First port of call for any landlubber hitting this pride of the south coast should be Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, bobbing with legends of naval military history. Enjoying pride of place since 1812 is the spectacular HMS Victory, Vice-Admiral Nelson’s flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar and now a living museum to the Georgian navy – arrive early to beat the queues and check the diary to see if it’s hosting one of its sporadic rum dinners while you’re in town. Britain’s first ironclad warship, HMS Warrior, is moored here too, and Tudor buffs shouldn’t miss a tour around the Mary Rose, Henry VIII’s flagship, which mysteriously sank in 1545 only to be raised again in 1982.
More modern waterfront treats await at the neon needle of Spinnaker Tower, designed in the shape of a sail and boasting panoramic restaurants, a sky walk and – for hardcore thrill-seekers – a 100-metre abseil straight down the side.
Cultured types might like to take in the 12th century St Thomas’ Anglican Cathedral in Old Portsmouth, and bookworms should visit the birthplace of Charles Dickens or the museum dedicated to another one-time resident, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, which includes the world’s largest collection of Sherlock Holmes memorabilia.