The Golden Hinde Sleepover sounded incredibly exciting, and totally appealed to the ex-drama teacher in me. However, the reality of convincing my 11yo to dress up, my 9yo to play along nicely with the actors in a confined space and eat Tudor stew, then sleeping pretty rough as forty year olds, seemed a big ask at the end of half term when we were a bit frazzled.
I WAS SO WRONG.
This is the best pirate sleepover ever
I read something recently, it was much more eloquent, but it basically said that the things we don’t feel sure about, the things we don’t think we need, sometimes turn out to be the things that actually we need the most.
Our whole experience of sleeping over on the replica of The Golden Hinde – Sir Francis Drake’s ship that circumnavigated the globe – was utterly, spellbindingly, amazingly brilliant. It totally fed my soul! We all need to laugh, play, time travel and to wake up in charge of a pirate ship heading out onto the Thames.
Here’s what we loved about the Golden Hinde Sleepover
The actors were high energy, full of laughs and so skilled at keeping kids engaged through character, action and humour. They turned kids to putty in their hands, even the most defiant and uncertain ones. The youngest became lovingly referred to as “Biscuits” the most unruly became the top swordsmen. It was all one big gloriously funny game. I loved how they used brain gym, and other more subtle tricks to really help everyone to stay focussed.
A lot of laughs. History is vile, bizarre and incredible. It’s also a brilliant source of toilet humour, bodily functions and well, howling with laughter at the thought of the Barber Surgeon sticking leeches on Dad’s private parts. Tudor treatment for anyone with the star sign Scorpio, because their sting is in their tail!
Totally onboard. My 9yo more than happily ate all the stew despite knowing we had emergency rations for him. ‘I know there won’t be anything else and we have battles to fight with the Spanish’. It was actually a very child friendly stew consisting of large chunks of potato and carrot.
He was totally immersed in living history and lapping up everything the actors had to say too, especially the sword fighting, canon firing and toilet humour. He made immediate friends with another boy his age and decided the gunner was his hero.
My 11yo made me promise not to take photos of her in the hat, as did Mr A, but by the end they had such a brilliant time I believe they totally would have signed up to be the London wide poster family for The Golden Hinde.
We went to war with the Spanish. How on earth I hear you ask? Well, I totally managed to ‘suspend my disbelief’ as they say in the drama teaching world, that war totally happened. I was so engaged as a grown up too.
Waking up on the ship. Sleep may have been broken by late night revellers, a 6am bottle collection from the pub next door, and by the odd siren from wider London. But I woke up, climbed up on the main deck with a cup of tea in a pewter tankard, and sat and chatted with Mr A and some of the other parents.
Afterwards I climbed up onto the half deck, stood at the helm all by myself, looking out across the Thames, the skyline full of modern iconic buildings. I felt like I was in some kind of crazy film, or as if Elizabethan London had come to life, just for us.
It was the most magical start to a day I have had in all my travels.
What age/who is the Golden Hinde sleepover for?
6-11 is perfect. Younger children are allowed if you supervise them. The sleepover we participated in was aimed at families, but there are also school and youth group sleepovers and all kinds of other events, including pirate training!
Additional needs and the Golden Hinde Sleepover
The sessions were beautifully structured for kids with attention or regulation difficulties, with lots of movement, actions to help concentration, brain gym exercises and superbly positive behaviour management in role from the actors.
From a physical perspective the ladders are steep and the ship is dark with low ceilings on some decks and there is quite a lot of movement between decks. On a sensory level, the ship does does smell old and there will be some noise from outside overnight.
Some families organised a section of the ship to themselves, so do talk to the team if you have concerns, it was clear the actors already know how to accommodate the needs of children with a range of special needs.
What to take for the Golden Hinde Sleepover
Nothing is provided so make your own comfort! Sailors would have slept on the floor. We took pillows and roll mats but some families had airbeds. I thought about this, but was worried there wouldn’t be room to store the luggage you’d need to get these across London, but this wouldn’t have been an issue. And there was plenty of time between the end of the activities and lights out to set up camp.
Should we take food?
The stew was hearty and there was lots of really fresh lovely bread, and bread, cheese and fruit in the morning. If you are prone to getting a bit nibbly then definitely take some snacks. Water and hot drinks were provided
Was it really dark?
It was dark but not completely dark, so a small torch could be handy. I took an eye mask but didn’t need it. I’m not a fan of ear plugs but they could be useful. I was enjoying all the London sounds too much, in fact I love that I had the weirdest dreams on board.
What about the toilets?
The toilet facilities – there are two – are very clean and not as cramped as I had imagined. You could easily change into pjs or have a quick wash in them.
What about security?
Once the actors leave, a member of the Golden Hinde team stays on board to ensure everyone’s safety. The ship has a glass security partition with the dock so you feel very secure. It was hilarious fun making early morning joggers jump as they caught sight of us on deck.
Is the Golden Hinde Sleepover worth it?
I cannot recommend the Golden Hinde sleepover highly enough, I think it represents excellent value for money too at £45 per person. There were only around 30 of us onboard, so it felt like a truly personalised living history sleepover experience. I can’t imagine many places to wake up to top this!
How do you book a Golden Hinde Sleepover?
Telephone: 0207 403 0123
View sleepovers as an event on facebook
You can also book birthday parties and there are all kinds of fab events for grown ups too, like rum tasting for starters. The ship is also available for private hire.
If you’re researching sleepovers in London for kids, why not see what we made of the Dinosnores sleepover at the Natural History Museum too?
Disclosure, we were gifted our tickets in exchange for a review. All opinions remain my own, I loved it so much I got carried away and made a video too.