With a maritime history that encompasses everything from the Mayflower to the Titanic, Southampton rests on a busily illustrious heritage. But the Hampshire city is far from stuck in the past – its cruise terminal means it still draws some four million visitors a year, and a lively events calendar gives it a spirited edge. Since the turn of the millennium, retail developments like the colossal West Quay have also made it a draw for shoppers.
Henry V’s armies departed from Southampton en route to Agincourt, and despite the bomb damage that the city incurred over WWII, it remains somewhere with a still evident Middle Ages heritage. On a short break to Southampton from Glasgow Airport, try and take the time to visit the Medieval Merchant’s House (58 French Street), which has some great period furnishings, or embark on a comprehensive walk of the OldTown. It has more than 90 listed buildings.
An isle apart
You don’t have to sail far from Southampton to find somewhere appealing to disembark. The Isle of Wight sits around 5km off the coast and offers traditional bucket-and-spade charm alongside a more on-trend feel – as well as its music festivals, there’s also a growing number of funky accommodation options. Tom’s Eco Lodge (Tapnell Farm, Newport Road), as an example, offers great glamping. And if you’re after rugged coastal scenery? The southern shoreline is stunning.
Southampton’s SeaCity Museum (Havelock Road) is a state-of-the-art attraction that gives the full lowdown on the city’s story – there’s an affecting exhibition on how profound an impact the Titanic’s fate had on the local population – while a short distance out of town is Beaulieu (pronounced Bew-ley), home to the National Motor Museum. It showcases everything from Donald Campbell’s Bluebird to Harry Potter’s flying Ford Anglia.