Some of the best things to see and do in Gosport
PUBLISHED: 11:01 31 July 2018 | UPDATED: 09:24 03 August 2018
Portsmouth Historic Dockyard
Head to this naval town for marinas, museums and military secrets; Emma Caulton is intrigued
Gosport has stories to tell. One is about our naval heritage, another is about its own regeneration. Together they make it a town worth discovery.
Gosport lies at the end of a peninsula with Portsmouth Harbour on one side and the Solent on the other, in a landscape of inlets and lakes.
Okay, it is not very prepossessing in parts as it has been dominated by barracks, wharves, defences and forts associated with the Royal Navy’s presence since the Napoleonic Wars. Some are still in use for military purposes; others have been converted into residences and restaurants often making the most of the town’s astonishing views over Portsmouth Harbour.
So Gosport is becoming a destination. Must-visits include the Royal Navy Submarine Museum, on the former site of HMS Dolphin, home to the Submarine Service for a hundred years. HMS Alliance, the only surviving WWII era British submarine, forms the centrepiece of the museum with veteran submariners giving brilliant, in-depth (pun intended) tours and authentic insights. You can peer through working periscopes to view Portsmouth Harbour and see, hear and even smell life below the waves. There are interactive experiences and discoveries for children, from buoyancy to sonar pings.
Silent & Secret, a new permanent exhibition at the museum, opened in June 2018 to mark the 50th anniversary of the first Polaris patrol by HMS Resolution (S22), the Navy’s first ballistic missile submarine. The exhibition explores the history of the British nuclear at-sea deterrent through to the Trident era, revealing the challenges of living and working on a submarine on constant alert.
July 2018 marked another 50th anniversary: the release of The Beatles’ ‘Yellow Submarine’ which the museum celebrated by hosting a series of fab themed games, craft workshops and graffiti project.
The Royal Navy Submarine Museum is linked to Explosion! The Museum of Naval Firepower by a 3km Waterfront Trail through historic Gosport (follow the chain motif along the ground), over Haslar Bridge, past remnants of the town’s moat and fortifications, Timespace arena, Millennium Pier with panoramic views of Portsmouth Harbour, gardens, parks and marinas.
Explosion! is a fascinating interactive museum telling the story of naval warfare from gunpowder to nuclear bombs in dramatic style. It is housed in the Royal Navy’s former Ordnance Depot at Priddy’s Hard and centred around the powder magazine designed in 1771. In the Napoleonic Wars this was where all Royal Navy warships, including HMS Victory, came to load up their guns and ammunition. The last time Priddy’s Hard supplied weapons to the Royal Navy was as recently as the Falklands War in 1982. Both museums are included in the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard All Attraction Annual Pass, and there’s a complimentary waterbus to take visitors across the Harbour to HMS Warrior 1860, HMS Victory et al.
Explosion! is home to one of Gosport’s best kept secrets: Camber Lights Cafe with scenic views over the Harbour, and open to both museum and non-museum visitors. Alternatively, stop off between the two Museums, taking a diversion into Royal Clarence Yard. This Yard opened in 1827 as one of the premier naval victualling establishments in the country, complete with rum store, granary, bakery and slaughterhouse. Queen Victoria would stop off here on her way to Osborne House on the Isle of Wight, while in WWII the Yard supplied the armada in the Solent awaiting D-Day.
The Yard closed in 1994 and is now undergoing major refurbishment with some of the impressive Georgian buildings being renovated and transformed into homes, workshops, restaurants and cafes. One such is The Pump House in Cooperage Yard - a great little café serving up good coffee and cake in the quaint old pump house.
If it’s a waterside view you want, Arty’s has tables overlooking Royal Clarence Marina. This friendly, relaxed restaurant offers refreshing G&Ts and a good value tasty menu includes scrumptious bowlfuls of spaghetti with crayfish and pistachio pesto and salads of hot-smoked salmon with asparagus and new potatoes. If the weather is poor the quirky interior of chandeliers, Chesterfield sofas and fairy lights invites.
Otherwise, a surprise recommendation in town is Tamales Kitchen, near the Gosport Ferry ticket office, an unassuming café offering a multi-cuisine experience with delish burritos, pulled pork wraps and sweet potato fries followed by churros with chocolate sauce.
Stroll along the High Street, pedestrianised and edged with trees, to find Gosport Discovery Centre and Gosport Gallery.
If you want to get out of town in search of a holiday vibe, head south to Stokes Bay with its long stretches of south-facing shingle beach looking across to the Isle of Wight. Activities include watersports, tennis, a pirate-themed mini golf course which is hugely popular with families, and (for serious golfers) Gosport & Stokes Bay Golf Club, a nine-hole links course with views over the Solent. There are also wide greens backing onto much of the length of the beach that are perfect for picnics, barbecues and family games.
For dinner, try Pebbles on the waterfront at Stokes Bay, a restaurant styled with a coastal theme and a menu dominated by fresh fish and seafood. The Seahorse on Broadsands Drive is another popular restaurant with a menu celebrating seafood, but without the beach location.
For other waterside eateries head back to Royal Clarence Yard. Here The Victualler has harbour views, a menu that features stone-baked pizzas and chargrilled steaks, and a fairly awesome interior of exposed brick and ironwork that displays the original ovens of this converted Royal Navy bakery. There’s also The Boathouse, right in Premier Marina, with views across to Gunwharf Quays, or Trinity’s, a restaurant in an old, renovated lightship moored in Haslar Marina. Other recommendations include Hardy’s at Haslar with an inviting menu that includes the likes of pan-fried chorizo in red wine, and jerk beef brisket with sweet potato mash.
Staying over? Family-friendly The Old Lodge in Alverstoke provides great value, and Alverstoke is a gorgeous spot - a pretty ‘village’ with tea room, vintage boutique and popular pubs such as The Fighting Cocks. Finish your day with a wander through adjacent Anglesey with an impressive Georgian crescent and tranquil tidal inlet, Stoke Lake, where those in the know enjoy wild swimming and kayaking.
My Gosport - Rob Shaw, Duty Manager, Explosion! The Museum of Naval Firepower
“I’ve lived in Gosport all my life, in fact I was born in Gosport’s War Memorial Hospital.
“I’ve been working as Duty Manager for Explosion! for the last nine months. I’m responsible for everything from getting the site ready to interacting with customers and ensuring they have a great day out. It is a very satisfying role.
“My previous roles have also been in customer service and leisure, including Marwell Zoo and Spinnaker Tower. When I was working at Spinnaker Tower my daily commute was on the Gosport ferry. It is a great service and the primary way most residents get to Portsmouth as it is just 10 minutes; otherwise it takes such a long time to drive there.
“Now I cycle into work, taking the Millennium Bridge over Forton Lake which has really nice views. The best thing about Gosport is its waterside location. At Explosion! we have a café with views over the Harbour – HMS Queen Elizabeth is currently directly opposite. The café is very popular and regularly visited by cyclists. There is a cycle route between Gosport’s two museums and I was told by one group of cyclists that it is the most cycled route in the country!
“Away from work, other favourites include Cottage Loaf on Gosport High Street for their shortbread biscuits. We also have a great local pub, The Village Home in Alverstoke. Most Wednesdays me and a group of friends pitch up there for their pub quiz.”
• Things to see and do in Hartley Wintney - It’s been consistently voted as Britain’s best place to live, and it’s not hard to see why