A fastinating Journey

Portsmouth Hard Interchange to Somers Town and Hilsea

The Hard Interchange

  • Home of the Historic Dockyard
  • Spinnaker Tower & Gunwharf Quays
  • Gateway to Gosport & The Isle of Wight

The bus starts and finishes at The Hard Interchange which is a stone’s throw away from the opportunity to explore the iconic Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, where you can tour the HMS Victory, Lord Nelson’s flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar, and step aboard the HMS Warrior, an imposing Victorian battleship. Discover the interactive wonders of the Mary Rose Museum, showcasing Henry VIII’s flagship, painstakingly preserved since its 1545 sinking. The National Museum of the Royal Navy provides insight into the Navy’s rich heritage. Witness the modern marvels at the Action Stations, an interactive space for all ages. explore the D-Day Story, a museum dedicated to the Allied invasion of Normandy during World War II.

A few minutes walk away from the Hard Interchange is modernity in its full glory with Gunwharf Quays retail paradise and the Spinnaker Tower, an iconic modern landmark that provides panoramic views of the city and the Solent. It’s an iconic landmark and a marvel of modern architecture and engineering. Standing at an impressive height of 170 metres (560 feet), the tower was completed in 2005 as part of the city’s waterfront redevelopment project. Its design mimics the billowing sails of a spinnaker, a type of sail used in yachting, paying homage to Portsmouth’s maritime heritage. Folk can ascend the tower via high-speed elevators, reaching the three viewing decks that offer breathtaking views of the city, the Solent, and the Isle of Wight. The glass-floored Sky Walk on the highest deck provides a thrilling experience for those daring enough to step onto it.

The historic Gunwharf Quays stands out as a nightlife hub, hosting an array of bars, clubs, and restaurants. Here, one can enjoy waterfront views while savouring international cuisines or partake in the energetic atmosphere of stylish bars, as well as big brands and boutique designer clothing shops!

The Hard Interchange is the place to be for a convenient short whisk over the sea. There’s the Gosport Ferry which is a vital connection over to Gosport and runs frequently or Wightlink’s Cat service to Ryde Pier Head or the Hovertravel crossing to Ryde which takes less than 10 minutes and is a cracker of a journey over to the idyllic Isle of Wight. The service is the world’s only commercial passenger Hovercraft service!

Old Portsmouth

  • Spice Island and Square Tower
  • St. Thomas’ Cathedral
  • The Round Tower

A short walk from The Hard Interchange and Gunwharf Quays is the traditional waterfront of Old Portsmouth, lined with cobbled streets and traditional pubs, with the nearby Square Tower adding to the medieval ambiance. The narrow alleys reveal quaint houses, traditional pubs, and enticing galleries. The historic Spice Island, with its waterfront pubs, reflects a bygone era of spicy, seafaring trade. St. Thomas’ Cathedral, one of England’s oldest Anglican cathedrals, adds a spiritual dimension to this fascinating, somewhat becalming landscape by the sea!

Enjoy the vibrant cultural scene by catching a show at the historic Kings Theatre or exploring contemporary art at the Aspex Gallery. Portsmouth also boasts a diverse culinary scene, with waterfront restaurants serving fresh seafood and traditional British fare, plus much more!

Portsmouth boasts an obscure yet fascinating fact—its Round Tower is home to the oldest continuously manned lighthouse in the world. Constructed in 1494 during the reign of Henry VII, the tower served as a defensive fortification with a beacon to guide ships. Over the centuries, it evolved, and in 1828, the lighthouse received a more modern lantern. Today, the Round Tower stands as a testament to Portsmouth’s rich naval history, and its enduring light serves as a living link to a bygone era, silently guiding ships as it has for over five centuries.

Somers Town & City Centre

  • Charles Dickens Birthplace Museum
  • Guildhall

For literary buffs, The Charles Dickens Birthplace Museum, located at 393 Old Commercial Road, is dedicated to Dickens in the house where the world famous author was born in 1812. Folk can explore the restored rooms, period furnishings, and exhibits that provide insights into Dickens’s early life and influences. The museum offers a glimpse into the author’s formative years, showcasing personal items and memorabilia, interactively so, too!

Additionally, the Dickens Trail takes visitors to key locations in Portsmouth, associated with the author, including the Historic Dockyard, where his father worked, and the Anglican Cathedral, where Dickens was christened.

Portsmouth also embraces its maritime legacy with nautical-themed pubs like The Ship Anson, where patrons can enjoy a cosy atmosphere and traditional ales. The Guildhall offers occasional concerts and events, as well as cheesy and more stylish nightclubs, contributing to the city’s cultural vibrancy.

The university area contributes youthful exuberance to the nightlife scene, with student-friendly pubs and clubs. From retro dance floors to contemporary cocktail lounges, Portsmouth’s nightlife caters to every taste, making it an enticing destination for locals and visitors alike, seeking a memorable and diverse nocturnal experience.

