The Solent has a long and rich maritime history. It contains the most important concentration of coastal defence heritage features in the UK, important sites associated with the history of commercial activity and coastal settlement, and a large number of shipwreck sites below high water mark. Henry VII built the world’s first dry dock in Portsmouth after choosing Portsmouth as his Royal Dockyard.
There are a host of attractions to visit around the Solent. Portsmouth is the traditional home of the Royal Navy and has a great naval legacy going back to Roman times. HMS Victory and the Mary Rose are found at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard and many other great military attractions are located in the surrounding area. The Submarine Service is strongly associated with Gosport and it’s here that you can find the Royal Navy Submarine Museum. The Defence of the Realm website gives information on these visitor attractions. Nelson's Trail showcases four of Hampshire's visitor attractions that have links to Admiral Lord Nelson. Hurst Castle was the perfect location to defend the western approach to the Solent. The castle was built by Henry VIII as one of a chain of coastal fortresses and was completed in 1544.
On the Isle of Wight, visitors can go to The Needles Old Battery, a spectacularly sited cliff top fort which was built in the 1860s and which has a fascinating military history. Yarmouth Castle, completed in 1547, was the last addition to Henry VIII's coastal defences and has magnificent views across the Solent.
The four Solent sea forts were built for the protection of Portsmouth and it's harbour from sea attack and bombardment. They were never used in anger and have become known locally as "Palmerston's Follies" after the Prime Minister of the time. Horse-Sands, No Mans Land and St Helen's were constructed between 1865-80. Spitbank was started two years later in 1867. Another fort, on Ryde Sand, was abandoned after construction had started due to unstable foundations.