The Solent Way

Portsmouth to Hilsea

The Solent Way > Portsmouth to Hilsea

Introduction

This walk pases through the only resort on the Solent Way, Southsea. The Solent Way follows the promenade from Old Portsmouth along Southsea sea front, passing Clarence Pier, Southsea Hoverport, The War Memorial, Blue Reef Aquarium and South Parade Pier. Beyond South Parade Pier the promenade becomes much quieter and as you get towards the end the path turns inland through a residential area, then follows the eastern edge of Langstone Harbour, offering views to Hayling Island across the harbour.

Getting to the Start

Portsmouth is easily reached from the A3(M), A27 and M27. From the M27 west join the M275 at junction 12. Continue straight on as the motorway becomes the A3 and follow the signs for Gunwharf Quays. There is an underground car park at the shopping centre or alternatively a car park at the end of Broad Street in Old Portsmouth. There is also plenty of parking on the sea front.

If you are travelling by public transport Portsmouth has good rail connections with frequent trains to Portsmouth Harbour from London, Woking, Guildford, Haslemere, Petersfield and Havant, all operated by South West Trains. Wessex Trains operate frequent services to Portsmouth Harbour from Cardiff, Newport, Bristol, Bath, Salisbury, Romsey, Southampton and Fareham. Southern operate frequent services from Littlehampton and Brighton to Portsmouth Harbour, serving all stations along the coast from Brighton. Some trains also only go as far as Portsmouth and Southsea, such as the local service from London Waterloo and Southampton, but from Portsmouth and Southsea you'll find frequent trains onto Portsmouth Harbour. Portsmouth Harbour is right by the start of the walk and is also served by frequent ferries from Ryde Pier Head (Isle of Wight) and Gosport. The Hard bus station is also opposite Portsmouth Harbour station and has frequent buses from as far afield as Brighton, mostly operated by First Provincial and Stagecoach Coastline.

The Walk

Portsmouth Harbour is adjacent to the historic dockyard, home of HMS Warrior, HMS Victory and The Mary Rose and is also next to the station, and ferry terminals for Gosport and Ryde (Isle of Wight).

HMS Warrior at Portsmouth
HMS Warrior at Portsmouth

Follow the railway line away from the station and soon you'll have a choice of routes. You could head into the new Gunwharf Quays complex and walk past the shops to the waterfront, retracing your steps along the harbour emerge at Gunwharf Road, or continue on the road turning right into St Georges Road under the railway line then into Gunwharf Road. From Gunwharf Road continue into Hart Road and then along the path next to the modern flats to emerge into Broad Street and the small beach behind the fortifications. This part of the path is in Old Portsmouth, an area well worth exploring, also being just a few minutes walk to the Cathedral.

Old Portsmouth The entrance to the harbour
Old Portsmouth The entrance to the Harbour

The Solent Way now continues on a high path on top of this fort past the moat of what I presume is an old fort then dropping down onto the sea front towards Clarance Pier. Clarance Pier marks the start of the resort of Southsea, the first (and only) resort on the Solent Way, although the coast to the east is now lined with resorts all the way to Hastings. Clarence Pier is not what you'd typically expect from a pier, as it's only just over water and is now used as an amusement park, with many rides and arcades.

Clarence Pier Arcades at Clarence Pier
Clarence Pier Arcades at Clarence Pier

Follow this narrow strip past the pub to emerge by the The Wheel of Fortune amusements and past another arcade on the right. Just past the arcade you come to Southsea Hoverport, the only commercial passenger Hovercraft service still operating in the UK. Hovercraft's run frequently (up to every 15 minutes) over to Ryde Esplanade, taking just 7 to 10 minutes to cross the Solent. It's interesting to watch these unusual craft arriving from Ryde if you can spare the time.

Beyond the Hoverport you pass the Rowing Club and Sailing Club, but other than that the promenade is surprisingly undeveloped, with the sea to your right and Southsea Common to your left. Soon you pass the War Memorial on the left and come to the Blue Reef Aquarium ahead, which although small is worth a visit. There is a cafe here and also a seasonal Tourist Information Centre.

The War Memorial
The War Memorial

Ahead is Southsea Castle and the path climbs round the outside of the castle. The Castle is also worth a visit, but is not open during the winter months. Out to sea is Spitbank Fort, one of several forts in the Solent, built for defence, Spitbank Fort is open to the public and remains virtually unchanged since the late 1870s.

Southsea Castle
Southsea Castle

After the castle the promenade becomes wide once more, passing the Pyramids swimming pool on the left and the shingle and sand beach to the right. The second pier in Southsea, South Parade Pier can now be seen ahead.