For those seeking live entertainment, the Wedgewood Rooms is a renowned venue hosting gigs ranging from indie bands to stand-up comedy. Albert Road, a lively street, is dotted with eclectic pubs, music venues, and trendy bars, creating a bohemian ambiance.

North End to Hilsea

  • Eastney Beam Engine House
  • Fratton Park, Portsmouth Football Club
  • Hilsea Lines, Lido
  • Foxes Forest and Portsbridge Creek

North End offers a blend of historical charm and contemporary attractions.

Wander through the historic Fratton district, discovering Victorian architecture and local shops. The famous Eastney Beam Engine House showcases industrial heritage with its preserved steam engines, providing insight into Portsmouth's past.

For a leisurely escape, visit Milton Common and Bransbury Park, offering green spaces for picnics and recreational activities. The Canoe Lake nearby is a serene spot with swan boats and wildlife, providing a peaceful retreat.

Alliance. The Mary Rose Museum, displaying the Tudor warship's remains, is another must-see attraction.

Close to North End is the historic, raucously atmospheric Fratton Park, home of Portsmouth Football Club is a ‘must’ for sporting fans! Portsmouth (nicknamed ‘Pompey‘) has achieved notable successes throughout its stellar history. Founded in 1898, the team clinched the Football League First Division title in 1949 and 1950. The pinnacle arrived in 2008 when they secured the FA Cup, defeating Cardiff City in a memorable final. Portsmouth also earned promotion to the Premier League in 2003, enjoying a successful top-flight stint. However, financial challenges led to temporary setbacks. Despite adversity, the club demonstrated resilience, clinching the EFL Trophy in 2019 and gaining consecutive promotions in 2017 and 2018. These achievements underscore Portsmouth FC’s enduring legacy in English football and they are enjoying a great season, top of League 1 and at this rate, well on course for promotion!

Hilsea, a suburb of Portsmouth, offers a mix of recreational activities and historical sites, making it a delightful destination for both locals and visitors. Explore the Hilsea Lines, a historic set of fortifications dating back to the 19th century. These ramparts and ditches were built to defend Portsmouth from land-based attacks. Today, they offer scenic walking paths, providing a glimpse into the area's military history. Enjoy outdoor swimming and leisure at Hilsea Lido, a community-owned pool facility surrounded by green spaces. The Lido provides a refreshing retreat during warmer months.

Take a stroll through Foxes Forest, a local nature reserve with walking trails. It's an excellent place for birdwatching and enjoying a peaceful escape into nature.

Embrace the maritime atmosphere by exploring Portsbridge Creek. It's a scenic spot for a leisurely walk along the water, providing views of boats and wildlife.

Famous folk of Pompey

Portsmouth has been home to several notable individuals who have left a lasting impact on various fields. As mentioned, one such is Charles Dickens, the renowned Victorian author, who was born in Portsmouth in 1812. His experiences in the city influenced works like “David Copperfield.” Another notable personality is Isambard Kingdom Brunel, born in Portsmouth in 1806, a pioneering engineer responsible for iconic structures like the Great Western Railway and the SS Great Britain. In the realm of music, Mick Jones, co-founder of pop band Foreigner, hails from Portsmouth. These individuals represent a diverse array of talent and achievement associated with the vibrant history of Portsmouth.

Fun-facts, stats and myths

  • The Hard (Interchange) was a key location during the embarkation of troops for the D-Day landings in 1944. Troops departed from here on their way to the invasion of Normandy.
  • Greyhound UK, sister company to the iconic Greyhound in the USA, launched its coach services to London from The Hard Interchange in September 2009. Sadly, the company is no more, despite a great following at the time.
  • Gunwharf Quays offers 90 premium retail outlets
  • Portsmouth has a population of around 205,000 and covers an area of approximately 40 square kilometres.
  • There have been local anecdotes, stories and sightings of ghostly figures near the historic Hilsea Lines. Some residents and visitors claim to have experienced eerie occurrences, attributing them to the area’s military history and the remnants of past conflicts.

Hilsea to Chichester

The journey from Hilsea to Havant goes through lively streets close to Portsridge Creek and Farlington Marshes as the Solent is left behind.

Havant is a vibrant market town resplendent with character, fine Georgian buildings and narrow weaving footpaths called ‘Twittens’. Interestingly, most of the town centre is a conservation area, which developed from a junction of ancient thoroughfares dating from the Roman era.

However, Havant is soon left behind as the journey takes on a direct approach along the M27 but it’s not long before the landscape becomes more rural, treelined and with farmland and shrubbery either side of the bus. There are pretty blue cottages aplenty as the bus passes Emsworth with lakes either side, stables and a Sussex Brewery pub on the right.

Priors Orchard approaches in Southbourne, with delightful pubs, cafes and a lovely blue cottage on the left – this really is an idyllic stretch of the route. A thatched cottage emerges in Chidham with fields both sides again and Chidham Lodge Bakery on the left and pretty flowers all around.

