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Portsmouth

While I realize the end of February may not be the ideal time to visit Portsmouth, business brings me to London for a week of meetings and I decided a few days (Wed, Thurs, and Fri of next week (19, 20, 21 Feb)); would be nice to recover from any jetlag. I always wanted to visit Portsmouth, see the HMS Victory, the Mary Rose, and other Naval stuff, so that is the plan (plus a stop at Stonehenge on the way down)

Question is, does anyone have any favorites or advice on the following:

Planning on staying right at the harbor area, looked at both the Holiday Inn Express at the Quay as well as The Keppel's Head...sort of chain vs older shabby chic. any other ideas?

Other sights in Portsmouth, Southhampton, or Southsea that might be worthwhile given cooler weather?

Thought about a stop in Winchester on the way back to Heathrow to drop off the car, any thoughts on that or other stops?

Posted by
1528 posts

We love Portsmouth. Our daughter lived and worked there for a year, so we got to know it fairly well. On every trip we've stayed at the Holiday Inn. It does seem to be the go-to hotel in town. There seem to be lots of business people staying there and it's conveniently located. During the week it is pretty low-key, but weekends can be pretty hectic (as in loud). Finding the entrance can be a little challenging as it's not obvious from the street and the lobby is on the 2nd floor. You are right at the Quay, so there are lots of shops and restaurants. You are also within easy walking distance of the museum complex for the HMS Victory. We bought our tix at the TI just before the complex and I think it may have given a discount. Dress warmly as you are walking between sites and there is also a boat ride around the harbor that was part of your admission(at least when we were there). The guards seem to enjoy chatting and sharing their knowledge.

If you be the chance, we really enjoyed their WWII museum. We had forgotten how big a role Portsmouth played in WWII. They have a WWII tapestry on the order of the Bayeux tapestry that is very impressive. Again, the guards enjoyed chatting with us.

Posted by
98 posts

If you are looking to visit Southampton the biggest attraction is now the Sea City Museum which has a focus on the Titanic which sailed from the city and many of whose seamen went down with the ship. Lots of poignant stuff without being sentimental. Also a good aviation museum with an emphasis on the Spitfire, one of the planes which enabled the Battle of Britain to be won.

Another possibility is a day trip to the Isle of Wight which only takes 20 minutes from Portsmouth Harbour and has Osborne House ,home of Queen Victoria, and Carisbroke Castle which once was Charles I's place of imprisonment during the Civil War.

Lots to see in Winchester and you should visit. Cathedral, College, Hospital of St Cross (medieval alms house) early capital of England etc

Word of warning it is very wet in England at present and travel a bit difficult this week.

Posted by
206 posts

Portsmouth is outstanding for a naval enthusiast, and you should definitely consider a quick 5-10 minute ferry ride over to Gosport for a short walk to the submarine museum. They have a wide variety of subs, and we jumped at the chance to take a guided tour from a real life submariner.

http://www.submarine-museum.co.uk/

Posted by
9110 posts

Why doesn't anybody ever mention the Royal Maines Museum?

Posted by
3875 posts

I can't speak for hotels, because I'm lucky to have a sister there who puts me up on an air mattress on her living room floor (3 visits so far)...wait...maybe I should look at hotels! Anyhoo, we also enjoyed the 'Titanic' museum in Southampton, the Spinnaker Tower looks neat, but we haven't gone up because of the cost. We also visited the Royal Garrison Church - it was built in 1212, bombed in 1941, part still stands. We were actually lucky enough to be there when some of the custodians were feeling particularly chatty. What was to be about a 10 min visit turned into at least an hour. Fascinating...and the custodian gave my sister and I these 2 wooden carvings to hold (religious relics), then proceeds to tell us they are hundreds of years old! And I'm like - OMG - take them back before we break them! One of these days we'll do the Victory and area, but price kept us from doing it last time. Otherwise, if you want to know where the shopping and Cadbury store are, I'm your woman - lol. (But only because my sister always takes us to the shopping area.)

Posted by
1390 posts

We have never made it to Southhampton, but did visit the HMS Victory and Mary Rose sites in Portsmouth. This was really worthwhile. As mentioned, a ferry ride over to the Isle of Wight is fantastic - so much to see there (as mentioned) - it's beautiful - we did have a rental car and found it easy to get from site to site. We also loved Winchester! The cathedral there is wonderful and the town is very picturesque and easy to walk. Many nice shops and restaurants. I would definitely stop in Winchester. A number of years ago when we were planning our trip to this area, a consultant with Travel Britain (when they still had them) recommended Winchester - never thought of it but was glad we visited.

