The Cutty Sark, Greenwich

Greenwich, The Cutty Sark and Royal Observatory

Let's go across The Thames.

It’s easy to make repeat visits to London and either discover new parts of it or revisit an area a few years later to see the changes in it. Greenwich is one of those areas for me, I was last there 5 years ago. It’s a nice trip out there as you catch the DLR (Docklands Light Railway), which is an automated train. There’s no driver so you can sit at the front and pretend to drive the train! Going through the Canary Wharf business area is fascinating too as that’s where the major London skyscrapers are.

The Cutty Sark against a typically grey London sky!

For this visit I wanted to see the Cutty Sark, it was being restored last time I visited. The Cutty Sark, was built in 1869, it one of the last of the tea clippers, at the time when sail gave way to steamships. Tea clippers sailed to China, the opening of the Suez Canal (also in 1869) meant that steamships could make the trip to China quickly but sailing ships struggled in the canal.(research!)
Below decks, showing how the tea was transported in chests.The squares on the floor representing more cargo, the storage areas were full.

The white iron frames are original, the others are newer restorations.

 The Cutty Sark only spent a few years as a tea clipper before turning to the trade in wool. The trip to Australia was made by going around Africa and a clipper had the necessary speed to do the trip quickly. 

Wool bales that would get transported from Australia to the UK.

The Cutty Sark held the record for 10 years for the fastest trip to Australia. Reading the signs I found out that  ‘clipper’ came from North American slang ‘to go a clip’ to go fast, the ships were fast and so were named clippers.

Helpful map showing its voyages.

The Cutty Sark is only one of 3 remaining composite construction clippers, wooden hull on iron frame, the others are the City of Adelaide, which recently arrived back in Port Adelaide after a rather long campaign to save it. (It’s not restored, just the hull) and the skeleton of Ambassador in Chile. Adelaide historians had a long campaign to buy and transport the City of Adelaide back to Australia, the ship’s connection with Adelaide (beside its name!) was that it carried a large number of British migrants to South Australia.

The shipping trade was eventually taken over by steamships, the Cutty Sark became a training vessel for cadets and then in 1954 was transferred to Greenwich where she was put on permanent display.

View from the bow, pointing directly to the Canary Wharf skyscrapers.

First Mates' cabin

The Galley


It’s possible to buy a combined ticket for the Cutty Sark and the Royal Observatory so that’s what I chose to do. King Charles II founded royal observatory in 1675 and if you’re particularly interested in astronomy and the measurement of time, this is the museum for you. Unfortunately I’m not! So it was a bit wasted on me, (hence zero pictures!) but it’s the location of the Prime Meridian so worth visiting just to say you’ve stood on it! My last visit to Greenwich I couldn’t make it up the hill to the Observatory as I was in a moonboot due to the fact that a few weeks earlier I had ruptured my Achilles tendon! That wasn’t going to stop my travelling, I stomped around Europe for a week, it just curtailed the major walking parts!

The Prime Meridian, people were lined up to take their photos with one leg on each side of the line! It took quick timing to get a photo with no-one standing at the sculpture. Looking through the fence on the left, you can see what was known as the 'Millennium Dome' built to commemorate the new century. It never took off and has been converted to a concert venue called O2 Arena.

Looking down from the Royal Observatory to the Maritime Museum with a skyscraper background.

I didn’t visit the National Maritime Museum this time. (Pro tips here. Too many museums at the same time tends to museum you out!) I had been on my last visit and it’s well worth seeing, the chapel is really lovely.