A walk along the seafront from Southsea to the Historic Dockyard

Discover what Portsmouth is really all about on a walk along the seafront

Per mare, per terram (“by sea, by land”): the Royal Marines’ motto applies as well to Portsmouth as it does to the country’s amphibious fighting force. Setting out to walk the long seafront from Southsea in the east to Portsmouth Historic Dockyard in central Portsmouth, I was ambushed by the
Royal Marines Museum before I’d properly set off. It is housed in the grand old officers’ mess at Eastney Barracks, and tells the compelling history of the Marine Corps, from its formation in 1664 to today.

The museum’s Sandy Wilson (despite the Boy’s Own name and upright bearing, not a Marine himself) showed me around the fascinating collection. As well as documenting the principal campaigns in which the Marines have served, the museum celebrates the Corps today, and details what prospective recruits have to do to win their green beret.

There are “interactive” bergens (rucksacks supported by a frame) to feel weak-kneed beneath. Sandy choked up while telling me how moved he’d been while watching a recent passing-out parade; looking at the freshly stencilled names of Marines most recently killed in action, I understood why.

The museum set the |tone for my walk along the seafront. Among the many attractions are constant reminders that: (a) Britain is an island; (b) our history is wrapped up with the sea; and (c) Portsmouth has always been in the thick of the nautical action.

Beneath a rushing sky, I saw day-trippers sheltering in the lee of Southsea Castle, which King Henry VIII commissioned 466 years ago. I looked out to sea from the castle walls at... another castle: the squat, man-made island of Spitbank Fort, built some 300 years later, a mile off shore.

A little further along the esplanade, having paused to watch teenagers performing parkour acrobatics on the big old cannons, I arrived at the B. Opened in 1984, it houses the Overlord Embroidery, a needle-stitched artwork, whose 34 panels show the run-up (from 1940 to 1944) to Operation Overlord, the D-Day landings, and victory over the Nazis. Measuring 83 metres, it is the world’s longest embroidery of its kind.

Within the dark heart of the museum, there’s a cinema that shows an old newsreel film telling much the same story, but if it’s a “real” record you’re after, then talk to one of the distinguished old gentlemen in the foyer. They stormed the beaches in person. Volunteers from the Normandy Veterans’ Association attend the museum to remind people that the artwork depicts real events – and answer the public’s questions.

I asked Jim Tuckwell and Frank Rosier, of the 1st Battalion, the Dorsetshire Regiment and the 2nd Battalion, the Gloucestershire Regiment respectively, what question the public most often ask. “Was it worth it?”, Frank said. “The answer’s: ‘That’s up to you’,” Jim explained.

It’s not all military history, though: there is an astonishing array of attractions on or near the long seafront. I know, because a huge number of signs told me so. There’s the Blue Reef Aquarium, the canoe lake, the Natural History Museum, butterfly house, rose gardens, model village, the Pyramids Centre, amusement piers (there are two) and garden railway, to name but a few. Add in the benches and lamp-posts and the binoculars trained on the sea, and the broad esplanade is, in places, a thicket of metal.

A nice thicket, all the same: the front has a big, windswept, flinty-pebbled feel, and the sea is thronged with ferries, hovercraft, warships, yachts and dinghies all criss-crossing the Solent in a slow dance.

And just in case you find the signs hard to navigate by, down by the Spur Redoubt, nearer the centre of town, you can pick up the Renaissance Trail, with its pavement-embedded chain motif, and follow it round through Gunwharf Quays to the Historic Dockyard, where, in the shape of HMS Victory, HMS Warrior 1860 and the National Museum of the Royal Navy, you’ll find yourself face to face with British naval history again.

There are a couple of great stop-offs along the way, though. I ate superb fish and chips made on the premises at the Spice Island Inn in Bath Square, and visited the contemporary art exhibition in the Aspex gallery, housed in a former Grade I-listed naval armoury.

