My son clutches his chest as he dramatically recreates the final moments of the country’s greatest naval hero Vice-Admiral Lord Nelson. We are standing on the top deck of Britain’s most famous warship HMS Victory (right), at the exact spot where he fell.
Getting close to Britain’s naval history is a must in Portsmouth after all, even on a family holiday. Nelson’s flagship from the Battle of Trafalgar is at Portsmouth’s Historic Dockland, a huge site with loads to see and do. The route around the ship even takes you below deck where the sailors had to eat, sleep and be treated for war wounds.
This really sparks the imaginations of our two children. Portsmouth is known as the great maritime city, so next we take it all in more than 105 metres above its harbour at the Emirates Spinnaker Tower. It takes just 25 seconds to reach the top in a lift, and from the viewing gallery you can enjoy the entire Portsmouth panorama as well as views of the Isle of Wight. And it was off to the Isle of Wight we went next, travelling in style on a Hovertravel hovercraft.
The journey from Southsea to Ryde takes just 10 minutes then it is a short walk to a big, sandy beach. The nautical theme continued at our base for the trip, the family-friendly Solent Hotel & Spa, midway between Portsmouth and Southampton. Our two children loved the 13-metre pool, games room with X-Box, table tennis table and board games, plus a woodland outside to explore. They were also thrilled with goody bags left for them in our room and mini dressing gowns. The restaurant is relaxed – we enjoy fabulous breakfasts as well as an evening meal at a great modern pub on the same site.
On our way home, we spent a day at Marwell Zoo on the outskirts of Winchester. This wildlife park is large and the spacious habitats for giraffes, zebras, hippos and tigers mean plenty of walking to see everything. It was a busy day but didn’t feel crowded and you can pack it all in with the help of a road train and a miniature railway around the site.
We certainly packed a lot into our trip to Portsmouth – from the bowels of a ship to the top of a tower, the city has plenty of family fun on offer.
BY VICTORIA POLLITT