Southampton City is located on the South coast of England, 80 miles South West of London. Historically Southampton has been an important port and this still applies today. The city has a population of about 250,000 and is the closest city to the New Forest.Southampton City Walls
The M3 and M27 Motorways are the main road links between London and Southampton. The drive takes about one hour and forty minutes putting the city within easy reach of London’s major international airports. A regular train service is operated by Southwest Trains between Southampton Central and London Waterloo train stations.
Southampton Airport hosts flights to many local destinations as well as to over 47 European destinations. There are no longer any international ferry services operating out of Southampton docks, but the port is home to a growing number of luxury cruise ships, including the QE2. The city has a good network of bus services with access to all the local amenities.
The history of the city can be tracked back to the Romans who established the first permanent settlement and port. The settlement known as Clausentum was the main trading port for Winchester and Salisbury, both large Roman towns. The town was moved to its current location by the Anglo-Saxons some time later. Southampton became an important trading port with wool being a major cargo in the 13th century.
After the city was sacked by the French in 1338 the Southampton City walls were built, part of which still stand today. In 1623 the Pilgrim Fathers set sail from Southampton, aboard the Mayflower on route to Plymouth in present day Massachusetts. Famously the RMS Titanic also set sail from Southampton on her ill fated first voyage. Many of her crew came from Southampton and a total of 549 city residents perished when the ship sank.
With the advent of air travel, traffic through the ports declined. However this trend is now changing with more luxury cruise ships setting sail from Southampton.
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With such a rich history there is an abundance of things to see and do in and around the city. There are a number of historic buildings. These include the City Wall built in 1338, St Michaels Church built in 1070, God’s House Tower built 1417 and the 12th century Red Lion Pub where the Southampton plotters were tried and sentenced to death.
Southampton is located on the door step of the New Forest. This is a large national park of about 570 km2. The New Forest was created by William the Conqueror in 1079 as a Royal Hunting Ground. The Forest today offers the visitor miles of peaceful walks through ancient woodland and heath land. Alternatively the forest can be explored on bicycle or horse back. There is an abundance of wildlife and the forest is home to the famous New Forest ponies. There are a number of villages in the New Forest each with their own secrets to uncover.
The city has a number of museums. The Museum of Archeology, which is housed in God’s House Tower, has a collection of artifacts which tell the story of Southampton from the Stone Age to the present day. The Solent Sky Museum has a large display of aircraft and aims to educate the visitor on the rich history of aviation in the Solent area. Located a short drive to the north of the city is the Intech Science Center, an Interactive science and technology centre for the whole family.
The West Quay Shopping Centre is one of the largest shopping centers in the UK and hosts a number of major shopping brands. The city has a vibrant night life with a number of night clubs, restaurants and pubs.
In a recent survey by British Gas Southampton was ranked as one of the lowest carbon emitting cities in the UK and is the only City to operate a geothermal power station.
Make Southampton one of the cities you visit – it has a long and vibrant history, an abundance of activities and is a gate way to exploring the South Coast. (photo: Malcolm Grant)