Ahoy me hearties! 22 November 2018 marked the 300th anniversary since the death of the notorious pirate Blackbeard. Previously known as Edward Teach, the infamous Bristol-born buccaneer terrorised the West Indies and eastern coast of the USA before meeting his demise in America in 1718, when he was captured and killed by the Governor of Virginia and his soldiers. 

So whether your kiddos are pirate-crazy or you know someone who’s fascinated by pirating history, check out our guide to having a pirate-themed day out in Bristol. Avast ye!

Treasure Island trail - how to have a pirate-themed weekend in Bristol

Image - Bristol Treasure Island Trail

Brave the Blood, Blackbeard and Buccaneers tour

Blackbeard - of the infamous smoking barb - is thought to have been born in Redcliffe, near Bristol Harbourside, around 1680. Only there are no records to prove it. However, new information from Jamaica supports his Bristol origins, and even fills in some of the missing details of his life. These and other extraordinary revelations about Blackbeard, the world’s most famous pirate, are uncovered in Show of Strength’s walking tour of Bristol docks. The tour lasts 2.5 hours, visiting dockside hostelries and landmarks along the way.

Blood booze and buccaneers walking tour - how to have a pirate themed day out in Bristol

Image - Blood, Blackbeard and Buccaneers 

Take a Bristol Pirate Walk 

Bristol Pirate Walks are a fun and informative way of discovering Bristol's often grizzly maritime history. The one-hour guided tours, led by the charismatic Pirate Pete, highlight slavery, trading and piracy and are packed-full of interesting historical insights, facts and anecdotes. During the walk, you’ll encounter Long John Silver’s treasure chest in the smugglers cave, visit Treasure Island’s Spy Glass Inn where the press gangs roamed and uncover Blackbeard’s Lair in the medieval port. Savvy?

Pete the Pirate, pirate walks Bristol - how to have a pirate themed day out in Bristol

Image - Pirate Pete, Bristol Pirate Walk

Master buccaneer skills at Brunel's SS Great Britain

While not an actual pirate ship (the SS Great Britain was a passenger steamship designed for transatlantic service between Bristol and New York by daring Victorian engineer, Brunel), this magnificent historical ship does look awfully like one. And here's a little fun fact, a white line was painted along the side of the ship to make it look (through a telescope) like a Navy warship and it was never chased by pirates during its working life.

Visitors can get a taste of life onboard ship in days gone by, with sounds and sensory smells - the fish gutting room exudes a particularly realistic stench!

Brunel's SS Great Britain
Image - Brunel's SS Great Britain

Embark on the Treasure Island Trail

Aside from Blackbeard, Bristol has ties with other swashbuckling sea dogs - namely Long John Silver, who owns the Spyglass Inn (reputedly based on The Hole in the Wall - a pub on the corner of Queen Square) in Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island.

To celebrate the city’s maritime, cultural and literary connections with this classic novel by Robert Louis Stevenson, the Long John Silver Trust set up the Treasure Island Trail on Bristol Harbourside. The fun family-friendly trail is made up of eight planter barrels and an app (£1.99 on iOS or Android) that guides followers around Bristol Harbour to discover more about the dirty deeds of Long John Silver and other dastardly buccaneers, in places where the story began 250 years ago.

*Look out for special Show of Strength Theatre Company story walks when Treasure Island’s pirates are brought to life by actors in period costume - often during school holidays. Ooh arr, me landlubbers.

Treasure Island Story walk  - how to have a pirate themed day out in Bristol

Image - Show of Strength Theatre Company

Watch a pirate panto while sailing round the Harbourside

The Matthew is another of Bristol’s pirate-y looking sailing ships that’s sure to set visitors’ imaginations firing. Free to enter while moored outside M Shed, on certain dates, members of the public can buy tickets to fulfil their swashbuckling dreams. Set sail on this caravel replica ship for special voyages such as fish and chips with pirate folk music or a Captain Barnacle pantomime featuring puppets, Blackbeard, treasure hunting, singing and silliness. Check the website for future sailing dates.

The Matthew - how to have a pirate-themed day out in Bristol

Image - The Matthew

Seek out the yo ho ho home of Blackbeard

If your visit to Bristol coincides with Bristol Film Festival, seize the chance to go underground and discover Redcliffe caves, believed to have once been Blackbeard's hideaway. You’ll need to have your wits about you though - Bristol Film Festival skilfully matches movies with Bristol venues to enhance your film-watching experience, hence the spine-tingling Horror in the Caves programme.

Redcliffe Caves

Image - Redcliffe Caves, Bristol Film Office

Practice your Bristol accent

Some people believe that the pirate dialect - all the oo arr me hearties type lingo spoken by fictional pirates - is a crude imitation of the West Country accent. It could be this is a result of the number of pirates that came from South West England during the Golden Age of Piracy.

Or, it could be due to the fact that in 1954, Robert Newton (who hails from Dorset) starred as Long John Silver (who is from Bristol) in the Disney film of Treasure Island, as well as Disney's Blackbeard the Pirate, and used a Bristol accent for both, which has subsequently filtered through to popular pirate culture. And here's another exciting titbit - his son, Nicholas Newton, helped set up Bristol's Treasure Island Trail, as one of the Long John Silver Trust’s patrons.

Treasure Island Trail - how to have a pirate-themed day out in Bristol

Image - Bristol Treasure Island Trail

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Pirate-themed day out Bristol


Brunel's SS Great Britain
Historic Ship
SS Great Britain Hero Image

Voyage back in time at Brunel’s SS Great Britain, the world’s first great ocean liner.

The Matthew
Historic Ship
The Matthew Bristol

Based in Bristol’s floating harbour for much of the year, the Matthew is popular for harbour tours as well as longer sailing trips.

Blood, Blackbeard and Buccaneers Tour with Show of Strength
Walking Tour
Show of Strength Tour Banner

Extraordinary new revelations about Blackbeard, the world’s most famous pirate, are promised in Show of Strength’s walking tour of Bristol docks.