In my school days I hated History. Partly due to the fact I studied the somewhat boring, crop rotation and the innovation of transport during my GCSE years. Fast forward 14 years and I find world history fascinating, and I’m always eager to improve my knowledge when we escape for the weekend. Last weekend was no different. We jumped in the car and drove the 170 mile journey from the Wirral to Milton Keynes, home of the code breakers. Bletchley Park.
Where to stay near Bletchley Park
As Milton Keynes is a relatively new city, the immediate area is very modern with little character. But it does have roundabouts. Plenty of roundabouts, after roundabout, after roundabout!!
Located around 15 minutes from Bletchley, MK does offer good amenities and reasonable accommodation. We stayed at Novotel, Milton Keynes, which is just on the outskirts of the city.
The reception, bar and breakfast areas are all clean and modern, whilst the bedrooms need a little modernising. However, they do offer large rooms, comfy beds and good customer service. Just what you need for one night away.
What to see at Bletchley Park
Let’s start with a little background- I had only really heard of Bletchley, because my Granddad worked here (post WW2) and therefore my Mum grew up here. However, a few years ago ITV’s Bletchley Circle and the feature film ‘The Imitation Game’ hit our screens and the interest in the site increased. In fact they created such a stir, that Bletchley Park now has over 250,000 visitors a year.
Did you know, code breaking began here in 1938, and their work was vital to the allied victory in world war two!
With 10,000 members of staff working at Bletchley Park during the war, there is numerous work areas to explore. The mansion, the blocks and the huts. You’ll begin your trip at the visitor centre, which is filled with basic information on the timeline of the war and how the code breakers spent their days. Being big kids, we loved the interactive areas which really help give an insight into the sort of work you’d be doing at Bletchley.
Now, you can either chose the guided tour (limited places available each day) an interactive audio tour or to just take it at our own pace. I’ve visited the park twice and have previously used the audio tour, but this time we decided to go it alone.
Meandering our way through the blocks, before visiting the huts and ending with the mansion feels the best way to see things, but there isn’t any right or wrong. If the weather is nice you might even break up your day with a leisurely picnic beside the lake!
Block B is one of my personal favourites. Upstairs you’ll find replicas of war environments and a great exhibition on Bill Tutte and how he solved Lorenz-enciphered messages, which is thought to of greatly contributed to the defeat of Nazi Germany!
Downstairs is where most visitors flock though. Here, you will find the rebuilt ‘Bombe’ device, used to mechanise the process of breaking Enigma- the one that you’ll recognise from the film ‘The Imitation Game’.
But what was enigma? The Enigma was a machine used by the German military to send messages securely, by turning text into code. Alan Turing and Gordon Welchman, developed the electro-mechanical machine ‘The Bombe’ to help to break the code and convert these messages back into text.
The knowledgeable staff hold a demonstration of the Bombe every hour, for 20 minutes, and I’d highly suggest watching one. We learnt so much from this demo, and it really helped to slot all the technical detail into place!
The code breaking huts are located on the grounds of the park, and each feature something different to one another. They all house replica offices, interactive displays and hoards of information, so it’s worth visiting them all.
At the top of the park, you’ll find the mansion. It is a beautiful building, with lots of ornate detail including stained glass and guarding stone gargoyles. The mansion also holds temporary exhibitions. During our visit they were based on recreation and the life of Bill Tutte, both of which we found very interesting. In the courtyard you’ll also find the garages which house original WW2 vehicles!
An adult ticket to Bletchley Park is £16 online or £17.75 on the day. This ticket gives you unlimited visits for 12 months, and I would suggest giving yourself 5-6 hours for your visit. There is so much to see!
Where to eat near Bletchley Park
I’ll be honest, we found it increasingly difficult to find a good independent restaurant anywhere near our hotel. Instead, we hopped in an Uber to MK Centre and tried a chain restaurant we had yet to visit before. The modern ‘blocks’ located in Milton Keynes house a number of restaurants, in a square courtyard. I can imagine on a summers day the place will be filled with atmosphere and the height of activity.
Las Iguanas , most famous for their 2-4-1 cocktails and a popular choice in city centres, didn’t disappoint. Being a Sunday evening in November, we pretty much had the place to ourselves which was a nice change!
We selected 5 tapas items and a side to share, all washed down with ‘Golden Porn Star Martini’s’. Portion sizes were spot on (anyone else get annoyed with tapas dishes that cater to odd numbers?!) giving us both 2 of each item. We were absolutely stuffed by the end, and fully intend to visit the Liverpool branch soon!
Where do you like to visit in the UK? I’d love to hear your favourites!
If you’d like to visit Bletchley Park, why not pin the image below to your board for the future.