Posted by
5487 posts

Charles Dickens was born in Portsmouth. Who knew? :) My sister and visited the museum, long, long ago. I too went to Portsmouth to see the Victory. My sister and I were quite young--21 and 23--when we made this trip and I still remember this little old lady snickering that we two young girls were off to Portsmouth to see the sailors!

Posted by
567 posts

Who knew Charles Dickens was born in Portsmouth? Well someone in New York might not know, but planty of others did. I was `brought up in Portsmouth, and every day for seven years I went past Charles Dickens' birthplace on the bus to school. It was then on the main route into Portsmouth (that road is now by-passed) and it had a big sign on the front so that people knew what it was.

I agree with all of the sites which have been recommended, but there are lots more, both in Portsmouth and within easy reach.

Posted by
8293 posts

If you do stop in Winchester, try to have lunch at the Willow Tree on Durngate Terrace.. Pretty pub with excellent food.

Posted by
964 posts

I wouldn't bother with Southampton- it's a bustling city, but it was bombed almost flat during WW2 and mostly what's there now is modern. From what you say interests you, and from what other posters have said in response, I think you will enjoy Portsmouth. If you need a second city, Winchester is very interesting, and it's compact, you could easily see everything in a day. It would also be a good place to drop off the car, as it's on the main rail line to London.
As has already been mentioned here, this has been an exceptionally bad winter for storms (I have heard it's the worst since the mid 18th century), particularly here in the South. There is serious wide spread flooding and lots of leaky buildings (I should know, I'm in one right now!). The weather is forecast to continue like this til the end of February, so bring waterproofs and be prepared for some disruption.

Posted by
143 posts

I agree w/ others on the Mary Rose, the Victory, the D-Day Museum and Winchester. Since you have a car, I'd go to Avebury rather than Stonehenge because it's far less crowded and you can walk among the stones.

We will only be in Portsmouth for two days in June but I hope we can get over to Gosport and the sub museum/tour. Once again this website has given me new info on interesting sites.

Posted by
964 posts

Hi Paul, I just wanted to add that as of tonight, the River Itchen has broken its banks and Winchester and surrounding areas are flooded. The flooding is not expected to abate any time soon because everywhere is sodden after weeks of rain; and the rain is forecast to continue til the end of Feb. This is not normal rainfall that you expect in the UK; this is exceptional. I would suggest you check the BBC or ITV news websites for more information. Good luck!

Posted by
5487 posts

Well, actually, my English lit major sister did know about Dickens and told her Biology Major, Hornblower fan about it. :) Portsmouth is so associated with the Royal Navy that people don't look much beyond that--unless they have an English Major friend or follow the Rick Steve's Helpline.

Pam

Posted by
4981 posts

Thank you to everyone for the great ideas. We have been watching the weather and flooding developments, sorry to hear about Winchester and the flooding. We live in an area that was devastated by flooding 5 or so years ago, so know the mess. I assume the major Motorways are passable? I mention that since from Heathrow to get towards Salisbury and Portsmouth takes me through the worst of the flooded areas. On a positive note, it does look like the weather will improve over the weekend and will hold to only the "normal" clouds and rain of the season.

Posted by
750 posts

We were there in mid-September and the bad news is that the Victory is undergoing Major restoration. The and while you can go aboard,the upper Masts and all of the rigging are down and you can't even go on the main deck.

Posted by
964 posts

Hi Paul, most of the motorways are OK, but they are becoming very crowded with other roads being flooded and trees down, etc, and the ones you will be using are in the news every night with delays and closures. You might want to allow longer for your journey, just in case.
The forecast for the south specifically is for more storms (there's another coming tomorrow and yesterday we got a months worth of rain in a day) til the end of Feb. The main problem now is that the ground is soaked. That means that there is nowhere for the water to go and no chance of it drying out quickly. For these reasons, the experts reckon it's going to take weeks for the floods to subside.
I'm not trying to be negative here- it's exceptional circumstances and I hope it's better by the time you get here next week, but I wouldn't want to count on it!!