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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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