The exhibition – Luna Park & An Unreachable Country. A Long Way to Go, which runs until 10 October – made sense of the 50ft dinosaur I’d sheltered under earlier, on Southsea Common. It is the only threat to the Spinnaker Tower’s dominance on Portsmouth’s skyline, and frankly it hasn’t a chance. The tower, which opened in 2005, is a billowing, needle-sharp 170m structure: it’s the child the Eiffel Tower might have with the Sydney Opera House.

The clouds parted during the 28 seconds it took for the lift to reach the viewing deck. I finished my visit by looking back over everything I’d seen from on high.


* The Royal Marines Museum, Eastney Road, Southsea (023 9281 9385; royalmarinesmuseum.co.uk ). Admission: £6.95

* Southsea Castle, Clarence Esplanade, Southsea (023 9282 7261; southseacastle.co.uk ). Admission: £3.50

* D-Day Museum, Clarence Esplanade, Southsea |(023 9282 7261; ddaymuseum.co.uk). Admission: £6

* Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, Victory Gate, HM Naval Base (023 9283 9766; historicdockyard.co.uk ). Admission: £19.50

* Spice Island Inn, 1 Bath Square (023 9287 0543; gkpubs.co.uk/portsmouth/spice-island )

* Aspex, The Vulcan Building, Gunwharf Quays (023 9277 8080; aspex.org.uk ). Admission free.

* Spinnaker Tower, Gunwharf Quays (023 9285 7520; spinnakertower.co.uk). Admission: £7.25

More information

* visitportsmouth.co.uk

Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice candidates Roisin Hogan, Solomon Akhtar, Mark Wright, Bianca Miller, Daniel Lassman
tvReview: But which contestants got the boot?
Life and Style
A woman walks by a pandal art installation entitled 'Mars Mission' with the figure of an astronaut during the Durga Puja festival in Calcutta, India
techHow we’ll investigate the existence of, and maybe move in with, our alien neighbours
Arts and Entertainment
Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels ride again in Dumb and Dumber To
filmReview: Dumb And Dumber To was a really stupid idea
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Ian McKellen tempts the Cookie Monster
tvSir Ian McKellen joins the Cookie Monster for a lesson on temptation
Tourists bask in the sun beneath the skyscrapers of Dubai
travelBritish embassy uses social media campaign to issue travel advice for festive holiday-makers in UAE
Lucerne’s Hotel Château Gütsch, one of the lots in our Homeless Veterans appeal charity auction
charity appeal
Arts and Entertainment
Tony Hughes (James Nesbitt) after his son Olly disappeared on a family holiday in France

Jo from Northern Ireland was less than impressed by Russell Brand's attempt to stage a publicity stunt

Nabil Bentaleb (centre) celebrates putting Tottenham ahead
footballTottenham 4 Newcastle 0: Spurs fans dreaming of Wembley final after dominant win
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Ashdown Group: Data Manager - £Market Rate

    Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Data Manager - MySQL, Shell Scripts, Java, VB Scrip...

    Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - Bedfordshire/Cambs border - £32k

    £27000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - near S...

    Recruitment Genius: Class 1 HGV Driver

    £23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This successful group of compan...

    Recruitment Genius: HGV Class 2 Lorry Driver / CPC and HIAB Training Provider

    £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A HGV Class 2 Lorry Driver is required t...

    Day In a Page

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
    La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

    Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

    The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
    10 best high-end laptops

    10 best high-end laptops

    From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
    Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

    Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

    The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
    Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

    Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

    The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
    Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
    Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

    Meet Racton Man

    Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
    Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

    Garden Bridge

    St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

    An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
    Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

    Joint Enterprise

    The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
    Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

    Freud and Eros

    Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum
    France's Front National and the fear of a ‘gay lobby’ around Marine Le Pen

    Front National fear of ‘gay lobby’

    Marine Le Pen appoints Sébastien Chenu as cultural adviser