The history of the British Navt at Portsmouth dates back 1,200 years to its earliest days under King Alfred the Great in the 860s. This wide natural inlet in the coastline is a flooded river valley protected by a deep narrow entrance on two sides of the dockyard, here and at Gosport, which makes an ideal harbour.
Roman and Saxon strongholds were constructed on the northern shore to defend against Viking attacks and to protect trade, but the harbour’s first permanent fort, Portchester Castle, was built after the Norman Conquest in 1066.
Portsea Island, at the entrance to Portsmouth harbour, was used as a mustering station for armies during the wars with France, and by the late 12th century a small town had grown on the south-western corner of the Island to accommodate workers and to service troops. In 1194 King Richard I granted this town, known as Portsmouth, a Royal Charter to construct a dockyard, and in 1212 King John protected the new dockyard with a great wall.
On the 45 minute Harbour Tour you will see many of the fortifications that were built to protect Portsmouth over the centuries, in particular the Round Tower at the harbour entrance and the Solent forts which formed the centre of a string of fortifications along the coast during the Napoleonic Wars.
PLANNING YOUR HARBOUR TOUR
Please note that Harbour Tours may not operate every day depending on the weather, and will be operating a reduced service upon reopening - please check the Harbour Tours office on the dockyard for the most up to date timetable. The waterbus will not be running in line with government advice on social distancing guidelines.
While we welcome one and all on-board the Harbour Tour, pushchairs and buggies must be placed in our buggy parks due to health and safety. These are located closed by to Boathouse 4 and inside Boathouse 5. If you're unsure about locating these, please speak to a member of the team before queuing.
Harbour tours are included in Ultimate Explorer tickets only, however tickets can be purchased through the Harbour Tours Office on the Dockyard on the day.
Portsmouth Historic Dockyard is temporarily not accepting walk up ticket purchases, so make sure you buy your ticket and book your time slot in advance!