Horrible Histories: Terrible Thames review – a theatrical boat tour that’ll have the kids in stitches

Horrible Histories: Terrible Thames review

by Laura Riddell |
Updated on
Horrible Histories: Terrible Thames Review

In proper boring mum fashion, I love to grab an opportunity to sneak in a bit of learning on a family day out. My boys still haven't forgiven me for dragging them around the British Museum - they were vaguely interested in the mummies. However, the whiff of me trying to educate had them grumbling that they wanted to leave.

But as we boarded the Horrible Histories: Terrible Thames boat tour I knew I was on to a winner. My eight-year-old son, Odhran, was already familiar with the Horrible Histories books and TV show and my five-year-old son, Reuben, has that typical young boy interest in all things gruesome and gory. They were also both excited about going on a boat, and as we live in London, the bright signage on the side of Horrible Histories: Terrible Thames boat had caught their attention more than once.

We boarded at Tower Bridge Quay next to Tower Bridge. There's no food or drinks available on board. So we popped into the nearby Tesco express to grab some snacks and drinks to take with us. There's also a Costa opposite where you board, which is handy if you want to grab a coffee or a hot drink.

It was May and the sun was out when we left our house. So, we hadn't brought rain coats. But by the time we queued up to board, ominous grey clouds had formed over head, and no sooner had we taken our seats on the open top deck than the rain fell heavily. We were ushered to shelter below deck, where the show began without delay.

My eight-year-old had been disappointed not to get a seat at the front. But in this high-energy show it really doesn't matter where you're sat as the characters rampage up and down the central aisle, often taking the time to single kids out.

Horrible Histories: Terrible Thames review

Billie is a cheeky school boy who has been awarded the opportunity to go on a boat trip with his teacher. He often contradicts his teacher and is keen to share his knowledge of the dark history of the Thames. The 45-minute boat ride is a whistlestop tour of some of London's famous landmarks, including Tower of London, the London Eye, the Houses of Parliament and HMS Belfast, and lots of the usual characters such as Guy Fawkes appear in the story telling. But there was plenty to learn that I wasn't aware of, such as the Thames whaling history and the sad tale of a woman who after suffering tragedy then shockingly went on to fall victim to Jack the Ripper.

But, while the subject matters may be dark, the tour is jovial and filled with potty humour and cheerful songs. My boys and all the other kids on board were totally gripped and the adults were laughing along too. Odhran listened open-mouthed throughout and Reuben had a smile on his face from beginning to end. Family friends in their late seventies joined us for the tour and spoke of returning with their granddaughter. We all joined in for a rousing rendition of 'What Shall We Do with a Drunken Sailor?' before the tour drew to an end.

Horrible Histories: Terrible Thames is a sigh-seeing tour with a difference and possibly one of the best things you can do if you're visiting London with kids.

Prices: Standards tickets cost £25 for adults, £15 for children (ages 3-15), £20 for seniors (65+). Family tickets cost £70 for two adults and two children or £60 for one adult and three children.

When does Horrible Histories: Terrible Thames run? It runs during the school holidays and on selected weekdays. The tours run between 9.45am and 15.45pm but vary on different days. See the ticketing page for further details. Book here

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