South of England tour

I chauffeur Mark to Bournemouth, Poole, Stonehenge, Salisbury and Portsmouth.

The trip begins when I greet Mark at Heathrow airport where we pause for coffee and a quick catch-up. From there we drive towards Bournemouth, stopping for a cooked lunch.

As soon as we arrive in Bournemouth, Mark and I stop to check out our old student accommodation and again at Boscombe Pier, where we walk alongside the beach and up the cliffs. We drive to our hotel passing what was The Academy, The Gander On The Green (which has been revamped into a Wetherspoon pub) and Zoo And Cage. We pull up outside our Bournemouth Central Premier Inn, check-in and survey our room with balcony and sea views. After a long and full day we decide to park the car behind the hotel before staying within the hotel for a beer and Thai curry.

Our first full day begins with a walk across the road into Bournemouth Gardens where we discover a bird aviary, art fair and balloon ride. We continue to Bournemouth Pier where we find a bar and restaurant called Aruba where we sit outside overlooking the pier and beach and order thin crust BBQ chicken pizzas for brunch. Outside we have 99 ice-creams for desert before walking the length of the pier, along the beach, up the cliffs and back through the town, stopping for iced coffee before our hotel (I should have used my sun block).

After freshening up at our hotel, we take the surprisingly regular bus route to Poole for £3 return. Upon arrival at the bus & railway station we walk through the Dolphin Centre to The Quay where we pause to get our bearings and take a few photos of the quay and Sunseeker boat yard, before our first pint at The Lord Nelson. I introduce Mark to his first Wetherspoon pub, The Quay for a Black IPA and sit upstairs alongside the internal balcony before ordering a beer & burger. From there we call in to the Poole Arms (oldest pub on quay, 1600s) where the fish smell prompts me to ask if they’d been cooking scampi, where I was firmly put in my place with “everything but scampi”, we sat outside. Following disappointing beers at the Antelope Inn, a failed search for good quality beers forces us into a small pub in the corner of an Italian restaurant. On our return to Bournemouth Mark flags down a bus just pulling out of the station where the driver scorns “it doesn’t work like that”, even though it evidentially had.

The following morning we check-out of our hotel before taking a final walk around the block for a cooked breakfast, discovering Saint Peter’s Church and the resting place of Mary Shelley author of Frankenstein (1818). Once on the road we take a drive past Bournemouth University before heading to Stonehenge passing several tempting country pubs along the way.

A drive by 4500 year old Stonehenge may not have the best idea with the well-known congestion on the A303; however it gives us our first glimpse before driving to the visitors centre. From the visitor centre we take the 2km Land Rover train, getting off half way to walk through the woods, over the Cursus barrows, up the sheep covered hillside before crossing the road for a close up view of Stonehenge taking photos all the way. We finish by taking the bus back to the visitor centre and the exhibition, including historical information and references, local findings, replica thatched huts and a stone pulling measure.

Back in Salisbury we easily find our city centre hotel The King's Head Inn (c1520, rebuilt 1880), now a Wetherspoon pub where we could still smell the paint of the well-presented newly refurbished interior, but without modern suitcase friendly access and parking a short walk in the main city car park. Determined to have a curry, Mark discovers a contemporary Indian restaurant called Anokaa, which after a little consideration book a table waiting nearby at The Mill with a drink alongside the river, returning later for traditional dishes not featured on the menu which look and taste great. We finish the evening with a night cap at the Haunch of Venison (1320) reputedly used by Churchill and Eisenhower during the planning of the D-Day landings.

In the morning we check-out of our hotel, leaving our bags in the car and back to our hotel for a cooked breakfast, before heading out on foot alongside the River Avon, through the 14th century High Street Gate and Choristers Square to the 750 year old Salisbury Cathedral (1258) boasting the UK's tallest church spire, world’s oldest working clock (1386), the resting place of former Prime Minister Edward Heath, and has the best surviving of the four original copies of Magna Carta (1215). Our tour of Salisbury finishes with the historic market (since 1227) at the 15th century Poultry Cross, where we sit with coffee.

The afternoon takes us straight to Portsmouth seafront and our Premier Inn, Southsea with ground floor parking and a rear facing room overlooking Clarence Pier and the sea. From our hotel we walk south along the seafront, the hovercraft port and various war memorials. We walk back past our hotel towards the Spinnaker Tower in the distance. Along the way we discover a monument dedicated to Nelson near the Royal Garrison Church, where we suddenly see the surprisingly near silhouette of a Type 45 Destroyer warship which we hurry towards for photos as it is quickly surrounded by commercial hovercraft, catamaran and ferries as it leaves Portsmouth Harbour. Our walk continues through Old Portsmouth, past Gunwarf ferry port, Gunwharf Quays shopping mall, Spinnaker Tower, the train station until we finally arrive at HMS Warrior (1860) with the sun setting behind her. Our tiered legs take us back to Gunwharf Quays and the Old Customs House for a few drinks with fish & chips, as we retrace our steps back to The Bridge Tavern for a night cap.

The final morning we wake early taking the coastal road to Gatwick airport and a cooked brunch before Mark's flight to Northern Ireland.


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