Top 5 famous British ships | VisitBritain

Britain’s best-known ships

Climb aboard some truly historic vessels

HMS Victory, Portsmouth Harbour


From naval battles to famous voyages, Britain’s ships have a distinct place in history. Climb aboard and learn about life at sea, the difficulties of firing cannon and some of England’s greatest naval heroes.

SS Great Britain, Bristol, England

The first iron steamer to cross the Atlantic, the SS Great Britain is a hugely impressive feat of engineering. You’d expect nothing less from Victorian engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel of course, best known for building the suspension bridge across Bristol’s Avon Gorge.

Step inside this fully restored piece of marine history, learn about its maiden voyage and read letters and accounts written by real passengers: you’ll feel like you’re back in Victorian times, about to set sail.

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HMS Victory, Portsmouth Harbour, England

You’ve probably heard of Admiral Lord Nelson: that’s his statue on Nelson’s Column in the middle of Trafalgar Square. Well, HMS Victory was his flagship, and he died aboard fighting the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.

Standing proudly under sail, this is the oldest commissioned warship in the world. As you explore you’ll get a real sense of life at sea, the hardships, the risks, and the sense of adventure. It’s all brought to vivid life by the expert Victory Corps of Guides, so be sure to take a guided tour.

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Cutty Sark, London

Cutty Sark was the fastest and most famous ship of her time. One of the last trade ships under sail, she was used to trade tea with China, and later wool with Australia. Learn about her eccentric captains and how she was built for speed, then walk out on deck and imagine you’re ploughing through the waves. You can even walk right beneath the ship and see her ground-breaking hull shape for yourself.

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Royal Yacht Britannia, Edinburgh, Scotland

A royal residence for 44 years, the Royal Yacht Britannia is a unique vessel. It’s travelled over a million miles, witnessed state visits, royal honeymoons and had a role in nearly half a decade of British history.

Step on board and experience the magnificent state apartments, and the contrast with the functional naval quarters at the ship’s bow. Then see the great collections of artefacts, furniture and photographs, some of which are part of the Royal Collection.

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HMS Belfast

HMS Belfast saw active service during World War 2, and was involved in such high profile encounters as the D-Day landings. Learn about life on board as you explore the nine decks of this huge warship and discover its history.

Its interactive gun turret and operations room experiences should give your imagination a helping hand, then you can enjoy the view of London’s best-known sights from up on deck.

Learn more about HMS Belfast