The Spinnaker tower in Portsmouth gives a panoramic view of the landscape below. That bland statement does no justice at all to the views you get from the viewing area, the café or the crow’s nest situated some 110 metres above the ground. Wherever you look there are things to see and, unlike the views from the London Eye, the CN Tower in Toronto or the Empire State Building in New York, there is just a better perspective. Where else could you see ferries cutting across the wakes of other sea going vessels as they ply the Isle of Wight, the Gosport or the French routes? Where else would see a range of naval warships ranging from modern destroyers and aircraft carriers to Nelson’s HMS Victory and the ironclad HMS Warrior from Victorian days? Adjust your eyes and gaze at hundreds of sailing vessels, a lightship, motor boats and catamarans. But from here you can see Portchester Castle where Romans would have stood guard, the spot where Henry VIII would have seen the sinking of the Mary Rose and where some allied troops would have left for the D-Day landings in WWII.Or walk over the three inch thick glass floor and look down on the passers-by below. Or, as one child did, lie down for a better look!
The Spinnaker opened some seven years ago. A fixture for Portsmouth visitors for some years now, about 250,000 people come each year to gaze at the views and take a leisurely cup of tea in the café up top or the one at the bottom in the shopping and eating area as they watch the world go by. Is this the ultimate watching venue? You’re low enough to see everything in detail yet high enough to see towns, inlets, ships and buildings up to 23 miles away.
As a child I was taken to see the first hovercraft cross from Southsea to the Isle of Wight. I remember the winter of ’63 when the sea froze at the edges in Southsea. And now fifty years later I have seen again the hovercraft completing its journey from Ryde. Still as unusual a sight as it was back then there is nothing else like it anywhere. Yet I can see all this from the Spinnaker.
It takes just over 20 seconds – that’s all – to travel the first 100 metres to arrive at the viewing area. Two further flights of 30 stairs each take you to café and the crow’s nest. And your entry charge (adults £8.55 and children £6.75) allows you to come in and out all day so it’s possible to come back after dark -but only in winter – and see Portsmouth, Gosport and the Isle of Wight at night. If you can’t hang on, then use the new interactive touch screens in the viewing area and you can see what the view is like at night. But the touch screens don’t just provide images at other times of the day. They can tell you about what you can see from each vantage point.
So popular has the Spinnaker become that now you can hold your wedding there or you can hire it for an event. Given that the Spinnaker is surrounded on three sides by the Gunwharf Quays outlet stores, you can buy the wedding ensembles, the honeymoon clothes and luggage all in the Quay, get married in the Spinnaker, have the reception at one of 33 eateries , get the wedding guests to buy wedding presents from the gift shops but there it stops. There’s no travel agency to book the honeymoon Or a shop, come to think of it, to hire a wedding dress!