Adventures around Portsmouthwith PlusBus
As the UK’s only island city, you’re never far from the sea in Portsmouth. It's been a port since Roman times with a coastal fortress at Portchester Castle. Pompey is the local nickname for Portsmouth football team and for the city itself. Some people think it refers to the ancient city of Pompeii; other explanations involve sailors’ slang, the French word for “firemen” or the Roman general Pompey the Great. Whatever the reason, Pompey is a vibrant modern city on the sea with attractions ranging from the Tudor flagship Mary Rose, which sunk in 1545, to the 170-metre-high Spinnaker Tower, which opened in 2005. To get around the sights, ask for PlusBus when you buy your train ticket and get unlimited bus travel all day long.
1. “Sightseeing” bus to Southsea
With its long beaches and pretty green parks, Southsea already has lots of reasons to visit. It’s also getting a multimillion-pound regeneration as part of the UK’s biggest local authority-led coastal flood defence project. On your way to the beach, why not take this “sightseeing” route through the city to help get your bearings.
- Bus 23 runs frequently from Stop C on Commercial Road, less than two minutes’ walk from the railway station. Turn right from the station’s main entrance over the roundabout and the stop is outside Subway.
- Look out from the bus window on your left for Victoria Park with its tall plane trees and evergreen holm oaks. Soon afterwards, you’ll see the masts of HMS Warrior. Nearby is the Historic Dockyard, Portsmouth’s major visitor attraction with a huge amount to see (see 3 below).
- Behind Gunwharf Quays shopping centre, you can see Spinnaker Tower, the iconic sail-shaped landmark and viewing tower that opened to the public in 2005 (see 3 below).
- The bus goes on past Portsmouth Museum (see 2 below) and – not long after – across Southsea Common, a grassy area originally used for assembling armies. You can see the Portsmouth Naval Memorial, a pillar of pale Portland Stone with a copper ball on top. As soon as the bus reaches South Parade Pier, hop off and stroll past Canoe Lake with its many swans.
- This park is home to a model village, natural history museum, rose garden and more. Walk back along the beach for a view out to the unusual Solent Forts, built in the nineteenth century to protect the coast against Napoleon.
- Before you reach blue and white South Parade pier, you can stop off for coffee or lunch at the Southsea Beach café or find other options on the pier itself from fish and chips to Greek gyros wraps.
2. Portsmouth Museum and Art Gallery
Looking a bit like a chateau (especially from the garden side), with turrets and rounded towers, Portsmouth Museum is free to visit and very much worth seeing. There are fascinating historical collections in this imposing red brick castle – an eighteenth-century barracks with a history as colourful as the city itself.
- The first gallery explores the life and literary legacy of Arthur Conan Doyle, who wrote the first two Sherlock Holmes stories in the late nineteenth century, while he was working as a doctor in Southsea.
- Upstairs, there’s a walk-through display of Portsmouth’s living spaces down the ages, from the bedroom of a seventeenth-century brewer through a Victorian docker’s kitchen to a 1950s sitting room with the black-and-white TV playing.
- How do I get to Portsmouth Museum and Art Gallery by bus? The nearest bus stop, a few steps from the gate is Cambridge Junction. It takes about six minutes to get there on bus 3, bus 23 or the frequent Hov bus from the shops near Portsmouth and Southsea station or it takes about ten minutes from South Parade pier (see 1 above).
- There’s a great café at the museum with homemade cakes and flapjacks and tables in the garden if it’s a nice day. Don’t miss the decorative arts gallery on the top floor and the football memorabilia, including banners referring to the team and city’s nickname, Pompey.