Fresh from an exploration of a hidden London gem on Saturday we visited somewhere that has been hiding in plain sight pretty much all my adult life.
For four years I went to Portsmouth University (or Polytechnic as it was then) and twenty odd years later my son did the same. In the intervening years I was a regular visitor. Somehow it was only very recently that I bothered to look across Portsmouth Harbour from the M275 and noticed that there was a castle across the water. This transpired to be Portchester. How I could have missed it I am not really sure. Probably I was too busy concentrating on driving to notice.
This weekend while visiting some friends I got to take a look and it is equally impressive close up. Portchester itself is a beautiful little place spoilt, as so often, by the stream of cars on their way to, in this case, the castle.
Built in a defensive position overlooking the harbour to be ready for any sea attack it now offers a great view back to Portsmouth city with the Spinnaker Tower prominent. The castle buildings cover a relatively small area of the whole grounds which includes within its walls an active church. The central area is just grass today but you can imagine it teeming with people and buildings in the Norman times. You can also get great views by going up the tower.
If you are down Pompey way it is well worth a visit, especially if you are a English Heritage (or Heritage England as I think they are now called) member and can get in for free. Although the majority of the grounds are free, you pay to go into the museum and up the tower.