The keep

The keep of Southsea Castle contains a host of displays – offering visitors the chance to learn all about the castle’s history and see some of the key artefacts that played a role.

Alongside a model of King Henry VIII stands a replica of the famed Cowdray Engraving, which shows the scene overlooking the Solent as the Mary Rose unexpectedly keeled and sank. Lights showcase major points of interest, to tell the story of how Southsea Castle – and the surrounding area – would have looked on that fateful day.

There are also a number of artefacts recovered from the ship when it was raised from the sea bed in 1982, as well as detailed information on what went into the largest marine salvage operation ever undertaken.

Alongside the Mary Rose items stands a display showing the effort that went into firing the castle’s cannons.

Later on you can take a look through Southsea Castle’s more recent history, including the lens from its lighthouse (featuring prominent prisms) which was used to focus the light into a powerful beam when needed.

The keep roof is open intermittently throughout the year, for uninterrupted views from the castle’s topmost point. Be careful, though, as there’s only room for one person on the narrow spiral staircase.

The ramparts

Alternatively, finish your visit with a walk along the ramparts, where you can look out across Southsea Common, or out to the Solent. The ramparts also offer great views down to the courtyard below, creating a great vantage point – especially during events such as the Champagne Bar or Victorious Festival celebrations.

A number of cannons are placed on the ramparts, so visitors of today can put themselves in the shoes of those tasked with defending Portsmouth from an anticipated French invasion. Though the invasion never came, the scope of Southsea Castle’s defences shows just how real Henry VIII and his peers viewed the potential threat.