London Drum

Golden Hinde II – Sir Francis Drake’s Galleon

Where? Golden Hinde, St. Mary Overie Dock, Cathedral Street, Southwark · Web: Opening times? 10 AM to 5 PM (Mon-Sun) Visiting hours may change Price? Adults £5.00; Children £5.00 (3-16); Infants free entry (under-3); Family ticket £15.00 Entry charges may change Time required? A typical visit is 45-60 mins Parking: Nearby car parks Buses: 17, 21, 35, 40, 43, 47, 48, 133, 141, 149, 343, 381, 344, 521, RV1 Bus fares Trains: The closest station is London Bridge Jubilee Northern Other nearby stations: Cannon Street, Mansion House and Monument Train fares

Craig’s review… It’s almost a shame that I have to tell you about this place because it’s much better left as a surprise. People should definitely find this place by accident and not be led there by a guidebook. You can tell who’s not expecting it as they’re walking down the claustrophobic Clink Street, because they’ll suddenly come to a stop and start fiddling in their rucksack for a camera.

Drake’s Tudor galleon

This is the Golden Hinde II – a replica of the ship that carried Sir Francis Drake around the world. This is the ship in which he sacked the Spanish treasure ships, sailed round the tip of Chile, up the west coast of America, and got back home in time to fight off the Spanish Armada.

The original ship became so famous that people used to visit it in the same way that we’re visiting this one now. The hull lasted for about a hundred years before the weather managed to do what the Spanish couldn’t (sink it), and we had to wait another 350 years for this rebuild. And I know exactly what your first thought will be: you’ll be standing there thinking that it’s far too small. There are passenger ferries on the Thames that are bigger than this, and it’s amazing to think that Drake had a crew of 80 blokes onboard for 33 months. Imagine having to live with 80 men for three years on this tiny thing! (Luckily 24 of them died along the way, freeing up some space.)

You can get some idea of what it must have been like if there happens to be a party of school kids onboard. Whenever I walk past this boat during the week it always seems to have been hijacked by a rowdy outing of primary school teachers and their charges (the kind of charges who charge and barge around the deck like pirates). If that’s what it resembles when you arrive then trust me: it’s a very small boat, and you’ll be better off coming back later.

Stepping onboard the ship

When you step onboard they give you a little piece of paper telling you a few bits and bobs about the boat, but you’re better off just having a wander around and exploring. Poke your nose into all the cabins and galleys and pretend in your head that you’re a 16th-century pirate. This is where men have a distinct advantage over women, I think, because women are basically too mature to pretend they’re a pirate. They fantasise about serious stuff whilst we dream of sailing the seven seas and getting our legs and heads blown off by a cannonball.

We are a lot like children, in fact. Girls evolve into women when they grow older but men are basically just taller children – taller children with more money and more responsibilities and probably a lot less sense. Which is why I am currently peering out of a porthole deciding which tourist to shoot.

The gun deck and cannons

It’s when you go below that the ship really comes alive. The gun decks are five feet high – even your kids will have to duck. You literally have to walk around like an upside down ‘L’ or you’ll crack your head on the oak beams above. Believe me when I say it’s cramped. You practically have to crawl. And it’s dark. It smells of wood. You can hear people’s feet creaking the timbers above your head and it’s full of barrels and cannons, caskets, baskets and lanterns… heaven knows what it must have been like with all the cannonball cracks and bangs and gunsmoke going off.

Drake’s dining room and quarters

Whenever you see an old pirate movie they always have a very ornate dining room where the captain sits with his crew and it’s all here, complete with a hanging lantern and big-backed chair where Drake would have sat. Obviously I sat in it.

After that I turned the big steering wheel and said Yo Ho Ho a few times. I would have climbed up the rigging as well but the guy behind the till expressly prohibits you from climbing up the mast. (As if anyone is daft enough to do that!)

That is probably why we don’t have pirate ships these days, because they’d never get the crow’s nest past health and safety. They wouldn’t allow cannonballs onboard either in case you dropped one on your foot and sued them.

Worth a visit? Value for money? Good for kids? Easy to get to?

I also recommend… If you enjoy this then try Cutty Sark (travel from London Bridge to Cutty Sark by tube) and National Maritime Museum (travel from London Bridge to Cutty Sark by tube). You might also like to take a day-trip to Chatham Dockyards, or how about seeing the Mary Rose in Portsmouth?

London Squire bookThe owns and has spent the last decade reviewing the capital’s landmarks, attractions and hotels. His guidebook is available from Amazon

Your comments and questions

Sarah My little boy (8 years old) thoroughly enjoyed running around here when we took him in the holidays. You can go down into the dark decks where all the cannons and barrels are kept and really imagine what it was like for a sailor on the high seas. I must say that it helps to be a child, because the ceilings are very low! I think we have given him an interest in boats, because we are planning on taking him to HMS Belfast soon which is a lot more interesting, especially for my other little boy (otherwise known as my husband!) :)

PThorne Should I book a ticket beforehand? We are two adults and two young children

Craig Hi PThorne. You don't really need to book (it's always been practically empty when I've visited in the morning). But you might want to check your date on their website first because they sometimes close it for school parties -

Jon I definitely recommend a visit to this remarkably authentic slice of history, which really does give you a taste of what it must have been like to explore the seas. It will fire your imagine!

Vera Hi Craig. We found this quite by accident whilst trying to find Borough Market (which is also fabulous, by the way!) and although we didn't go on it because we are too old to go clambering up and down stairs, we certainly did enjoy the surprise of discovering it

Michael Despeaux I sailed on her crew of 13 in 1990, when we almost sank in the graveyard of the Atlantic and near the Bermuda Triangle. Spent 18 hours all-hands while green water crashed over the main deck and some 36' tall waves (18' seas) tapped the end of that main yard (spar) 60' above the water line because of how far over we would roll. Took me 8 solid hours re-lashing 1000 pound cannon that were swinging loose on the gun deck, avoiding being crushed but mandated to secure then as they threatened the whole ship.

Caroline It looks fabulous, and like you to just happen upon it! I'm not telling my 9 year old and telling him we're off to another Cathedral instead! Just a quick question long would you allow to visit it and could he go exploring with Daddy whilst I sit at the Thameside Inn drinking wine? :-) lol

Craig Hi Caroline. One hour should be plenty, its a pretty small boat. But its nice and atmospheric inside. Its worth having a walk around Borough Market while you’re waiting because its literally just around the corner, or you could pop inside Southwark Cathedral for a quick look.

Leave a comment