Portsmouth Historic Dockyard UK

One of the advantages visiting the United Kingdom is living the history. If you love English history as much as we do and are wondering what to see at Portsmouth Harbour, a visit to Portsmouth Historic Dockyard should be first on your list!

Portsmouth Historic Dockyard

This post may contain affiliate links, which means we may receive a commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. Please see our full disclosure for further information.

Portsmouth United Kingdom

Portsmouth is an island city with a rich Naval history that dates back to 1194. To this day Portsmouth continues to be a working Naval Base and is home to around two thirds of the Royal Navy’s ships.

We came to Portsmouth with one purpose in mind, to visit the Mary Rose Museum, little did we know that it was just a small (but spectacular) part of what Portsmouth Historic Dockyard UK offers.

Portsmouth Naval Base
Portsmouth is still a working Naval base.

The Mary Rose Museum

The Mary Rose was a war ship of King Henry the VIII of England. With a career that spanned 34 years, the story of the Mary Rose would have been lost in the mists of time had it not sunk during the Battle of the Solent on the 19th of July 1545.

The Mary Rose sunk with a massive loss of life, of the almost 500 men on board only 35 managed to survive.

From this tragedy we have been left with a unique time capsule that’s not only a glimpse into life aboard a Tudor war ship but a reminder of the heartbreak and loss that took place on that day so long ago.

The first sight of the Mary Rose gave me goose bumps, an unforgettable image that will stay with me forever.Click To Tweet
Mary Rose ship
The Mary Rose today.

How did the Mary Rose Sink?

Nobody knows for sure how the Mary Rose sank, there are many theories but none of them have been proven. Some of the theories include…

The ship was overloaded with guns and extra soldiers, the gunport lids were left open, a recent refit left the ship unstable or that it was sunk by French gunfire.

Whatever the cause, the Mary Rose sank on its side, half submerged and covered in silt it remained preserved for the next 437 years until it was raised in 1982.

The Battle of the Solent

The Battle was fought on the Solent between Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight.

Francis the 1st of France had come to invade England to depose King Henry the VIII, liberate the English from Protestant tyranny and to restore the Catholic faith.

The French navy came heavily armed with around 175 war ships and 30 thousand troops, King Henry VIII was vastly outnumbered with only 80 warships.

Thankfully the Solent is treacherous, the English had removed the channel makers and the French eventually admitted defeat and returned home.

First Impressions of the Mary Rose

The first sight of the Mary Rose gave me goose bumps, the sheer size and the thought of the tremendous effort it took to raise her left me quite emotional, an unforgettable image that will stay with me forever.

Inside Mary Rose Exhibition – Portsmouth Dockyard

A visit to the Mary Rose at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, brings to life the story of the men who sailed her.

Because only half of the Mary Rose survived, (the exposed sections were eaten by marine crustaceans and molluscs), many of the recovered artefacts are displayed directly across from the massive hulk, giving the illusion of an intact ship.

As you walk around the Mary Rose exhibition, you will learn more about her crew, a community of gunners, archers, carpenters, cooks and officers.

Mary Rose cannons
Cannons found at the wreck of the Mary Rose.

As well as cannons and weaponry, ships tackle and equipment, a large assortment of the crews’ personal items are on display. The most confronting is a full skeleton which has been facially reconstructed and dressed as he was in life, reminding us of the human element of this tragedy.

Skeleton Mary Rose
Reconstructed skeleton of an Archer and my first glimpse of the Mary Rose

You will also discover the lengths taken to raise the Mary Rose and the 35-year conservation process which has finally left the Mary Rose dry within its temperature-controlled glass casing.

Mary Rose Artefacts
Just a few of the many artefacts found with the Mary Rose.

You can easily spend hours visiting the Mary Rose Museum, it is a definite must-see attraction if you are visiting the Portsmouth United Kingdom.

HMS Victory Portsmouth UK

The most famous ships in Portsmouth would have to be HMS Victory and the Mary Rose. We fast forward 120 years from the sinking of the Mary Rose to the launching of HMS Victory.

A visit to HMS Victory will allow you to relive the Royal Navy’s glory days, a time when Britannia ruled the waves.

HMS Victory was the flag ship of Lord Nelson and although the ship had fought in many battles its last and most famous battle was the Battle of Trafalgar.

The Battle of Trafalgar was bittersweet, it was a resounding victory for the English with the sinking of 22 enemy ships and an occasion of sadness as England lost their National Hero, Lord Nelson.

HMS Victory
HMS Victory

Inside the HMS Victory

Venturing inside HMS Victory, you get a taste of life as a sailor during the Battle of Trafalgar.

The Captain’s Cabin is luxurious and was home to Captain Hardy, the Captain of the Victory during the Battle of Trafalgar. The cabin is light, airy and beautifully decorated, a stark contrast to life below decks.

Directly off the Captain’s Cabin is the Quarter Deck. It’s not hard to imagine Captain Hardy and Lord Nelson standing at the helm, battle raging all around. It was here that Lord Nelson was shot, mortally wounded by a French snipper.

Crouching to make your way below decks, large cannons stand ready to be fired while rows of hammocks hang in cramped quarters, within these walls around 460 sailors slept, ate and fought.

Punishments could be harsh, discipline was strict and offences such as drunkenness would be punishable with anything up to 36 lashes.

Visiting HMS Victory was fascinating and gave new insight into this famous battle.


Portsmouth Historic Dockyard

The HMS Victory and the Mary Rose are just part of the maritime treasures on offer at the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.

