Every time I transit one of the London airports, I’m always at a loss on how best to pass the time. But then, I’m normally on my own and in a state of uninspired exhaustion. Enter the rest of my family, who on this occasion, I was due to fly out to Sicily with. They devised a far more refreshing solution to the perils of the long London layover. What you ask? A trip to Portsmouth no less!

The reality was not quite as straightforward as the theory. To get there, we had to find our way through 60 miles of meandering country roads. This was nice as a passenger – as I got to see the rural beauty of West Sussex – but hardly a joy for my Dad, the driver, seeing that our time was fast evaporating.

The Spinnaker Tower and HMS Warrior.

The stress levels soon subsided though as we made it to Portsmouth just about on schedule. Our focus was now aimed at the Historic Dockyard, where the HMS Victory, Warrior and Mary Rose all enjoy their much earned retirement.

It was the HMS Victory, specifically, that we had come to see – and what a sight it was to behold! Launched in 1765, the ship is amazingly well preserved.

That makes it over 250 years old, which is rather remarkable when considering how many battles it was involved in – Trafalgar being the most famous one.

On board, too, it’s every bit as majestic. All but one of its eight decks can be prospected – although it’s worth mentioning that the bottom few levels have extremely low-lying ceilings and therefore require excessive crouching.

Many are also very dimly lit, adding to the sense of enchantment.

Out on the ‘Quarter Deck’, the intricacies are even more impressive.

Ropes, nets, cannons, planks; the history and authenticity is breathtakingly tangible and well exhibited. If in Portsmouth, I’d highly recommend seeing it.

Statue of Captain Robert Falcon.

In a more general sense, I’m very glad we made the jaunt south to Portsmouth instead of loitering around Gatwick Airport. Visiting a new place was great; getting to view a living artifact of history up close was even better.