trade that stretches back over hundreds of years. During medieval times, it was an important trading port - with links to Scotland and Northern Europe. Hull’s rich and varied history led to it being crowned the UK’s City of Culture 2017; a celebration of the city’s cultural heritage, with a year of exciting exhibitions and events.
Explore the Maritime Museum in the Old Dock Offices, which house a collection of paintings, models, and historic artefacts that tell the story of Hull’s industrial past - and the role of shipping in the city. Discover the history of Hull’s trade, when it was once one of the main ports that supported the UK’s thriving cotton and wool industries, exporting various goods and materials throughout Britain and Europe.
Fishermen have been working out of Hull since the 16th century, and over the years there has always been a thriving community of sailors, trawler men and their families living in the city. In the early 19th century, Hull also ruled the Arctic whaling trade. In the whaling and fishing exhibits, discover the risks taken by the early whaling ships, and find out more about the fishing industry. See giant whale skeletons, as well as the tools and weapons once used, alongside diaries and logbooks of the men who worked on these giant whaling vessels.
At just over 30 minutes from Withernsea Sands Holiday Park, you can discover the historic role of the docklands, and find out how the sea helped shaped this city, making it what it is today.
Hartlepool’s Maritime Experience, Hartlepool
See history come to life with a visit to Hartlepool’s Maritime Experience, which includes the National Museum of the Royal Navy and a recreation of an 18th century seaport - where colourful characters will transport you back in time.
In the 18th century, Hartlepool was a real hive of activity. Used by the Royal Navy and merchant ships, many different people, goods and vessels would visit the bustling port. Here you can discover the industries of the past, who would have used the port for their various businesses. See the swordsmith, gunsmith, the Naval Tailor, and visit the Admiral’s House to imagine how this historic quayside would have thrived during its heyday.
This immersive experience makes the Hartlepool Maritime Experience a great place for families to visit, and is a fantastic way for kids to learn more about Britain’s naval history. Guides wander around the historic quayside in full period costume, so be sure to look out for some great opportunities for a unique family photo! There are also regular displays including canon firing, sword fighting, and musketry to enjoy.
As well as the historic seaport, climb aboard the HMS Trincomalee, the oldest British warship which is still afloat. Built in Bombay in 1817 and restored to her former glory, take a tour and discover more about this vessel from the time of Nelson - Britain’s most famous naval hero. Uncover the stories of the men who would have sailed on ships like this, and how they endured everything from fierce battles at sea to rat-infested meals!
There’s lots more to enjoy on a visit to the Maritime Experience, including a trip to the Museum of Hartlepool and a stroll along the marina. Only 10 minutes from Crimdon Dene Holiday Park, it’s sure to make the perfect family day out all year round.
Video sourced from jangrapresentations
Scottish Maritime Museum, Irvine
Under 20 minutes from Sandylands Holiday Park, the Scottish Maritime Museum in Irvine is home to a nationally significant collection of historic ships, machinery, artefacts and personal items – all telling stories of Britain’s relationship with the sea.
Discover more about shipbuilding in the former Linthouse shipbuilding yard, which created some of the biggest, fastest, and most advanced vessels of their time. Kids can even join in and have a go themselves by building a model boat to test on the indoor and outdoor boating ponds. Find out more about the men who would have worked here, and visit the shipyard worker’s tenement flat to learn what their lives would have been like.
You can also climb aboard the MV Kyles, the oldest Clydebuilt vessel still afloat in the UK, first launched onto the waves in 1872. Discover more about what life and work would have been like on the ship with a visit to the crew’s quarters, captain’s cabin and engine room.
There are lots of other historic vessels to discover too, such as a steam yacht built in 1898 and Spartan - the last Scottish-built puffer - a steam-powered cargo vessel.
Throughout the museum, there are lots of interactive stations for kids to enjoy. See what it feels like to be a welder by dressing in the heavy equipment they would have worn, put your captain skills to the test and try to successfully steer a dinghy or build your own cargo vessel using an interactive game.