From the Royal Observatory to the Cutty Sark, Amy Moore embarks on a Greenwich Royal Tour to see what the destination has to offer for those visiting.

I’d rate Greenwich as the more sophisticated side of London, with nearby Canary Wharf channelling as a renowned business location. Greenwich is situated along the River Thames, with boat tours by City Cruises departing from Greenwich Pier, to a number of iconic locations around the capital.

For groups, 20 people or more can benefit from a number of itineraries and will need to call 020 77 400 400 to make a reservation.

ABOARD CUTTY SARK GREENWICH

All aboard the Cutty Sark

Heading towards the Tourist Information Centre at around 1130hrs, I bypassed Greenwich Market, with its strong artistic and international influence. It was one of those hot summer days that just welcomed a tour of the city. I stumbled across a café adjacent to the Centre, which functioned as a working brewery, admiring the fantastic display of fermenter’s, detailing when each brew would be ready to sample. Approaching the Centre, it was clear there was adequate room for coach parking. Alternatively, those travelling by rail can enjoy a short walk from Cutty Sark DLR.

Our group met by the domineering statue of Sir Walter Raleigh at 1230hrs, ready to embark on a Greenwich Highlights half-day tour, hosted by experienced tour guide Graham Bleasdale.

Royal Observatory Greenwich

We trekked through Greenwich Park upon approach to our primary destination, recently recognised for hosting the equestrian event at the London Olympics in 2012. It was easy to notice how popular such a historic destination is with school groups, with a history dating back to the Tudor dynasty, as we were advised about the remnants of a surrounding wall erected by Henry VIII to protect his deer.

There was a steep incline as we embarked towards the Royal Observatory Greenwich. We had arrived in time to witness the rise and fall of the ‘time ball’ at 1300hrs, also taking a moment to enjoy the panoramic view of Central London. Entry to all attractions is included in the tour’s ticket price, which averages at around £50 an adult. Once inside, we strolled past the main exhibition centre, which had been designed by renowned architect Sir Christopher Wren for a matter of £500. Situated on the viewing platform is a metal line, each side reflective of the eastern and western hemispheres. This destination is ideal for the more educational variety.

National Maritime Museum

The National Maritime Museum is the largest of its kind and houses a number of themed exhibitions throughout the year, many suitable for group visitors.

NELSON SHIP BOTTLE GREENWICH

Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle, sculpted by Yinka Shonibare MBE, is exhibited outside The National Maritime Museum

From July 11 to January 14, the museum is hosting its Ships, Clocks and Stars: The Quest for Longitude exhibition, offering a standard entry rate of £8.50 for adults and £3 for children, with late night opening on a Thursday. I found the most striking element of the museum to be Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle, sculpted by Yinka Shonibare MBE and originally located in Trafalgar Square.

Getting a glimpse of such an attraction was a privilege, as guests were welcomed into the exhibition hall through the projection of a stormy sea, seeking to evoke loneliness and isolation. We journeyed through the darkened room, admiring a number of highlighted exhibits. A mock coffee house had been erected using printed drapes. A large, antique map of London was displayed, which could be viewed alongside ambience overhead. We were taught about John Harrison and his life-long endeavour to build a clock, which was suitable to withstand a lengthy journey aboard a ship. We had previously learnt at the Observatory, that if a clock were set to Greenwich time, it would have been easier to estimate one’s location through local time via astronomy.

Cutty Sark

Visitors will be greeted by the Cutty Sark upon arrival to the Tourist Information Centre.

The attraction is the world’s sole surviving tea clipper, formerly used to transport goods from China. Its oriental influence is still evident today. A conservation project was completed by April 2012, with the ship’s original interior features painted white.

CUTTY SARK EXTERIOR

The Cutty Sark is the world’s sole surviving tea clipper

The attraction offers spectacular views across the River Thames, with the ship lifted three metres and placed on a glass base, which houses an intimate restaurant area frequently open for private hire. Those visiting the Cutty Sark will be intrigued by its unique heritage, which is best described through the poem Tam o’ Shanter by Robert Burns. Notice the horse’s tail in Cutty Sark’s hand.

A snippet reads: “One spring brought off her master whole, But left behind her own grey tail, The witch caught her by the rump, And left poor Maggie’s scarce a stump.” Once aboard, visitors can enjoy access to the ship’s steering wheel, as well as the prestigious Captain’s table and intimate sailor’s quarters. Some surfaces can be steep at times, but it’s fascinating how most of the old ship still remains intact. Groups of 10 or more should be pre booked and curator’s tours are available in advance. Email cuttysarkbookings@rmg.co.uk

St Paul’s Cathedral

Our final stop was at St. Paul’s Cathedral at around 1530hrs, which tied in perfectly with the beginning of the tour. The 16th century structure boasts prominence in various film franchises, with the set most recently recognised from Thor 2: The Dark World and Margaret Thatcher biopic, The Iron Lady. This was the second structure we visited, which had been born of renaissance influence and characteristically designed by Sir Christopher Wren, with its twin domes mimicking of its uphill predecessor, the Royal Observatory Greenwich.

Groups could choose to enjoy a picnic on its grounds, whilst visually comparing the original Italian-style building to its cleaner, more modern design replica opposite. I was stunned by St. Paul’s intricately designed interior, which was born of French influence and was said to have taken around 20 years to complete. Candles were placed throughout and did well to add to the ambience.

Upon exit, guests can spot its twin dome from the raised arched window above reception. Originally, the attraction was supposed to feature one dome, but royals at the time didn’t want their view of the River Thames, from Queen’s House, to be spoilt. Those embarking on a Best of Greenwich day tour can enjoy a pub lunch at Queen’s House.

Greenwich Royal Tours offer multiple itineraries suited to groups, including a Great Greenwich Pub Tour, a Law in London Walking Tour, a Secret Gardens of London Day Tour and a Shakespeare in London Walking Tour. Greenwich Royal Tours can comfortably accommodate large coach groups. Recently introduced is a Greenwich Weekend Getaway package, which includes a hotel stay in the area. Advance booking is essential, with prices starting at £329 per single and £449 per couple.

For more information or to book, call the Greenwich Office on 020 8319 2143 or email bookings@greenwichroyaltours.com 

Also in Central London

Why not plan a visit to Buckingham Palace? From July 26 to September 28, the iconic structure is opening its State Rooms to the public. The building serves as the better-known residence of Her Majesty The Queen, with many international tourists flocking to get a glimpse of its dominating exterior. Private evening tours are available out of public viewing hours, with a complementary glass of bubbly served in the Bow Room. Prices start from £75. Guests purchasing a Royal Day Out ticket can enjoy admission to the Royal Mews, The Queens Gallery and The State Rooms at a discounted rate, with prices starting from £34.50 for one adult.