I have a confession… despite being a very proud born & raised Bristolian, I have never visited the SS Great Britain. *Cue exclamations of shock and horror*

I have always loved local history, and have grown up feeling very proud of Bristol’s role in technological and engineering innovation, from Brunel to BAe Concorde. Needless to say, I jumped at the offer to visit the new Being Brunel exhibition at the SS Great Britain with the Bristol Blogger network last Saturday. Thank you to Heather Cowper of the Bristol Bloggers Network for arranging the trip.

Mission: Get to Hotwells for 930am on the first day of the school holidays. #challengeaccepted


Arrival time: 9.05am. #winning

Umbrella? Check. Snacks? Check. Kids x2? Check. Phew, got them both. Good start. #stillwinning

Mood? Child 1. Sleepy but excited. Easy to please with a hot chocolate. Child 2. Sceptical.

Keen and hopeful as ever that my love of my home town will rub off on my two wonderfully cheeky and vibrant children, I wanted more than ever for them to see, feel, learn and love the engineering developments brought to us by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, or IKB to his mates.


What’s it all about?

Isambard Kingdon Brunel was an engineer, who frankly speaking, had ideas above his station, and ideas that were beyond the realms of possibility.

He made the impossible possible. End of story… No, not quite the end, because we’re missing everything he did in the middle.

His most famous works are, by far, the design of the Great Western Railway which is still running to this day between Bristol and London, and the Clifton Suspension Bridge over the Avon Gorge.

Being Brunel explores his life and design work, with over 150 of Brunels’ personal artefacts including letters, plans, and design drafts. There are different rooms each with interactive games and activities for children (young and old) to experience first hand some of the challenges he faced.

Being Brunel

The interactive game puts you in control of investment strategy – who are the most useful guests to invite to dinner?

This could literally have kept Child 2 busy for hours. A number of people were on the potential guest list for a fundraising dinner party. Each potential guest had different political & social backgrounds, interests and more importantly, different spending capacity. Attracting investment for the Great Western line really wasn’t easy.

Child 2 spent at least 20 minutes with the interactive quiz and then joined Child 1 here…

Being Brunel

Once inside the task was to draw a circle. The tablet then calculated the accuracy of your drawing.

Upstairs is a film experience envisioning how Brunels’ mind worked. You learn about some of the difficult decisions he made and what drove his decisions. No spoilers but let’s just say it’s an immersive experience and not a passive ‘sit back and watch’ film.

There are so many exhibits to see, touch and genuinely experience, alongside numerous activities, it’s definitely an active exhibition. Being Brunel will keep children of all ages, and their accompanying adults entertained for multiple visits, and I’ve not even started on the SS Great Britain itself. The good news is that your tickets are valid for repeat visits for up to 12 months. My children have already asked when we’re going back.


Tickets: Entry to Being Brunel is included in the ticket price for the SS Great Britain, and permits re-entry for 12 months from date of purchase. See SS Great Britain site for pricing and other details.

Disclosure: Compensation was received in the form of free SS Great Britain/Being Brunel tickets for the day.