PORTSMOUTH -THE MAIN STOMPING GROUND OF THE ROYAL NAVY

Portsmouth in the south of England was the place from which the British Royal Navy controlled the seas in the 19th century.

It’s still the place to come if you love your ships or simply enjoy the seaside.

The Historic Dockyard is the best place to start and immerse yourself in maritime culture. It’s in the middle of the old harbour, very close to the railway and bus station and is the best known for housing three magnificent old ships: HMS Victory, HMS Warrior and King Henry VIII’s beloved Mary Rose.

You can wander for hours amongst numerous museums, shops and action stations but the most impressive are ships especially the HMS Victory which played an important part in the Battle of Trafalgar (1805), leading the fleet to victory, although Vice-Admiral Nelson lost his life during this battle.

In its heyday, the HMS Victory carried a crew around 900 sailors. The tour around the ship is interesting as interiors look authentic with antique furniture, low ceilings and cannon balls dotted in straight lines. Life on board was really tough and crew members heavily punished for swearing, blaspheming, drunkenness or fighting. This was done on the top deck with everyone attending and using the whip “Cat o’Nine tails”. Afterwards, vast quantities of vinegar were applied to poor sailors’ backsides. Ouch!

The HMS Warrior dating back to 1860 was the first iron-hulled armoured battleship and run by both steam and sail.

As for Tudor Mary Rose – it was salvaged in 1982 and has many Tudor artefacts brought from the site.

To round off the visit you should not forget action stations with its interactive features such as a virtual ride on a helicopter, using a radar or shooting the enemy boats. It’s definitely the quickest way to see whether you are cut out for the navy life.

Not forgetting about other needs there is no better place than a new shopping and restaurant centre on the waterfront called Gunwharf Quays famous for its ultra modern Spinnaker Tower (170m), offering great harbour views from the top.

And what is better than relaxing on the waterfront with a cold beer in your hand watching ferries sail by.

A short walk will lead you to Southsea and its long-stretching shingle beaches and fantastic views of the narrow entrance to the harbour from the top of the Round Tower. During a sunny day the sea shimmers with brilliant light and the horizon is dotted with islands-forts.

After all this excitement you can hop on board the boat and cruise around harbour admiring both old and new warships or just feeling the sea breeze on your face.

HOW TO GET THERE

80 miles southwest from London

90 minutes by Rail

2 hours 30 mins by National Express Coach

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