Brunel’s extraordinary engineering projects transformed Britain and global travel. Visitors exploring the Great West Way touring route between London and Bristol can marvel at many of those civil engineering feats, departing from Paddington Station and traveling on the Great Western Railway - - designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel and still crossing many of his bridges and through the Box Tunnel to this day.
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GWR offers a range of rail travel passes that are perfect for planning touring itineraries along the Great West Way, especially for anyone hoping to see a number of Brunel’s iconic structures and museums.
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Like London Paddington, Bath Spa station retains much of it’s Brunel-era character, but continue on to Bristol Temple Meads for immersion into Brunel’s legacy. Exiting Bristol’s main station and looking back at the offices and Passenger Shed provides a dramatic welcome, and taking a regular ferry boat from the station to Brunel’s SS Great Britain is the perfect way to soak in Brunel’s impact on maritime innovations. He was instrumental in the success of Bristol’s unique harbour (don't miss visiting Underfall Yard to discover this), devising a pumping and silt-removal solution that maintained water depth for the city’s thriving docks where he built two of the most innovative ships in the world.
Brunel’s SS Great Britain is a must-visit attraction. Spend a day exploring the ship as well as the two adjacent museums which tell the story of the ship’s long history and Brunel’s wide-ranging projects and life. One ticket provides entry to the ship, historic dry dock, Dockyard Museum and Being Brunel museum and – with free revisits – can be spread out over a number of days.
Also in Bristol, head to the Clifton Suspension Bridge. Bristol In-Sight open-top buses (from 2020) offer special tickets connecting the SS Great Britain and the bridge, but there’s also a Brunel walking trail to follow, highlighting locations across the city.
Along the Great West Way, consider visiting Steam – the museum of the Great Western Railway – for further immersion into Brunel’s achievements. Or stop off to follow the River Thames tow path from Maidenhead to Windsor to get a great view of Brunel’s Maidenhead Railway Bridge. In Chippenham, Brunel’s impressive Western Arches railway viaduct is worth a look, especially as the town itself was transformed by the arrival of the Great Western Railway – a story told at Chippenham Museum. In London, the Brunel Museum at the Thames Tunnel is worth a visit to discover the first project he worked on, alongside his father, Sir Marc Brunel; but the way to see the tunnel for yourself is to take a ride on the London Underground!
However you choose to tour the Great West Way to discover Brunel’s legacy, we look forward to welcoming you to Brunel’s SS Great Britain as the perfect starting point!