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About The Place…
The Portsmouth Historic Dockyard is a wonderful place to wander around to see (and climb all over) historic ships.
Most famous of all the ship’s is probably HMS Victory. Its captain, now known as Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount Nelson, KB (“Lord Nelson”), managed to squeeze the entire population of Britain onto his boat and win a battle in a long-ago war which resulted in his death; and worse, his ghost having to perch itself atop a large column in a concrete jungle in the middle of a large city. And have pigeons poop on him. The boat is spectacular. There are guided tours if you go during the autumn or winter; otherwise, you can just wander around in the masses and talk to guides who are stationed throughout this massive, beautiful piece of British history. You can stand on the spot where the poor chap was shot and lay dying. Its so much better than words on a page of a history book.
Just be sure your kids are feeling up to it (its a 45 minute tour; our kids started acting up and so we had to miss some of the talk while one of us entertained the miscreant — an echo of what happened to us when we visited another boat, HMS Warrior, on a previous visit).
Next, or perhaps first as it is right beside the ticket building at the entrance, and just as spectacular is the large sailing ship known as HMS Warrior 1860. It was a technical marvel at its launch: an iron-hulled, armour-plated warship with huge masts and sails, and a ruddy big diesel driven prop for those lazy summer jaunts when the wind has blown off to the Isle of Wight for a rest.
I guess it was named by marketing, but delivered late by engineering, for it was launched in Ocober 1861. Even so, it was the “largest, fastest, most heavily-armed and most heavily-armoured warship the world had ever seen” – so there.
This mamouth boat has an enourmous upper deck that is really fun for the kids to run around on. There’s even some neat ladder/steps to climb up – they lead to a sort-of bridge from one side to the other of the ship. A nice compass is perched in the middle of it. I’m sure there’s a name for that bridge, apart from bridge, because bridge is something else on a ship.
And the real fun is below the upper deck: there are about 3 to wander about on. All fully restored and decorated in a style that the real sailors never saw, I’m sure. But it looks sharp. The guides throughout are there to answer any questions, or just stay out of your way. Perfect.
Would you believe this dockyard has even more to offer? Tons. We’ve been there three times and not yet seen it all. For example, there’s another couple historic ships, including the Mary Rose from the 16th century which was they dredged up from the bottom of Portsmouth harbour, or thereabouts.
Eating and Entertainment
There is a cafeteria which serves typical British fare – nothing spectacular, but it’ll keep you going. We bring our own lunch usually. In the same hall is a climbing frame which was closed waiting for an “engineer” to fix when last seen in January 2008. I told them I was a computer engineer and would have a crack at it, but they didn’t seem amused. Ah, military types.
Next to the cafeteria is one of the shops. If you have ever wanted a ship in a bottle, then here’s your chance.
Be sure to take a picture of your kids with the statue of the pirate standing out front.
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Head to Portsmouth, off the M275, from the M27.Portsmouth Historic Dockyard Visitor Centre Victory Gate, HM Naval Base, Portsmouth PO1 3LJ