England Europe Travel Diary

Portsmouth – Britain’s naval frontier

A while ago I had a chuckle when I saw this ad on the train to work:

SW_Trains_Dubai
Image courtesy of South West Trains

That’s one way to get your attention isn’t it? It got mine!

And that’s how we found ourselves stepping off the train at Portsmouth last weekend.

Portsmouth? That’s no where near Dubai!

There it is! That "Dubai" tower!
There it is! That “Dubai” tower!

Ok, don’t scream. It’s not Dubai, but that tower is really there.

Portsmouth is England’s naval frontier

The Emirates (there’s the connection!) Spinnaker Tower is one of Portmouth’s major tourist attraction. The eye catching tower looks over an impressive harbour, one that King Henry VIII fought hard to keep when the French tried to invade during Battle of the Solent.

Henry’s ship the Mary Rose sank right there, in the middle of the harbour on 19th July 1545, a battle scene that is illustrated on a painting being displayed at The Mary Rose Museum at the Historic Dockyard nearby.

The Mary Rose Museum temporary display - the museum will re-open late summer 2016.
The Mary Rose Museum temporary display – the museum will re-open late summer 2016.

Indeed Portsmouth plays a significant role in British naval history, and at the Historic Dockyard there are plenty of ships to visit, as well as museums dedicated to the Royal Navy and their work during the many wars through the ages. There’s HMS M.33, HMS Warrior 1860 and the impressive HMS Victory, the ship where Lord Nelson died on during the Battle of Trafalgar.

HMS Victory - Lord Nelson was shot and killed on board this ship during the Battle of Trafalgar.
HMS Victory – Lord Nelson was shot and killed on board this ship during the Battle of Trafalgar.

Board HMS Victory and experience life as a sailor at sea

From the deck of Victory, you can scan the surrounding harbour and from an old navy ship we surveyed the newer ones just across dock.

In comparison – the blue grey colour of today’s naval vessels are not as majestic in outdoor, but as pointed out by my husband, energetically enjoying all these naval history and experience, that one with the big balls on top can take down an aircraft flying mile and miles (and miles and miles….) away!

It's all about Lord Nelson here at the Historic Dockyard in Portsmouth
It’s all about Lord Nelson here at the Historic Dockyard in Portsmouth

So, really it’s a boys playground ;-) It’s all about the navy and the wars!

Tickets to the dockyard is valid for a whole 12 months, so we were pressured to have to see absolutely everything in one go. There’s only so much war history one can absorb before getting a little tired, and we got on the local bus and headed towards Southsea.

What's wrong with a bit of pebble beach? :)
What’s wrong with a bit of pebble beach? :)

A great family day out at Southsea’s beaches

Southsea is a family playground on sunny days – and on the day of our visit it was gloriously bright. It’s one of those places where you should grab some fish and chips and fight over it with the seagulls on the pebbled beach.

I have a thing about pebble beaches. They may not be as comfortable to lie on, or as golden in appearance as sand beaches, they are charming.

I like the sound the rocks make when waves crash onto the beach and slowly tickles through back into the ocean. I once fell asleep listening to it while lying on the beach in Brighton – some may say that might have been a mistake but I am still alive aren’t I?

Southsea Castle is one of Henry VIII fortifications - free admission.
Southsea Castle is one of Henry VIII fortifications – free admission.

Visit one of Henry VIII’s show of power – Southsea Castle

If you don’t fancy the beach, we found Rocksbys Restaurant on the Esplanade lovely to hang out in. Or, just stroll along the Esplanade, and keep going until you come across something interesting… like Southsea Castle to visit :)

The Southsea Castle was used over and over again during the many wars the English has fought - including WWII
The Southsea Castle was used over and over again during the many wars the English has fought – including WWII

Climbing to the top of Southsea Castle further down the coast from the restaurant we were treated to a panoramic view of the Portsmouth harbour, including the forts in the middle of the channel.

After the castle, we briefly browsed the D-Day Museum next door – Britain’s only museum dedicated to the D-Day landings in Normandy during WWII – before settling down with a picnic mat to enjoy a sunny afternoon before our train home.

Back near the Portsmouth station - where HMS Warrior was being restored.
Back near the Portsmouth station – where HMS Warrior was being restored.

Portsmouth is an easy day trip from London with South West Trains.

Share your thoughts below!