Onsite you will find the National Museum of the Royal Navy, 36 hours: Jutland 1916, the HMS Victory Museum Portsmouth UK and much, much more.

Other old ships in Portsmouth Harbour complex include the HMS M33 the only surviving ship from the Gallipoli Campaign and HMS Warrior the world’s first iron-hulled warship.

HMS Warrior
HMS Warrior

Emirates Spinnaker Tower

The Emirates Spinnaker Tower stands like a giant billowing sail, dominating the skyline of Portsmouth Harbour.

A short walk from the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, the Emirates Spinnaker Tower is perfect for those who want a bird’s eye view of Portsmouth Harbour.

Emirates Spinnaker Tower
View from the Emirates Spinnaker Tower Observation Deck.

Views stretch out across the harbour to the Isle of Wight and beyond. From the top you can watch ships, sailboats and Wightlink Ferries make their way across the Solent.

Portsmouth Harbour views
Portsmouth Harbour views.

Below, HMS Warrior stands proud showcasing the Portsmouth Historic Dockland, in the distance the stunning aqua waters of the Solent glisten in the sun.

You can walk across the glass floor and look down to the dizzying depths below, dine at the Waterfront Café or relax with a cream tea while enjoying stunning views at The Clouds café.

For those with an adventurous spirit an abseil down the side of the tower is the ultimate thrill and one I would like to experience.

The Clouds Cafe Emirates Spinnaker Tower
The Clouds Cafe Emirates Spinnaker Tower

Gunwharf Quays

With a massive selection of shops, restaurants, bars and a picturesque marina, Gunwharf Quays is a shopaholic dream and the place to be seen.

You can spend hours shopping at this designer brand outlet where you are guaranteed a 60% discount. Restaurants and bars overlook views of the marina and Portsmouth Harbour.

Gunwharf Quays Marina
Gunwharf Quays Marina

Pubs near Portsmouth Historic Dockyard

The Ship Anson Pub

The Ship Anson Pub is a quaint pub within walking distance to the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard and Gunwharf Quays.

The Ship Anson is a cosy pub, the perfect place for a cool beer after a hard day of sightseeing and shopping.

The pub serves hearty selection of traditional pub favourites including fish and chips, pie and mash and Sunday roasts.

The Ship Anson pub
The Ship Anson pub

Accommodation near Portsmouth Historic Dockyard and Gunwharf Quays

There are a range of hotels near Portsmouth Historic Dockyard that are perfect for weekly or weekend breaks on the South Coast.

We have chosen two, one for couples and one for family style accommodation, both are within walking distance to Gunwharf Quays and Portsmouth Historic Dockyards.

The Ship Leopard Hotel

The Ship Leopard Hotel is right next to Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, the Emirates Spinnaker Tower and Gunwharf Quays entertainment and shopping area are a short walk away.

The Ship Leopard is a boutique hotel with comfortable rooms styled in an elegant modern décor. There are a range of room choices with some rooms having a view of HMS Warrior.

The Ship Leopard Café serves a range of delicious cakes, coffee and alcoholic drinks.

The Ship Leopard Hotel is close to Portsmouth Harbour train station with links to London and Brighton. It’s also close to the Wightlink Ferry terminal for connections to the Isle of Wight.

Click here for the latest rates and info…

Gunwharf Quays Apartments

The Gunwharf Quays Apartments are located near the Gunwharf Quays shopping precinct and the Emirates Spinnaker Tower. The Portsmouth Historic Dockyard is within walking distance.

With a selection of apartment styles that include studio, one bedroom and two-bedroom apartments, the Gunwharf Quay Apartments cater to businessmen, couples and families alike.

Apartments are light, airy, modern and spacious. Features include a dining and sitting area as well as kitchen facilities.

The Gunwharf Quay Apartments are close to the Portsmouth Harbour train station and the Wightlink Ferry terminal for connections to the Isle of Wight.

Click here for the latest rates and info…

Last Words on Portsmouth Historic Dockyard – Portsmouth UK

We thoroughly enjoyed our time in Portsmouth, we discovered an illustrious history and walked in shoes of sailor’s past and present.

There is so much more to see and do in Portsmouth, visit the D-Day Story Museum or maybe catch a ferry over to the Isle of Wight. Portsmouth’s beautiful harbour and attractions will keep you coming back for more.


Best things to see and do during a visit to the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. Visiting the Emirates Spinnaker Tower at Portsmouth. Visit Mary Rose Museum and HMS Victory #portsmouth #maryrosemuseum #spinnakertower
Planning a trip to the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. Visit the Emirates Spinnaker Tower at Portsmouth. Visiting the Mary Rose Museum and HMS Victory at Portsmouth #maryrose #spinnakertower #portsmouth

4 thoughts on “Portsmouth Historic Dockyard UK”

  1. Rosalind Cuthbertson

    Our visit to Portsmouth Historic Dockyard was one of the highlights of our trip to the United Kingdom. ๐Ÿ™‚ If you get the chance to visit you won’t be disappointed. Thanks for your comment ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Tracy Portarianos

    My husband and I visited in 1996 when the Mary Rose was still under a mist of preservation spray. It is incredible to see what they have been able to do to preserve this ship. Portsmouth Historic Dockyard will definitely go back onto our bucket list.

  3. Rosalind Cuthbertson

    Hi Tracy,

    It would be interesting to see the difference to the Mary Rose from 1996 to now. ๐Ÿ™‚ Yes, definitely put it back on the list, we spent hours at the Mary Rose Museum and all day at the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard and still didn’t get to see everything, would love to revisit. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Thanks for your comment ๐Ÿ™‚

    Ros and Alan

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top