Southsea Beach and Pier
Southsea Beach and Pier

Soon the road joins the promenade on the approach to the pier. The pier itself houses an amusement arcade and a room that is often used for bands. The end of the pier is mostly rides, though it can be rather desolate during the winter. The pier is free to walk along and gives you good views of the town, the Isle of Wight and the forts in the Solent. To the left the busy road is now adjacent to the promenade.

South Parade Pier A Brittany Ferries boat in the Solent
South Parade Pier A Brittany Ferries boat in the Solent
South Parade Pier
South Parade Pier

Beyond the pier the road continues next to the promenade, but the promenade is now noticeably quieter beyond the pier, passing a few gift shops and a boarded up cafe. Soon you come to a sports area on the left where there is a canoe lake, model village, rose garden, playing fields, tennis courts and golf. A concrete wall now separates the road and promenade as you continue along and the beach is becoming increasingly wide and is in fact becoming quite overgrown with grass - obviously there is not much erosion of the shingle beach here. Ahead can be seen an odd construction the appears at first glance to be an old ride, but I think is part of Fort Cumberland ahead. To the left is the Royal Marines Museum, a grand building with a large green in front of it.

Royal Marines Museum The overgrown beach
Royal Marines Museum The beach becoming overgrown with grass

Beyond the museum it is not far to the end of the promenade, which ends somewhat abruptly at a toilet, with posts also along the beach. The rest of the beach is put to military uses and part of it appears to be used as a firing range. The path therefore turns left here to head into a residential area, past an indoor swimming pool and community centre. At the junction of roads by the shops, turn left into Henderson Road and then continue to the right into Bransbury Road. Take the path through the park, under the trees to emerge into Kingsley Road.

The path through the park
The path through the park

At the end of the park, continue straight on into Ironbridge Lane then turning right passing the end of a couple of roads, emerging into Locksway Road. Continue along this road, but as it turns to the left, take the path to the right, leaving the residential walking behind to emerge onto the path alongside Langstone Harbour.

Langstone Harbour
Langstone Harbour

The walk along the edge of the harbour is very pleasant, offering lovely views of the many boats in the harbour and of Hayling Island on the opposite bank of the harbour. On your left you soon pass the buildings of The Langstone Campus of Portsmouth University. The path continues past three small lakes on the left, Swan Lake, Duck Lake and Frog Lake. These lakes weren't always here, as the land to the left was formed by dumping rubbish and the land then grassing over.

Langstone Harbour Langstone Harbour
Langstone Harbour Langstone Harbour

Soon this peaceful part of the path comes to an end as it runs alongside the busy A2030, continuing along the rest of the path along Portsea Island. Soon you pass the jetty at Great Salterns Quay where there is a lake inland, surrounded by a golf course. The caravan park and pub marked on the map to the north of the quay are no more - all that remained when I walked this part of the path is the fenced off site containing the derelict remains of a couple of buildings. I assume this land will soon be redeveloped into something else. The road soon returns to the edge of the path before coming to a sports ground and another sailing club. Beyond the sailing club the path comes to Kendalls Wharf, where the path briefly leaving the edge of the harbour and the end of this walk.

Langstone Harbour Langstone Harbour
Langstone Harbour Langstone Harbour

Getting Back

To get to Hilsea (where there is a station) leave the path here and follow the access road to the wharf, emerging onto the A2030 at a set of traffic lights. Cross the road on the traffic islands into Anchorage Road, with the Safeway store on your right. At the first roundabout, where the road enters the business park, continue straight on (still Anchorage Road), passing the edge of houses of the Anchorage Park area of the city. Fortunately here the pavement is set back a little from the road. Continue past the houses on the right and the many industrial units to the left until you get to the next roundabout. Here continue straight on once more into Norway Road, which begins to climb up onto a bridge. More or less at the top of the bridge you'll see a railway sign pointing down and here you'll find steps down to Airport Service Road (so named as this industrial estate is built on the site of Portsmouth Airport) and Hilsea Station. Hilsea station has frequent trains to Portsmouth and Southsea and Portsmouth Harbour stations, operated by South West Trains and Southern. Southern also run frequent trains to all stations along the coast to Brighton from Hilsea, whilst South West Trains run service from Hilsea to Southampton and stopping services towards Havant, Petersfield, Haslemere, Guildford, Woking and London Waterloo (change at Havant for a fast service to London). Sadly the station is now unstaffed and suffers from heavy vandalism which combined with the lack of shelter on the Portsmouth platform and the noise from the road above makes for an unpleasant place to wait for a train.

Links

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