What better way to spend a wet Sunday during August 2018 than a day out on board HMS Caroline. We purchased our tickets online (paying gift aid) and off we went.
Short history of HMS Caroline.
HMS Caroline is the last remaining ship from the battle of Jutland, the only action the Royal Navy saw during WW I. It was also part of a patrol in the North Sea, both checking and protecting ships as they passed through.
After WW II, the ship was returned to the Royal Naval Reserve in Ulster where it was used as a training ship until 2009, before being decommissioned in 2011. She was the second oldest Naval ship in service.
The National Museum of the Royal Navy (NMRN) and the Department of Enterprise Trade and Investment have worked as partners to restore and interpret HMS Caroline, a lone survivor and living legend. With the help of a grant of £11.5m from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) the ship opened to all for the first time in June 2016.
For further information:
Where is it?
HMS Caroline is located in Alexandra Dock, Queen’s Road, Queen’s Island, Belfast, BT3 9DT.
How to get there
Car – If driving, make your way to the SSE arena, follow the signs for the Titanic Centre. Continue on past, and you will see a small sign pointing you in the right direction. Limited free parking is available at HMS Caroline, although other parking facilities are available nearby.
Public Transport – If travelling by train the Titanic Quarter Station is the closest. From there take the pedestrian footbridge into Titanic Quarter and turn left onto Sydenham Road. Turn right onto Queens Road. It’s a lengthily walk with limited shelter, and this is Northern Ireland, so you’re bound to get soaked, make sure to bring some raincoats and an umbrella.
If coming from the city centre as of (August 2018) Metro Services 26, 26B, 26C & Airport Express 600A/ 600B. Metro Services depart from the City Centre (Wellington Place – Service D).
I recommend checking with Translink, for updated service times and routes.
What to see
Once parked we made the short walk around to the museum, on the opposite side of the ship from the car park, about a 5 minute walk maximum, although with kids you will have to pass a park, which might cause a slight hold up.
We entered the museum and the person on the desk gave us our receipts and information. As we paid gift aid, our tickets are valid to return for up to a year from the date of our visit- bonus!
Here there were a couple of small exhibitions giving more information on the history of HMS Caroline, I found it very interesting, Megan, however, was more interested in getting aboard the ship, so we didn’t get the chance to read everything.
Once finished in the museum, the person at the desk directed us towards the ticket office for the ship. It’s just across the path, no more than 15 metres away.
Headphone and maps are available at this stage to supplement information found on board. I really recommend taking a headset, the stories and information really brought the tour of the ship to life.
The first room is the drill hall, a huge room which would have been used for drill practise. Here, we watched a short 11 minute film about the ship’s involvement in the Battle of Jutland. They did warn that it’s very loud and it might scare children, but Megan was fine with it. I recommend you watch, it gives a great insight into what the ship was involved in.
Outside on the deck, we saw two of HMS Caroline’s defence guns and also got the chance to walk around the Captain’s quarters, which was very interesting and set out like it would have been when the ship was in operation.
Spoiler Alert – Look out for the 7 toothbrushes on the wall! The Captain had 7 of everything, one for everyday of the week; toothbrushes; pipes and shavers amongst other things.
Towards the back of the ship there was stairwell and a lift for those not able to use the ladders. I would recommend the lift, but apparently if you touch the sides it stops, so maybe don’t do that.
Below deck we visited the Officers Cabins and bathrooms, as well as the Marines and the Senior and Junior ranks areas.
There were interactive zones for older kids where they can learn about different types of code used at sea, and why the ship was coloured the way it was back in the day.
In the same area was also a younger kid’s room, with lots of fun activities like colouring in, making decorations and dressing up as a sailor. We couldn’t get Megan out of it. Nicola had great fun dressing up!
Along the corridor we got the chance to go down below and visit engine rooms. It was noisy and dark, just how it would have been when in full use. Sadly for those who aren’t great on their feet there is no other way down, apart from a set of steep steps.
There was so much more to see, including the ship’s sick ward and kitchens. There was also a lovely little food area selling tea, coffee and some light bites. We didn’t stop, but there was plenty of seating and the menu looked good!
Upstairs was the navigation bridge. Megan loved this section, pushing me out of the way so that she could take charge and steer the ship along the docks.
Downstairs she put her newly acquired skills to use on the interactive computer game, which we had to drag her away from!
There are loads of other activities at this point. When the activities were complete, it was time to disembark the ship via the gift shop and hand back our headphones!.
What else is there to do
There was a lovely little play park right beside the boat, with climbing frames, slides and swings, and all in keeping with the shipyard theme. Megan got to burn off some energy before the rain started and we headed for the car!
Keep an eye out for passing boats coming and going.
We had an amazing day on HMS Caroline, there was so much to see and do. The setting is beautiful, with the cranes standing tall in the back ground. Bring your camera.
There was a great mix of educational information as well as fun activities for kids and adults alike. The interactive information, and activities made it easy to imagine what life would have been like on the ship back in it’s prime. We would recommend HMS Caroline to absolutely anyone.
1. Book online before you go in order to avoid disappointment!
2. Go early as possible, to ensure parking is available close to the ship.
3. Leave yourself a good two hours, you’ll want to take your time to listen to all the information, to really get the most out of the tour.
4. Don’t forget, it’s Northern Ireland- you’ll need an umbrella and a raincoat, just to be sure.
5. Tell others, this place needs more visitors which it deserves.
If you enjoy reading about our days out in Northern Ireland. Check out our other blog post here.
The Lewis Family.