Portsmouth, U.K.

Harbour cruise

I was taking the ferry across to the Isle of Wight from Portsmouth, so had a few hours to explore a small section of the city. Liking anything historical I headed to the Historic Dockyards as I wanted to see Nelson's Victory and the MaryRose.

When buying the ticket to those two attractions I saw that there was one inclusive ticket that gave you entry to everything in the Dockyards as well as a harbour cruise. That was a bonus and I began with going on the harbour cruise first.

The most prominent landmark in Portsmouth is now the Spinnaker Tower, I love it as it's another example of interesting modern architecture. The tower is an observation deck, the bottom platform has a glass floor, which can be seen in this picture. The top platform is open  to the elements. I didn't have a desire to climb up into the tower, I just enjoy the sight of it.

The island in this picture is Barrow Island, it has a very small connection with Australia. Prison Hulks (rotting ships that were used to house convicts when the prisons filled up) were moored next to this island. The problem of where to house convicts led to the British settlement of Australia, the convicts were taken off the Hulks and sent there! The island was also used as a burial site for the convicts who died on the Hulks.

The harbour entrance and the Isle of Wight can be seen faintly in the distance.

Looking into the Historic Dockyards with HMS Victory in the centre. The tops of the masts have been removed as the ship is undergoing some restoration work. HMS Victory was launched in 1765 and is the world's oldest naval ship in commission. (Although I don't think she'll be going into battle anytime soon!) The round black building houses the remains of the Tudor ship the MaryRose.

This is the new aircraft carrier the Queen Elizabeth, she left Scotland earlier this year (where she was built) and had come down to her home port of Portsmouth after completing her first sea trials. She currently out to sea, if the sea trials schedule is be followed, with multiple trials of equipment planned, she won't be 'operational military capable' until 2020!
The ship is huge, she was really impressive to see. She can carry up to 40 aircrafts, the crew size is in the thousands. The ship is so big that the harbour where she is moored had to be dredged and hundreds of old artefacts were found in the mud.

The HMS Queen Elizabeth is guarded around the clock, these are water police boats who patrol on the harbour as there's an exclusion zone around her.

Portsmouth Harbour is the main home of the Royal Navy, it has been the naval base since the 13th century. It was easy to defend as the harbour has a narrow entrance, we sailed around parts of HMNB (Her  Majesty's Naval Base) Portsmouth, with the commentator telling us the names of the naval ships we were seeing, which I've now forgotten!

The harbour is also a commercial port, it has ferries that sail across to France and the Isle of Wight. There's also a hovercraft that goes across to Ryde on the Isle of Wight from Portsmouth.
It's a major port for goods coming into the U.K., we were told that all the bananas that come into the U.K. come through Portsmouth!

In the early 2000s, what had been the onshore naval base HMS Vernon was redeveloped into a shopping and residential precinct. The shopping area had outlet stores and was all very popular on a Sunday afternoon! The Spinnaker Tower is at situated here, the complex is called Gunwharf Quays. The figurehead belonged to the old ship HMS Vernon that the area was originally named for.

The HMS Warrior, the first iron plated and iron hulked warship, launched in 1860, she's part of the Historic Dockyards but can also be hired out for events such as weddings and corporate functions. That's the reason behind the white wrapping at the stern of the ship. As well as sails, she also had a steam engine, with the 3 masts she must have looked amazing under full sail. 

The Historic Dockyard was great to visit, but the Harbour Cruise was extra special, a really good way to get to know Portsmouth. The cruise takes about an hour so plan around what parts of the dockyard you want to see. The ticket allows for repeated visits for 12 months from the date of purchase. It does mean that you don't need to cram everything in on one day if you're in the area for an extended stay. Unfortunately I wasn't so had to select what parts I really wanted to see and I ran out of time and didn't get to go onboard the Warrior.