Portsmouth has long been known as a naval city in England’s South end, but to me, this city has a lot more than naval history. Portsmouth is my Grandma’s hometown and during World War II she worked here in the Women’s Land Army. While working, she met a handsome Canadian soldier, fell madly in love, got married and moved to Canada after the war. Then, in the early 1990s she learned she had a younger brother she never knew about. She had been raised by her grandfather as her father took off and her mother wasn’t really around. Long story short, John and his wife Jean came to visit her in Canada and we all got to know each other.
Since my first trip to England, this country became an instant favourite of mine and finally on my third visit to England, I got the chance to travel down to Portsmouth to see John and Jean. I love travelling to places where I know people as locals always make the best tour guides!
From the Portsmouth Train station, it’s only a short walk to Gunwharf Quays, where old and new Portsmouth meld together. Gunwharf Quays has 90 designer outlets, 30 bars and restaurants and a movie theatre. After wandering around, I met Jean and John for lunch at the Water Margin Chinese buffet before heading off on our tour of Portsmouth.
Gunwharf Quays was developed on the site of HMS Vernon, which was the Royal Navy’s centre for development of torpedoes.
While it dates back to the 12th century, Gunwharf Quays gets its name from its use in the late 17th century. At this time, it was the main supply depot for the Royal Navy and ships loaded their weapons, cannon balls and gunpowder here before leaving Portsmouth Harbour.
Apart from the shopping and the boats in the marina, Gunwharf Quay’s main attraction is Spinnaker Tower.
The tower, which opened in October 2005, can be found on the Portsmouth Harbour waterfront. At 170m, Spinnaker Tower is the highest publicly accessible structure in the UK, beating out the London Eye, Blackpool Tower and Big Ben. The Tower was designed to look like a sail billowing in the wind and was a focal point of a regeneration project that Portsmouth received a grant for. On a clear day, from the top of the tower you can see for 23 miles.
Neighbouring Portsmouth Dockyard is home to the three ships, HMS Victory, HMS Warrior and Henry VIII’s Mary Rose. This historic dockyard is the perfect place to explore Portsmouth’s history from the past 800 years.
As a major naval city, during wartime Portsmouth was full of naval barracks. But these days, the barracks have been turned into flats. Across from one of the main rows of barracks is a pebble beach and the South Parade Pier, with snacks, ice cream, souvenirs and a funfair! From here you can also take a ferry or a hover craft to the Isle of Wight.
To the north of Portsmouth is Portsdown Hill, which runs from Havant in the East to Fareham in the west. The hill is home to four forts, including Fort Nelson which was built during the 1860s. Fort Nelson forms part of a chain of defences built around Portsmouth to protect the Royal Dockyard.
The Royal Armouries at Fort Nelson is home to the national collection of historic cannons and guns. This is one of the finest collections in the world with over 350 cannons dating back over 600 years from every corner of the world.
From the top of Portsdown Hill, you always get a great view of the city, but if you happen to catch a clear day, you can see for miles!
After, we took a drive through the residential part of Portsmouth and stopped outside a cute little white 2 -storey on Laburnum Grove.
I grew up hearing stories about this house as 174 Laburnum Grove is the house my grandma grew up in. Seeing it was the perfect ending to a wonderful tour of the city!