Sights to see & things to do
by Jack Wilson
South from London, Southampton is one of the two main mid-southern Coast ports of England.
Southampton has recently overtaken Barcelona as the foremost cruising Port in Europe – so the chances of taking a cruise from here are high. P & O and Princess, as well as Royal Caribbean and some minor cruise lines, use the port.
Southampton is on a direct, fast (minimum 1 hour) rail link from London’s Waterloo station and also has direct rail connections with London Gatwick Airport. London Heathrow Airport’s rail link is a little more complicated, but it’s probably better to take a shuttle bus to Woking, and then a train to Southampton.
Road connections are good, and there are direct coach connections,
although these tend to be fairly slow. Most cruise lines offer
transfers, either from Heathrow or Gatwick airports or select hotels
For passengers arriving pre-cruise, or planning an English holiday following their cruise, there are numerous things to see in Southampton, particularly for those interested in history – and the surrounding area is even richer in attractions.
from Southampton onboard
Queen Mary 2
Though much of Soton was destroyed by war-time bombing, enough survives to give an exciting glimpse into medieval life and to make connections with the Titanic story.
You could stroll one of the most extensive medieval wall systems in England. If you do, you will pass by areas and buildings connected with Southampton’s many claims to historical fame. Outside the ancient Bargate – the northern entrance to the medieval city - traitors who plotted against Henry V were executed. The story gets a mention in the Shakespeare play of the same name. You can drink in the pub – the Red Lion – where their trial was held. You can see and visit medieval and Tudor houses and churches.
The Mayflower sailed from here (and only later from Plymouth) and is celebrated in a monument, which Americans who can trace their ancestors to the Founding Fathers can attach a plaque to.
If you are interested in Jane Austen, she lived here for three years, and you can follow a trail that covers her footsteps as described in her diary, and stay and dine in the Hotel where she danced.
Or, if you are fascinated by the Titanic, she left from Southampton; most of the staff on the Titanic came from the city - and most of those perished. You must visit the Titanic exhibition in the Maritime Museum, housed in a medieval warehouse. Then see the offices of the White Star Line, outside which relatives waited for news, the hotel that the first-class passengers stayed in (you can eat in a restaurant in the old ballroom)
and the pub where sailors drank before they sailed - some of them staying so late they missed the ship.
Or maybe your relatives were involved in the liberation of Europe in World War II and left from Southampton,
or flew the Spitfires built here, if so, there are places to see and museums to visit.
The most evocative of these places is the bomb-damaged, ancient Holy Rood Church, with “audio posts” where you can listen to eye-witness accounts of the bombing of the city, and of the aftermath of the Titanic sinking from the families of those who died. The Church also contains a Titanic memorial paid for by the relatives of the staff – other memorials are scattered around the city.
This is plenty for one day, but you have more time, then the surrounding area is absolutely packed with interest. Visit the New Forest, a National Park where horses, donkeys, cattle, sheep, pigs and deer roam free; or Winchester, with a famous cathedral and King Arthur’s Round Table; or Romsey with an 12th century Abbey; or Portsmouth, where you can visit a battleship belonging to Nelson – one of England’s heroes - and King Henry VIII’s warship, The Mary Rose – lifted from the English Channel only 20years ago. You’ve still only scratched the surface of the area’s history – all these are only 30 minutes way.
Had enough of culture? Then in Southampton, the West Quay shopping centre is the most convenient mall-type experience – bang in the City Centre. With a bit more time, try the out-of-town Marks & Spencer’s at Hedge End on the outskirts, or the factory shops at Portmouth’s Gunwharf Quay.
About the author: Jack Wilson is a
resident of Southampton and an avid cruiser.
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