Southsea Castle, a Lighthouse, and Portsmouth’s Historic Dockyard

When I was walking through Kingsgate in Winchester and stopped at the bookshop, I found a series of drawings of famous sites in England. One of these sites, to my delight, is a lighthouse. As a Mainer, I love lighthouses. I visit them as often as I can. I even have a sweatshirt with all of the lighthouses of Maine painted on the back. When I realized that an English lighthouse was only a short drive from Winchester, I decided to go see it last Sunday, the 23rd, after my walk on the Jane Austen Trail in Southampton.

This lighthouse is attached to the Southsea Castle. A two-fer! A castle and a lighthouse. The thing about Southsea Castle is that it’s not really a castle. It’s a fort. Henry VIII ordered its construction so that he could protect Portsmouth harbour from invaders. Remember, in addition to a lot of wives, he had a lot of enemies. Tragically, Henry watched his beloved ship, the Mary Rose, sink right in front of the “castle.” What a mishap! Read the story linked above to see what I mean!

FWIW, the castle has an exhibit with Henry’s looming, smug figure staring down the visitors.

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Over the centuries, Southsea Castle has been improved to strengthen its capabilities to defend the solent and to make passage for English vessels safer. In 1820, a lighthouse was built on this site, and it was in operation until earlier this year. There she is below, and there we are standing in the rain.

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After listening to a couple of interesting tour guides talk about the site, we decided to get in our car and drive down into the historic Portsmouth dockyard area. We were mighty hungry so we grabbed a bite to eat. Fish and chips, of course, was our order.

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While the mushy peas were delicious, the rest of the meal didn’t quite satisfy us. The fish was a little too soggy, the chips too salty, but we were hungry so we ate the meal.

Then we decided to look at the ships on the dock only to realize that we could only see one without entering through a monitored gate. We figured that we would have to pay to enter, but seeing as how it was 30 minutes before closing time, we attempted to sneak in and do a quick sight-see. Oops! A guard caught us, asked us what we were doing, and then proceeded to search our bag before informing us that we entered through the exit. He was kind enough to let us walk around anyway. 🙂

We didn’t have time to go into any of the museums, but we did walk out to see the HMS Victory, which is exactly what I hoped to see.

Isn’t she lovely?

Then we snapped some more pics before a rain storm pummeled us.

That picture at left probably shows where some of the Mansfield Park Portsmouth scenes where filmed. At right you see a lovely 18th-century figurehead of a dude!

After walking back to the car park in pouring rain, we finally made it to the car, and drove back to Winchester. Want to see how soaked I got, or how much rain we drove in?

Take a look at the contrast between the top of my thigh and the rest of my leg. Yes, we braved rain and wind to visit Southsea and Portsmouth, and, yes, it was worth it!

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