The Cutty Sark is not only one of London’s most famous ships, it’s one of the most famous ships in the world and the only surviving extreme clipper. It’s also one of our favourite museums in London for kids. And now there’s another reason to visit, for the new Cutty Sark Rig Climb Experience.
About the Cutty Sark
Table of Contents
The Cutty Sark was originally built on the River Clyde in Glasgow, Scotland in 1869. It was one of the last tea clippers to be constructed, designed to carry cargo at maximum speed. Unlike normal boats that ride on top of ocean waves, she was designed to have a long, narrow hull and sharp bow so that she could cut through the waves at speed.
She was originally built for the China tea trade but over the course of her history, the Cutty Sark also transported more than 45,000 bales of wool and over 10,000 tons of coal around the world as well as 10 million lbs of tea. She also survived storms, mutinies, a dismasting and a devastating fire.
All in all, the Cutty Sark has had a very colourful history.
The Cutty Sark arrived into a specially built dry dock in Greenwich in 1954 and underwent extensive renovations over the following three years. She reopened to the public as a museum in 1957.
In May 2007, however, a huge fire broke out on board the ship and ripped through all three decks. Fortunately she was saved and restored and reopened again 2012.
Today a visit to the Cutty Sark is a great day out with kids. The interactive museum is that winning combination of entertaining and informative and explains the history of the historic ship with lots of engaging hands-on activities.
Visit at the weekend and you might spot one of the characters of the Cutty Sark. The captain and cook can often be seen wandering around the decks, explaining what life was like on board ship. Regular family-friendly events take place during the school holidays such as the October half term.
Disclosure: We were guests of Made.Travel and The Travel Connection Group for the purpose of this review. This post may contain affiliate links. I have been or could be if you click on a link in this post compensated via a cash payment, gift or something else of value for writing this post. See our full disclosure policy for more details.
The Cutty Sark Rig Climb Experience
In April 2022 the Cutty Sark launched their Rig Climb Experience, allowing visitors to the ship the opportunity to climb the famous masts for the first time since she arrived in Greenwich in 1954.
During the ship’s heyday, the ship’s crew would regularly climb the ship’s ratlines to either untie the sail ties (called gaskets) to allow the sails to drop down or to stow the sails away. One of the reasons why the Cutty Sark was so speedy in the water is because of the modern engineering techniques behind the rigging; she had over 11 miles of rigging, 32 sails that created an original sail area of 32,000 sq. ft. and a main mast that was 152ft tall.
Sailors would also scramble up the rigging to conduct a lookout from above. And they wouldn’t just do this during calm weather, they would be expected to climb up the rope ladders come rain, shine or storm!
The Cutty Sark have partnered with urban adventure company Wire & Sky to provide kids and adults the chance to climb up to the famous ship’s masts just as sailors once did. Wire & Sky also run experiences including the London Abseil from the ArcelorMittal Orbit and the Roof Top Climb up at the O2.
How the Rig Climb Experience works
The experience starts with a briefing underneath the hull of the ship where your guide will give you a harness and hard hat and explain how they work. They will also give you a brief introduction to the Cutty Sark and her fabled career.
Top tip: There are complimentary lockers if you need to store bags.
Your guide then takes you on a very brief tour through the ship and up onto the main deck. The good news is that your rig climb ticket gives you access to the entire of the ship meaning that you can combine a your rig climb experience with exploring the Cutty Sark. I would highly recommend doing this.
There are two rig climb experiences to choose from: the Rig Climb Experience and the Experience Plus.
The Rig Climb Experience takes you from the main deck to the Top Platform just above the ship’s Course Yard, which is the lowest horizontal spar (pole used to support the rigging and sails). Enjoy the views of London and views of the Thames before a controlled descent via zipline to the main deck.
The Rig Climb Experience Plus invites novice sailors to climb to the Tops Platform and then out on to the Lower Topsail Yard. Like with the first experience, you descend via a controlled zip line.
The entire experience lasts between 40minutes – 1 hour.
The Rig Climb Experience Ticket Prices
The Rig Climb Experience: Adult from £41 | Child from £26 | Student from £31 | Discount for Members
Rig Climb Experience Plus: Adult from £55 | Child from £40 | Student from £45 | Discounts for Members
These prices include general admission to Cutty Sark, meaning you can take part in the climb and explore the ship on the same day. Tickets also include all safety equipment and free storage of personal items.
Peak prices apply during weekends and school holidays.
Our verdict of the Rig Climb Experience
For our Cutty Sark adventure we tried the Experience Plus. It’s a unique experience and a fun way to get an insight into what life might have been like for sailors in the 1800s – albeit on dry land and without the ship tilting on the ocean waves!
The views from the top, which take in some of the city’s most famous landmarks including Tower Bridge and St Paul’s Cathedral, are pretty spectacular too.
I would highly recommend combining the your rig climb experience with a day exploring the Cutty Sark itself and Greenwich. The tickets aren’t cheap but they are much better value for money if you explore all areas of the ship before or after your climb. You’re also within walking distance of Royal Museums Greenwich’s other sites, the National Maritime Museum, the Queen’s House and Royal Observatory Greenwich.
How to get to the Cutty Sark
The Cutty Sark is located a short walk away from Cutty Sark DLR.