21 historic days out in Hampshire and Isle of Wight

New Forest Centre historic site
New Forest Centre is a great historic site

Hampshire and the Isle of Wight have a unique and interesting past dating back thousands of years, making it the destination for history lovers and those interested in discovering times-gone-by. Below, we’ve compiled some of the best historic Isle of Wight and Hampshire days out for all ages to enjoy.

A proud history

Dive into the depths of maritime history at SeaCity Museum in Southampton where the infamous Titanic began its only voyage, and take a journey through the ages of Southampton’s shipping industry. Travel back further to the 18th century shipbuilding village of Bucklers Hard, focusing on its vessels including those built for Nelson’s Navy.

Portsmouth Historic Dockyard is the UK’s premier destination for naval history. Go on board and explore the decks of world famous historic ships including Lord Nelson’s world famous flagship HMS Victory, Queen Victoria’s HMS Warrior and the only surviving ship from the First World War’s Gallipoli Campaign, HMS M.33.

As strong as it’s maritime history, Hampshire also has a strong military history. With military-themed museums you can explore over 100 years of the British Army at the Army Flying Museum, discover a restored Victorian fortresses and the ‘Big Guns’ at Fort Nelson, and spend a day out enjoying the 6 regimental museums at Winchester Military Museums.

The Royal Army Physical Training Corps (RAPTC) Museum tells the story of the birth and development of Army physical training from 1860 to the present day and is packed with RAPTC uniforms, medals and training and sports equipment.

One of the key landmarks as part of the history of Hampshire is Chawton House Library, a romantic 400-year-old manor house once owned by Jane Austen’s brother and known to her as the ‘Great House’. It’s full of historical treasures and fascinating stories, and boasts beautiful gardens and grounds. Situated in 1800 acres of beautifully landscaped parkland and ancient forest on the Hampshire/Sussex border, Stansted House is one of southern England’s best stately homes.

Relive yesteryear at the Watercress Line. At over 150 years old, it is one of the most successful heritage steam railways in the country. Your ticket gives you all day unlimited travel allowing you to visit each of the charming period stations, with plenty to explore at each stop.

One of the most historic sites in Hampshire is Mottisfont which has centuries of history buried within its walls. Visit the lower-ground floor to find out how Mottisfont has changed over the years and step into the 13th-century cellarium. Upstairs, you’ll discover the lives of last owners the Russell family, who made Mottisfont their artistic retreat in the 1930s.

Experience life on board Henry VIII’s favourite warship. See the Mary Rose in her purpose-built museum in Portsmouth after 437 years on the seabed, and wonder at the thousands of Tudor objects preserved when she sank in 1545.

Step in histories footsteps

Hampshire is where you will also find the world famous Beaulieu, home of the National Motor Museum. You can easily enjoy a day at Beaulieu wandering around their impressive displays of over 250 vehicles telling the history of motoring in Britain. That’s not all there is, Beaulieu is also home to the Victorian gothic style Palace House, Secret Army Exhibition, and the conserved ruins of Beaulieu Abbey.

For another historic Hampshire family day out the Hollycombe Steam Museum is a great place to see the past come to life, with a traditional fairground and steam railway.

Winchester Cathedral is one of Hampshire’s most historic attractions and a key historical site. It has over 1,000 years of history to explore. Admire magnificent medieval architecture, discover priceless treasures and be captivated by stories of people connected with the Cathedral’s history, from Anglo-Saxon kings and bishops to the much-loved author Jane Austen.

The history of Hampshire is enriched by the story of Jane Austen, Britain’s most-loved writer, who lived in the county for much of her life. Step in to Jane Austen’s world at Jane Austen’s House Museum, Chawton, and discover the house where she lived and wrote her much loved novels.

Step back in time to the 18th century at Buckler’s Hard. On the now tranquil banks of the Beaulieu River, this historic village was once a hive of shipbuilding activity, building ships for Nelson’s Navy. Step inside historic cottages and visit the Maritime Museum to discover the village’s fascinating past.

Commanding the entrance to the Solent is Hurst Castle, a powerful fortress, built by Henry VIIII in 1544 and steeped in centuries of military history. You can step into the heart of Hurst Castle to its Tudor fort, which retains much of its orginal appearance and follow the steps to the first floor of the Tudor Keep, where Charles I was kept prisoner here in 1648. Remaining in military use until 1956, the castle played an active role in both world wars and you can take a glimpse into the living conditions of a soldier here and also visit the last remaining theatre, constructed by the garrison to survive from the Second World War.

Travel in time and explore the history of Hampshire

Visit historic Hampshire at Milestones Museum
Visit historic Hampshire at Milestones Museum

If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to walk through the streets of historic England, you can do just that at Milestones Museum as you take a stroll through the old-cobbled streets, you can even buy your favourite sweets from the vintage sweet shop or enjoy a pint in the Baverstock Arms.

Continue your journey back in time and visit the 15th Century Tudor House & Garden in Southampton, where you’ll discover the lives and times of its residents.

You could also travel through time at Hurst Castle in Keyhaven, Hampshire and see for yourself where Charles I was kept prisoner in 1648. Here at Hurst Castle, you can also glimpse into the living conditions of a soldier in the First and Second World Wars, with living quarters and washing facilities to explore.

Follow the workers as they made 8 million bricks a year in the Victorian brickworks at Bursledon. Now a museum the old factory was one of the first industrialised brick manufacturers in the county. It is now the only steam driven brickworks left in the UK and an important legacy to what was once a huge industry.

Discover what once roamed

Hampshire is also home to the New Forest National Park, once a hunting playground for William the Conqueror you can discover the interesting history of this stunning forest at the New Forest Centre in Lyndhurst, with interactive exhibits and displays.

We hope you’ll agree that Hampshire is home to some amazing historic sites, where you can experience over 1,000 years of history. Once you’ve tried all of the above historic Hampshire days out be sure to visit our attractions page to find out what “new” days out are available to explore the history of Hampshire.