Hampshire tourist attraction

With not one but two splendid national parks, there’s a whole host of attractions to check out in the ‘Shire.

Just a hop and a skip from the UK capital, Hampshire’s tourist attractions are superb. From gorgeous national parks to riveting port cities and water sports galore, you’ll be spoilt for choice. And for anyone with a pet peeve for returning from the beach with sand in their hair, ears and socks, the good news is the shores here tend to be shingle. Well, what are you waiting for? Check out Hampshire holiday packages and get dreaming.

  1. The New Forest
  2. Southampton
  3. Spinnaker Tower, Portsmouth
  4. Winchester Cathedral
  5. South Downs National Park
  6. HMS Victory
  7. The Solent
  8. Chawton
  9. National Motor Museum, Beaulieu
  10. Barton-on-Sea

In collaboration with
Rough Guides

1. The New Forest

One of the last vestiges of ancient woodland in England, the New Forest offers visitors the best of the great British outdoors. There’s excellent walking and cycling - or just stop and watch its famous wild ponies fearlessly wandering down village streets. Just be sure to guard your picnic.

Best for: Ramblers and wildlife lovers

While you’re there: The liveliest and most accessible towns in the New Forest are Lyndhurst and Brockenhurst - both are charming and quaint.

2. Southampton

Vast cruise liners still dock at Southampton, from where the Titanic departed when the port was Britain’s main gateway to its empire and the Americas. Today, it’s more popular for its shopping than transatlantic travel. Don’t miss the Sea City Museum, highlight of Southampton’s Cultural Quarter. It’s moving and informative, with its detailed accounts of the short life of the Titanic and her crew. Leo and Kate eat your hearts out.

Best for: Vibrant city life

While you’re there: It’s not all about the Titanic. Art lovers should make for Southampton’s excellent City Art Gallery.

3. Spinnaker Tower, Portsmouth

Commanding to-die-for views over the town, the sleek Spinnaker Tower - officially the Emirates Spinnaker Tower - is great to look at and even better to be inside. The sail-like structure rises 170m above the city, with vistas stretching for up to twenty miles over land and sea. There are three viewing decks.

Best for: Views, views and more views

While you’re there: There’s a café on the second deck where you can relax with a slice of cake, washed down with a coffee.

4. Winchester Cathedral

Perched on the edge of the South Downs National Park, the historic city of Winchester is known the world over for its masterpiece of a cathedral. This historic treasure-trove shelters everything from the ancient tombs of King Cnut and William Rufus to contemporary sculpture by Antony Gormley. It’s enough to inspire awe even in the most avid of atheists.

Best for: Religious art and architecture

While you’re there: For something a bit more modern, feel the forces of space at Winchester Science Centre and Planetarium.

5. South Downs National Park

A pearl among Hampshire attractions, the South Downs National Park actually stretches across two further UK counties - East and West Sussex. Lace up your boots and breathe in the fresh air, preferable along the high and challenging South Downs Way. You can’t beat the views from one of the UK’s best long-distance footpaths.

Best for: Stretching the legs and unbeatable views

While you’re there: The park includes the village of Selborne, where Gilbert White pioneered the protection of nature in 1789.

6. HMS Victory

Maritime history is deep-rooted in both Southampton and Portsmouth. In the latter, you’ve the opportunity to explore Nelson’s flagship, the HMS Victory, to get an insight into the harsh realities of naval life during the Battle of Trafalgar. The newly refurbished Victory Gallery is looking better than ever.

Best for: Salty sea dogs

While you’re there: Portsmouth’s Gunwharf Quays forms an attractive waterfront hub of shops, cafés and restaurants.

7. The Solent

It’s plain sailing on the Solent, a 20-mile watery wonderland where you can take part in a raft of water sports. Sailing, windsurfing and boat tours are all on offer here. You can hang out with the yachtie set along the pretty harbourfront in the prosperous town of Lymington, or better still, come during Cowes Week, an international regatta that started in the 1820s.

Best for: Getting your sea legs

While you’re there: If you’d rather stay on land, try the seven-mile walk from Southampton to Hamble-le-Rice.

8. Chawton

Bookworms swarm to the pretty village of Chawton for one thing: to see the house of Jane Austen, who lived here from 1809 to 1817 during the most prolific years of her life. Almost all her six books, including Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion, were written or revised here in Jane Austen’s House, in the centre of the village.

Best for: Book lovers

While you’re there: Pop into Cassandra’s Cup tearoom (opposite) to enjoy the last of the day’s sunshine on its lovely terrace.

9. National Motor Museum, Beaulieu

For anyone who likes to live life in the fast lane, the National Motor Museum in Beaulieu is the highlight of Hampshire sightseeing. It houses enough horsepower to make Jeremy Clarkson swoon. The collection includes some 250 cars and motorcycles including spindly antiques and recent classics. Even if you’re no petrolhead, you’ll recognize many of the vehicles in the museum – Donald Campbell’s record-breaking Bluebird, flying cars from Harry Potter and even Mr Bean’s mini, as well as James Bond’s jaguar from Die Another Day.

Best for: Motorheads of all persuasions

While you’re there: An undersized monorail runs around the estate and through the Motor Museum - it's worth the ride.

10. Barton-on-Sea

Put that bucket and spade away: you won’t be able to build any sandcastles in Hampshire - but you won’t have to pick grains of sand from your bed sheets, either. The shingle shores of Barton-on-Sea sit below the cliff-top village, which consists of a row of bungalows.

Best for: Seaside fun

While you’re there: There’s a broad grassy strip above the cliffs, great for kite flying or a picnic.

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