7 Dec 2015

Southampton, Portsmouth and Wool, United Kingdom – November 2015

In supplement to our annual visit to London (see separate review), we decided to add on 3 nights to our stay in England. For this portion of our stay, we decided to head Southwest of the city to cities of Southampton, Portsmouth. Why Southampton, Portsmouth, and Wool? Well, if you are a military history buff, you probably know the answer. For those that aren’t (for example, me!), you’ll find the Historic Dockyards in Portsmouth and the Tank Museum in Wool/Bovington. Southampton just happens to be in between!

Getting to the Southwestern part of the country is fairly easy. We flew into London Heathrow, hopped on the Underground, and with one connection, we were at the Waterloo Train Station. Trains run regularly to Southampton and depending on what time of day you are traveling, seats are very easy to come by. We purchased a rail pass for this portion of our stay, but you can easily by single tickets on the UK National Rail website or in person. The journey is approximately 1.5 hours and it goes by very quickly when you get to enjoy the views of the countryside.

In Southampton, we chose to stay at the Hilton using Hilton HHonors points. While the Hilton is outside of the downtown area, it’s a short ride from the airport and the airport train station. If you plan to explore the city without relying on taxi service, then I recommend staying closer to town. The Hilton is a nice property, though a bit dated. However, it was clean and the staff was very friendly and helpful. Our room was on the 4th floor (second to top) and had a view of the trees behind the property. There was no issue with noise. My one and only complaint was that breakfast was not included in the rate. They offered a rather extensive buffet, but for 10 Pounds/$15USD per person, breakfast quickly adds up.

Southampton itself is not a very large town, but it home to a university, so there is a younger crowd out and about. The area around the mall has many stores and restaurants which seem to be a gathering place. I was surprised that Southampton was not a bit more modern, but I think it made the city more charming.

On our first day in town, we enjoyed afternoon tea at the Grand Harbor Hotel, which is downtown near shopping and the waterfront. We also did some shopping at the local mall across the road- WestQuay. WestQuay isn’t terribly large, but they do have a variety of restaurants to choose from in addition to a few higher end stores like John Lewis.

The following day, we took a 45 minute train ride to Portsmouth. If you arrive straight into the Portsmouth Harbor station, you are steps away from an abundance of military history and outlet shopping! At the Historic Dockyards, we toured the HMS Victory, HMS Warrior, the Mary Rose Museum, and the Royal Navy Museum. The wind was quite blustery, so we stayed on land, but you can take a ferry across to the Royal Navy Submarine Museum. Also offsite is the Royal  Marines Museum. The Victory, Warrior, and Mary Rose all come from different periods in history, so it is interesting to see the advances made in ships over time. The Dockyards also have a few modern ships onsite. During our time there, the Dockyard happened to be hosting a Victorian Christmas Festival. There were merchants there selling all kinds of goods and kids gathered around Father Christmas to pass along their Christmas wishes! While it was nice to see the festival, we both agreed that it would be easier to enjoy the property without the crowds. Of course, following the festival, we hopped over to the outlet mall for some quick shopping and dinner.

On our final day in this gorgeous part of the country, we took an hour train ride further West to the small town of Wool. There are two big attractions just outside of Wool- Monkey World and the aforementioned Tank Museum. When coming into Wool, be advised to pre-book a taxi. Most stations have a taxi rank, but Wool is very small and taxis are few and far between. Upon meeting up with our taxi, we took the 5 minute drive to Monkey World. Unfortunately, it was cold and wet that day, but we had pre-booked a tour with one of the keepers and it was well worth the ~$50USD for our private tour. Monkey World is a very special place. The owners have rescued most of the various breeds from abuse throughout Europe. The property is expansive and it was immediately obvious that the monkeys were extremely well cared for here. Monkey World also plays host to a TV show- Monkey Life- which airs in England. We did not get to see it, but this obviously draws attention to their work and helps them raise awareness for their cause. Oh, and who doesn’t like monkeys?

Following the tour at Monkey World, we grabbed a cab to the Tank Museum, which is just 5 minutes away. The Tank Museum is best known for housing the tanks seen in the movie Fury, starring Brad Pitt. However, there are many more tanks there, including some of the only known surviving tanks of their time. Most of them are working as well and during certain times of the year, the museum will run them. The museum is expansive and the best way to learn, as we took advantage of, is to join their guided talks. There is a talk every hour and each one focuses on a different exhibit in the museum. It’s exciting to see these giant machines in person, but it’s even better to understand more about how they were used. In addition, the tour guides we had were veterans, so you could tell they were passionate about military history. If we were to ever return, we’d make sure to take part in more guided talks.

Overall, it was a short stay in this part of the country, but there is lots to be seen and explored outside of the big city! With an extensive rail network and an even more extensive history, England is waiting to be explored and we hope to have more “side adventures” on future trips.

Meet me

    • My name is Janelle and I'm a luxury travel consultant with Luxe Island Escapes by Easy Escapes Travel and an avid traveler!

      I specialize in luxury tropical vacations, whether it be a quick get-a-way, honeymoon, or a bucket list adventure. In addition to being a Certified Tahiti Specialist®, I am also a certified specialist for Fiji, The Cook Islands, Hawaii, New Zealand and Australia, among other destinations. To learn more about me, my services, and my certifications, please visit the About page!

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