Newest Review: ... lift back down. Firstly, the lift that we went in was an internal lift so not too adventurous although I did notice an external lift but ... more
On a Clear Day You Can See Forever - well, almost.
Spinnaker Tower (Portsmouth)
Member Name: frangliz
Spinnaker Tower (Portsmouth)
Advantages: Spectacular views
Disadvantages: Could be expensive
I don't want to go into all the ins and outs of its construction and vital statistics, which are available on the Spinnaker Tower's own website or on Wikipedia, and in other reviews on this site. You can't really miss the tower, but for the unfamiliar it's in the south-west corner of Gunwharf Quays. Go down to the waterfront, turn right, and pass the restaurants. There it is. We had to queue for about ten minutes at 2.30pm on that beautiful autumnal Sunday afternoon. Plaques in the entrance hall show that The Spinnaker Tower was chosen as the best building of 2000 and that it was funded by lottery money (and perhaps a little council tax?) The normal entrance fee is £7.00 per adult, but this is reduced to £4.60 for local residents on production of a utility bill showing certain postcodes. According to the website, two forms of identity have to be shown and a signature given, but we merely produced a Virgin Media bill showing a PO5 address and were immediately offered the discount. The website gives details of which postcodes are eligible for the lower entrance fee as well as prices of tickets for children. We were offered an audio guide but did not take one.
As we passed along, we were asked to stand against a green background to have our photograph taken. I moved quickly past and said I would rather not, even though the photographer told us there would be no obligation to buy. It seemed like a pointless exercise (and I'd been in a defiant mood the previous week, not wanting to be ordered about!) We each had a camera and took photos of each other once we were up on the viewing decks. However, for those without cameras or those who want a group photograph, the opportunity is there. I cannot comment on the cost, I'm afraid.
There was a short wait for the lift in which we were packed like sardines; it was claustrophobic, but the first level is 100 metres up so you wouldn't really want to climb stairs. The lift attendant informed us that we could continue to second level by lift or stairs. Ascent to the uppermost level, the Crow's Nest, is by stairs only. Descent is from the second level by lift. (Descent by lift starting from the first level is not possible, making ascent to the second level compulsory.)
The famous glass floor at the first level was not as big or spectacular as I had imagined it to be. You have to remove your shoes if you wish to walk on it, so I just leaned over and took a photo looking down, not feeling that I was missing anything.
It was surprisingly easy to get to the windows to see each view and take photos. To the east, Portsea Island, the War Memorial on Southsea Common, Gunwharf Quays, a number of university buildings (St George's and Mercantile House, for example), and the Queen's Hotel were recognisable. Turning southward, there is a clear view of Spice Island and the Cathedral in old Portsmouth. Directly south you look across the Solent to the Isle of Wight, and the entrance to Portsmouth Harbour, through which you can see the Isle of Wight ferries passing - there were no channel ferries that particular afternoon, but the brilliance of the sunshine on the water was a sight for sore eyes. Looking west, Gosport with its marina is very clear, again with little passenger ferries crossing every few minutes. Adjacent to the tower you can just see the edge of Portsmouth Harbour station, and beyond this Portsmouth's Historic Dockyard with HMS Warrior and HMS Victory (the latter, unfortunately, is hard to spot in my photos). To the north-west Portsdown Hill is clearly visible. On the clearest days you can see for up to twenty-three miles, and on that afternoon, looking west, I could spot a tall chimney which I think was part of Fawley refinery on Southampton Water.
We decided to take the stairs up to the second level, and this was not difficult even with my bad knees. Souvenir selling in the form of a stuffed toy resembling the Spinnaker Tower was being made the most of there. We gazed down and took more photographs before continuing up to the highest level. The Crow's Nest is open to the elements as it is covered above you just by heavy wire netting. You can easily see the white pointed top of the tower through this, as well as an initially deceptive artificial owl. The Crow's Nest is a much smaller area, but not quite so many people go up that far so it was still not too difficult to get to the windows. The views from here are mainly in southerly and westerly directions.
Having had our fill of the sights we returned the to second level where we had a couple of minutes' wait for the lift back to the ground level. Here you emerge into the cafe, where there is an enticing smell of coffee and the photographs that were taken before the ascent are offered for sale, right by the exit. The cafe is only open to tower visitors and serves Fairtrade hot drinks as well as sandwiches; we didn't stop there as a friend was waiting for us outside, having already had his fill of Spinnaker Tower visits at other times.
My son had been to the tower on three previous occasions but said the views this time were the best, even though one of his visits had been at sunset. It occurred to me that it is an experience comparable to going up the Eiffel Tower, and although I would be amongst the first to choose Paris as one of the most beautiful cities in the world, from the Eiffel Tower you can't see the sea, or an island, or a historic dockyard, can you? The views from the Spinnaker Tower are breathtaking, diverse and spectacular. It may have taken two years for me to get myself up there, but in the end I could not have picked a finer day.
I understand that Darth Vader is due to be performing his antics at the Spinnaker Tower over the forthcoming half-term holiday, so there are likely to be plenty of visitors over that period. A good time for family visits, no doubt, but if like me you are simply interested in the views from on high, I would wait until things calm down a little. Any sunny day in winter should be a good time to visit, and I expect one day I shall be going back to see if the sights at sunset can compare with the ones I witnessed on my first visit.
For prices, opening times and details of special events, you can visit www.spinnakertower.co.uk/
Also posted on Ciao under my username denella.
Summary: Better than shopping in Gunwharf!
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