Top things to do and see in Southern England (United Kingdom)
5 Things to do if you visit Southern England
Just to avoid any confusion, I am referring to England in Europe :-)
I just had a guest who stayed with me for a month and we spent a lot of time visiting places of interest in Southern England. It was her first visit to this country so I wanted to avoid all the usual tourist hotspots and show her some real gems hidden away in the Southern Counties.
If you are considering coming to England in the near future then I hope you will find this hub useful. I have posted lots of images for you, they were all taken recently.
Please note: The images here were taken by me, please respect my copyright and do not use these images without first contacting me and getting permission. Thank you!
Update May 2011: I have been working on a new website this detailing things to do in Hampshire and Surrey, check it out!
1) Portsmouth Historic Dockyard and Spinnaker Tower
For those of you who are not familiar with England you will find the waterfront city of Portsmouth on the south coast only few miles east of Southampton.
Portsmouth is unique as it contains the worlds oldest dry dock and has a fascinating history, some of which is still present today in the form of the Historic Dockyard and the ships it contains. You will also find attractions such as the viewing platform on the 170 metre Spinnaker Tower which overlooks the city and dockyard. There is also harbour tour where you can get within a stones throw of warships and aircraft carriers.
The Historic Dockyard has something for everyone and if you are travelling with children then they will love the opportunity to go aboard the ships (see images below I took)
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HMS Victory Warrior and Mary Rose
The photos you see above are of the impressive HMS Victory which Lord Nelson took to victory in 1805 during the Battle of Trafalgar. Lord Nelson was mortally wounded on the deck of the vessel but lived long enough to see his fleet win the battle. The ship is preserved in dry dock and is one of three historic vessels in the dockyard.
The others are the HMS Warrior 1860 and the Mary Rose which sank in 1545 and was raised to the surface in 1982 partially intact and with over 10,000 artefacts ranging from weapons such as cannon balls to clothes and even games such as backgammon. The vessel is currently undergoing major restoration pending the opening of the new dedicated museum in 2011. For this reason I was unable to take any photographs so have included a few from the HMS Warrior 1860:
Harbour Tour and Spinnaker Tower
In addition to the Historic Dockyard you can choose to go on a harbour tour which is a great way to get up close to both modern and retired warships.It lasts for about 50 minutes and you will have many photo opportunities.
The Spinnaker Tower is a recent addition to the city of Portsmouth and at 170 metres high contains a viewing platform so you can see the city or facing the opposite direction you can see the English Channel.
2) The Hawk Conservancy Trust
I really wanted to do something a little different when my guest visited and as it was summer I also wanted to enjoy the beautiful English countryside.
The Hawk Conservancy Trust is located near Andover in Hampshire and is home to a selection of bird of prey species that are very well looked after. The owners also run an emergency bird hospital and take in injured birds of prey and rare species that require conservation. For a modest fee you can visit the park and see all the birds, chat with the friendly staff and spend an hour in the "Valley of Eagles" where these magnificent birds will fly inches above your head in the outdoor arena.
If you are prepared to spend a little more then you can join a small group of no more than five people for a half day (of full day) handling these birds.
I have included some photos of the birds and I:
Please note that children can enter the park but they cannot handle the birds.
Bird handling days/half days need to be booked in advance and are weather dependant.
I also want to point out that this park is run on charitable donations and the money they receive from visiting tourists.
See - http://www.hawk-conservancy.org/About_the_Trust/historyofthetrust.shtml
I know I wrote at the start of this hub that I wanted to avoid all the tourist hotspots but Stonehenge is only 20 minutes drive from the Hawk Conservancy Trust and as it is a World Heritage Site it is worth the visit. Try to get here early if you can as it does get busy in summer.
The last stone was laid some 3500 years ago and today is the most important pre historic site in the United Kingdom.
The famous University city of Oxford located in the South Eastern county of Oxfordshire is home to more than students. Here you will find fantastic architecture dating from Saxons until modern day.
Small narrow streets and footpaths gently overshadowed by historic buildings will greet you at every turn. The city is known as the "City of Dreaming Spires" a phrase coined because of the architecture of the many university buildings nestled around the city.
To enjoy this small city to the maximum it is best to go on a bus tour where your guide will explain all the hidden gems. Don't forget that this city also has a modern centre full of shops and restaurants.
5) Virginia Water
Virginia water is part of The Great Windsor Park and is the perfect place for long stroll or picnic with friends.
Located on the south bank of this vast lake you will find the small waterfall known as the "cascade" and a little further along the path to the ruins that are a 19th century "Roman Temple" built from lintels and columns brought from the ancient city of Leptis Magna.
To the east you will find another smaller lake and a 100 foot high totem pole, all surrounded by lush mature landscaped gardens. The area does attract a lot of people in the summer but there is so much space that it never feels crowded.
The lake was also used in the Harry Potter films and the area is one of the most affluent in the country.
Also located within the park is The Saville Garden which is one of the finest ornamental gardens in the country, covering 35 acres of land. You will also find a dedicated rose garden where 28 of the worlds finest rose cultivators have been working to showcase a stunning display.
If you are looking to spend a day outdoors enjoying some of the most beautiful landscaped gardens then Virginia Water and The Great Windsor Park are for you.