Thank you to Horrible Histories Terrible Thames river tour for providing us with review tickets for the experience
As huge fans of the Horrible Histories books, TV series, film and theatre shows, we were thrilled to have the opportunity to step on board the Horrible Histories Terrible Thames river tour during a recent trip to London during the Easter holidays.
Setting sail from Tower Bridge Quay – just a stone’s throw from the Tower of London – this 45-minute experience is fast-paced, interactive, incredibly fun, and full of memorable facts about some of the more gruesome elements of the river’s eventful history.
What to expect on the Horrible Histories Terrible Thames river tour
As we take to our seats on the open top deck of the boat, we’re greeted by Billy and his teacher (or Billie, as there are several actors rotating the parts). Billy has won a special trip on the river with his teacher… but it seems Billy knows more than the teacher about the darker stories of the Thames, thanks to the grisly and gruesome stories handed down by his family.
Co-written by Terry Deary, author of the Horrible Histories books, and Neal Foster, who wrote the theatre shows and also directs the boat tour, the facts come thick and fast as we sail past famous London monuments including the Tower of London, London Bridge, Pudding Lane, Millennium Bridge, Cleopatra’s Needle, the London Eye, The Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, and back.
There are grisly tales of beheadings and hangings, stories of the plague and pirates, witches and world war two, Jack the Ripper and the river’s part in the slave trade. It’s all peppered with plenty of humour, with jokes about poos and farts aplenty and brilliant sound effects. The adults laugh as much as the children.
Terrible Thames is brilliantly entertaining but also highly informative too. For us as tourists we learned so much about famous landmarks and London history, and got to see a lot of places in a short space of time and from a different angle too, but I can imagine that even locals will discover a side of the city they never knew existed.
The fast-paced nature of the boat tour means there are none of the historical costumes familiar from the TV and theatre shows – but we are treated to lots of madcap musical numbers including one about poo plus a rousing rendition of What Shall We Do With A Drunken Sailor? which has the entire boat singing along.
We were lucky with the warm weather meaning we could sit on the open top deck, but if it’s raining the performance takes place on the lower enclosed deck, with plenty of windows meaning you can still see the landmarks along the river.
Age-wise, my children are 12, 10 and 8 and the tour was perfectly pitched for them. They are familiar with the Horrible Histories format so knew to expect some gruesome facts, but are old enough not to be unsettled by talk of beheadings and hangings. The boat tour experience is open to all ages but generally recommended for those age five and above, although younger more sensitive children may find certain elements upsetting. (Try the books and TV shows first if you’re unsure.)
This is nothing like your usual boat tour; we loved finding out more about the famous London landmarks along the Thames and discovering more about its history. Educational, entertaining, engaging and energetic, this is a great whistlestop tour of some of London’s most famous landmarks filled with unusual facts and stories you won’t get anywhere else.
My 10 year old son’s verdict: “I really liked it. You learn all about historical London and more. The actors were really good, they had a great sense of humour. I liked the songs because they were funny and upbeat. It was cool to learn more about the bridges. We learned lots of interesting facts such as you’re not allowed to advertise on the River Thames but the OXO building says their building is not an advert, it’s just the shape of the windows. I liked that there was a lot of facts about murders and other gruesome things. I would recommend it to anyone who likes history and who likes to laugh.”
How to book the Horrible Histories Terrible Thames boat tour
Horrible Histories Terrible Thames boat tour takes place daily, with several sailings per day. The boat departs from Tower Bridge Quay (formerly St Katharine Pier) on the north bank of the Thames, east of Tower Bridge (in front of the Tower Hotel. Postcode – E1W 1LD. The pier is approximately 10 minutes walk from Tower Hill Underground Station.
Advance tickets booked online cost £22 for adults off peak and £25 peak, £20/£23 for seniors and £14/£15 for children. Under 3s are free. Family tickets (two adults and two children) cost £65 off peak and £72 peak. On the day tickets cost £27 for adults, £16 for children and £25 for seniors, with family tickets £78.
For more information visit the Terrible Thames website
For a video snapshot of the tour check out my Reel on the Cardiff Mummy Says Instagram channel.
Other nearby nearest attractions include the Tower of London and HMS Belfast, plus there are plenty of cafes and restaurants alongside the river and grass verges to stop for a picnic.