The Bosham Inn emerges and there’s a large reservoir on the right.

Chichester Cathedral appears on the horizon but the landscape is still very rural, even as the very grand façade of Chichester Grammar School and its sports fields on the left, surrounded by lime trees. Independent shops, traditional as well as trendy bars and coffee shops appear as the bus finds its way into the heart of Chichester where the Bus Station is situated and it’s time for either a change to continue this invigorating journey all the way along the coast to Brighton or spend a few hours in this magnificent City.

Chichester to Bognor Regis

The big chains of Chichester City Centre are left behind and it’s all independent shops as the bus passes close to the Market and out through pretty, tree-lined fields towards Bognor Regis through North Bersted with its thatched cottages and the lovely Holy Cross Church. Soon Bognor Regis approaches and the landscape gets more built up with small pubs, shops and restaurants before the bus stops outside the railway station.

Bognor Regis to Littlehampton

The bus leaves Bognor Regis station, home of the amazing Heygates book shop, which is a paradise and treasure trove for literary lovers and a very friendly owner, Jason, and makes its way past the famous, ornate splendour of the Cinema and down the elegant High Street, past the vibrant Jacks Bar and Restaurant on the right. Hoffam Park Café is on the left and there’s wonderful walks to be had here, before the iconic Butlins in all its splendour is visible from the window in Felpham Way. Watch out for Felpham Park golf course on the left out of the bus window.

Pink cottages, blossom trees in spring and clamping are the highlights now of the journey to Littlehampton. There’s also a great view of the Millenium Statue in the heart of Littlehampton, alongside a mix of fab independent shops and chains.

Littlehampton to Worthing

Pretty soon after leaving lovely Littlehampton with its varied architecture, the delightful village of Rustington emerges with its thatched cottages, of all colours – look out for pink one in particular! The views from the window are tree-lined on both sides and the Lamb Inn is particularly picturesque with its hanging baskets. Some of the houses are very grandiose as East Preston approaches, with its pleasant looking Fire Station, level crossing and a variety of bungalows, cottages and some shrubland as well.

Through Goring and then its down Grand Avenue – which really does have grandeur – a road resplendent with trees, spacious seaside-style apartments and cottages, before Worthing comes into view – tall regency buildings with ornate balconies and traditional shelters on the promenade to take in the coastal landscape.

Worthing Pavilion Theatre is on the right with its dome shape. Check out the lido too which is adjacent. The Pier – with a nightclub at the end of it – juts out elegantly to the sea, whilst on the left is the beautiful, yellow-domed Cinema, with its delightful tearoom. It’s a majestic sight, one of many on this most riveting of journeys.

Worthing to Shoreham by Sea

There’s a sense of occasion as the bus leaves Worthing as it makes its way around Steyne Gardens with its large, terraced houses looking towards the sea and St. Mary of the Angels Church. The bus then straddles the seafront with buildings of all colours – green, beige, pink, all shades of blue and cream on the left and traditional promenade lights. Beautiful houses with balconies, rocks crashing within touching distance of the pastel beach huts and the bus, with boat houses on the right, overlooking the scene imperiously.

Brighton Road continues, marshland one side, an estuary the other as Shoreham approaches with its bridge over water and benches overlooking it and daffodils emerging – the Crown and Anchor pub soon appearing into sight on the left, alongside independent shops.

Shoreham by Sea to Hove

Shoreham is disappearing out of sight, but the seaside views continue – of lightboats and a pebbled coastline before docks appear, complete with large cargo vessels but also small motorboats and the striking Nicholson’s Wharf. We’re in Portslade and the industrial buildings on the left are resplendent in maritime character, which continues into regal-looking Hove with the Lagoon on the right and seemingly endless turquoise beach huts.

Hove to Brighton

The bus is about to turn left and venture inland up Grand Avenue but first the majestic Queen Victoria statue dominating the view, looking out onto the sea.

At the end of Grand Avenue, and Western Road, with the eye-catching St John’s the Baptist Church, a pebble-throw away from the idyllic and historic cricket ground – home of Sussex CCC. Western Road is a magnet for charming independent shops, coffee shops and bars as the bright lights of Brighton loom.

More wrought iron balconies on regency style buildings emerge as the bus penetrates the heart of Brighton City Centre, the big designer chains alongside quirky outlets. Back-street bars, delicious culinary delights from Korean to Chinese buffets, Italian, Indian and much more.

The denouement is North Street, with the iconic Palace Pier to the right and just round the corner is the famous Brighton Pavilion, not far from the fascinating The Lanes, of antiques and other gems and a vibrant gay scene close by with some fabulous show-bars.

There’s a really sense of occasion as this adventure comes to what is a fitting finale for an incredibly enthralling seaside sojourn all the way from Portsmouth.

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