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A Weekend Away in ... Portsmouth
Image Credit: Karen Roe

A Weekend Away in ... Portsmouth

4 April 2017 | Edd Elliott

Searching for something to fill that vacant spot on the calendar? Look no further than south coast haven Portsmouth. This historic port has plenty of culture to unearth, as well as a whole host of great shops and restaurants to squeeze in between the galleries. Follow our step-by-step weekend guide and get all the best of Pompey in just two short days.

Saturday Morning
 
You’ve arrived early and (fingers crossed) the sun is shining. Head on down to the harbour and discover Portsmouth’s Historic Dockyards. The city has been a significant naval port for Britain since the 16th century, and the highlights of this illustrious past have been preserved in a series of attractions. Visitors can venture inside HMS Victory, Nelson’s flagship vessel at the battle of Trafalgar. The 18th century warship has been immaculately preserved and there are helpful “Day in the Life” exhibits to show you what life as a seaman was like during the Napoleonic Wars. Nearby there is also the National Museum of the Royal Navy, an exhibition of Henry VIII’s favourite ship The Mary Rose, and the Royal Navy Submarine Museum – set inside an actual WWII submarine. Squeezing it all in in one morning will be tough, but do the best you can.

HMS Victory in Portsmouths Historic Dockyards
HMS Victory. Photo Credit: David Spender.
 
Saturday Lunch
 
Just around the corner from the dockyards is a hearty pub serving some stylish grub. The Ship Anson sits right by the seafront and serves an extensive lunch menu of tasty classics. Fish & chips, award-winning pies, gourmet burgers with some particularly daring fillings – it’s pub classics done to perfection. The wood-panelled interior is also cosy and service is swift: it’s the right sort of inn for staying in.
 
Saturday Afternoon
 
Saturday Afternoon and time for a little shopping. Portsmouth has one of the most picturesque retail outlets in the country, Gunwharf Quays, a complex of luxury brands set right up against the seafront and its Solent Fort. The open air shopping centre has some of the world’s most sought after designers including Reiss, Ralph Lauren & Michael Kors. There’s also a whole host of swanky cafes and restaurants, should you need a break. You could also visit Spinnaker Tower, a huge 170-meter tall, curving structure just to the side of Gunwharf. The Spinnaker is used for events and weddings but you can also travel up to their viewing decks and look out at the ocean, or simply relax in the ‘Café in the Clouds’.

Spinnaker Tower and Gunwharf Quays
Spinnaker Tower and Gunwharf Quays. Photo Credit: Charles Roper.
 
Saturday Evening
 
On to dinner and we are looking for something a little special. A tad pricey but certainly tasty, Becketts is one of Portsmouth’s finest restaurants. Their menu comprises of a mixture of British and continental classics, and they have kept a particular eye out for vegetarians and vegans with a number of specialist dishes and vegan wine! The interior décor is a relaxed, stripped-down cool and service is both friendly and professional. A couple of dish tips: try the pan-fried swordfish with the seabass ceviche to start.

Becketts' privite dining room
Beckett's private dining room.
 
Sunday Morning
 
Time for a tad more culture, and what could be more cultured than Charles Dickens? That most famous of Victorian novelists was born in Portsmouth and a commemorative museum – The Charles Dickens Birthplace Museum – now sits on the exact spot of the birth. The display recreates the author’s house as it would have been at the time of his youth, with a number of his personal possessions collected and presented. You can even see some of the early papers and quills with which he used to work.  
 

Charles Dickens Birthplace Museum. Photo Credit: Glen Bowman

Sunday Lunch & Afternoon
 
Hold your rumbling stomach at bay a little longer and make it out to our next stop, Stansted Park, before you eat. This Edwardian era country mansion could be straight out of Downton, and their Pavilion Tearoom makes a picturesque spot for a meal – especially in summer.  The café has huge glass bay windows looking out on to the house’s rolling lawns, and there is lots of outside seating if you want to go al fresco. Produce for the Tearoom’s dishes is almost exclusively locally sourced and the seafood is a particular highlight.

Stansted Park
Stansted Park. Photo Credit: Leimenide
 
Having refuelled, explore the Park in full. For £10 (for adults – discounts for children and concessions) you can visit the house’s interior and see the Earl of Bessborough’s collection of paintings and antiques. Or just wander the grounds and take in the rolling fields of the South Downs. Stansted Forest also lies in the Park’s estate, a beautiful wood that locals apparently once believed to be enchanted. It contains a huge collection of now rare Sweet Chestnut trees, and meandering through its green hallows is a lovely retreat to finish off the weekend.
 
 

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