The Solent Way - Milford to Langstone Harbour
An invitation to explore Hampshire's Coast
Milford to Lymington
The Solent Way begins at the holiday town of Milford-on-Sea where there are a variety of shops suitable for buying picnic food and drinks, and a small number of hotels and inns with accommodation. The village can be reached by public transport from New Milton railway station or from Lymington. Signposts point one down to the seafront where there are ample car parks by the sea wall. There is a hard two miles walk down to Hurst Castle at the shingle beach's end. The ancient monument is open throughout the year and contains a pleasant cafe. A ferry service to the Castle only runs from Easter through the summer months. This sets off from Keyhaven, a waterside hamlet with a popular pub, and a large public car park.
From Keyhaven to Lymington the Solent Way follows the sea wall around the marshes for 4 miles. These were once an important industrial area used for the production of sea salt, but are now a nature reserve. As the crow flies the distance is only 2½ miles, and paths and lanes just inland offer short cuts on the way to the town.
Once past the marinas and the large open air swimming baths the route passes the Royal Lymington Sailing Club, and another big car park. Following the road the route passes the Town Quay where the fishing boats can be seen moored opposite. An attractive car free lane leads up to the High Street. Here also there is a good choice of places to stock up with snacks, to have pub meals or to look for accommodation. With bus and rail stations Lymington is a good way to explore the west end of the Solent Way.
Lymington to Hythe
The next section of the Solent Way, from Lymington to Bucklers Hard is another 7 miles. Once across the causeway the path takes one by the Obelisk monument of Mount Pleasant and then through the fields and along country roads past Sowley Pond. Youth Hostelers can stay in the hostel at East End nearby. From here there are country lanes on to Bucklers Hard. Allow plenty of time for visiting the fascinating Maritime Museum, and perhaps even for a short riverbus cruise on the Beaulieu river. There is a fine inn and hotel here, as well as a summer tea room. Car parks are provided (but are not free).
A riverside walk through woods and fields leads up to Beaulieu (2½ miles). Here also there is a large hotel, village stores and a licensed cafe in the old bakery. There is a village car park as well as street parking. Allowing plenty of time one can visit the National Motor Museum, (a detour of two miles, and several hours are needed to see the old cars and many shows, the Abbey ruins, exhibitions and house). The village church is open (in the morning only). Buses stop at the Museum and the village en route between Hythe and Lymington.
The route now follows the road up through the woods to Hill Top and then across the very flat open heath to Dibden Purlieu. From here walkers could walk directly into Hythe along the busy road, but the Solent Way continues to the south east beneath the pylons to Hardley to turn north along a country footpath which brings one to an appropriately named pub "The Travellers Rest". Soon the Solent Way emerges by the waterside (where there is a picnic area) and then enters Hythe, once a base for the Flying boats which took passengers all over the British Empire. From Beaulieu to Hythe on this route is 6 miles.
Hythe has more pubs of course and bakeries selling hot snacks and soup. One word of warning: the ferry service over to Southampton does not run on Sundays.
Southampton to Hamble
In Southampton the keen walker will find another good base for exploring the Solent Way with the aid of public transport, and a wide variety of places to stay or drink. There are fine museums and an excellent art gallery. Advice and information is available from a centre in the Above Bar shopping precinct, and there are frequent guided tours. Close to the Channel Ferry Dockgates, and the Itchen Bridge where there is a museum commemorating the designer R J Mitchell who designed the Spitfire and the famous Schneider Trophy-winning float planes.
From the Hythe Ferry landing to Weston Point is a pavement walk of 2 miles. Passing the very large South-Western House, formerly a grand railway hotel for the ocean liner passengers the Solent Way leads down Canute Road, and then over the modern Itchen Bridge where one has a good view over the docks.
On the Woolston side there is a shopping street Victoria Road which continues down to Weston Point with many sailing craft kept on the shore. A huge naval stores building, and tower blocks here make up a backdrop to a coastal open space opposite the docks and Hythe (there are large car parks here and the usual beach facilities). The beach then has a wood close behind for the next short stretch to Netley, a Victorian village between the ruins of a Cistercian Abbey and the large and very attractive waterside Royal Victoria Country Park. Netley has a fine pub for a lunch stop and there is a licensed cafe in the park, as well as a bakery cafe in the village (Note that at high tide the beach at Netley is impassable).
The Country Park has a path (from the back of the Sailing Club) which passes a large aviation factory and then continues along the waters edge beneath oil storage tanks to come out on a gorse covered common over-looking the mouth of the Hamble river. A short road walk brings one into the village, where there are a couple of pubs and a large car park. Like Bucklers Hard there are river trips in summer. From Weston shore to Hamble is 5 miles
Warsash to Gosport
The Hamble ferry service is an all year round one and although using small boats can carry cycles. Warsash village has accommodation for visitors, but the shopping centre is somewhat inland. One pub overlooks the east bank of the river, the last stopping point for several miles for there is an unspoilt coastal path from here to Hillhead (4½ miles) pleasant walk, in part beside farmland along low cliffs, giving good views across to Calshot and Cowes.
At Hillhead, there is a roadside car park, and a fine nature reserve, Titchfield Haven <http://www.hants.gov.uk/countryside/titchfield> along the banks of the river Meon. Beyond Hillhead there is a built up area and the Solent Way follows the beach. Once past the large Royal Naval air base HMS Daedalus, there is the sea front of Lee-on-Solent with shopping, some holiday accommodation and public transport links with both Southampton and Gosport.
From Lee-on-Solent to Gosport is a further 6 miles mostly by the water and away from road. Browndown Point, a former rifle range, is a tiring place to walk, over extensive shingle banks, while beyond, Stokes Bay is a more grassy open space south of Gosport with ample car parking space. At Gilkicker Point, where Southsea and Portsmouth come into view the Solent Way turns north to join the road to Haslar Bridge. The Submarine Museum close by should not be missed for it offers a unique chance to go aboard a submarine. From the bridge it is only a short walk (past the town's old walls) to the ferry pier. Gosport's civic museum is well worthwhile discovering while a couple of miles from the town centre is a Victorian fortress. Fort Brockhurst which has recently been restored and contains an exhibition on the history of the defences of Portsmouth. From Gosport Hard, the Portsmouth ferry crosses the busy harbour mouth, but for a longer tour walkers may be tempted to try one of the harbour trips which the same company run.
Portsmouth to Emsworth
Portsea outside the Dockyard where the ferry lands is only some 16 miles away from the eastern end of the Solent Way but it is very much recommended that plenty of time is allowed to enjoy the museums and the sights of Portsmouth and Southsea. Portsmouth is well served with public transport and both the railway and buses can be used for circular walks between there and Emsworth, and by using the Gosport ferry and public transport Portsmouth can be used as a base for the middle section of the Solent Way equally as well as Southampton.
There is a multi-storey car park near the Naval Dockyard gate by the Hard and a large cafe in the Royal Naval Museum just by the route to the Victory and the Mary Rose.
The Solent Way then follows several streets - Ordnance Row, St George's Street and Gunwharf Road to French Street and Oyster Street. These bring one past the Old Town Quay to the Cathedral in Portsmouth's original High Street. At the southern end of this one comes to the seawalls and towers which have protected the city for five centuries. Portsmouth Point is a small but worthwhile detour, with pubs for lunching by the narrow harbour mouth.
The paths along the seawalls and esplanades bring one out onto Southsea Common where there is a Tourist Information Centre for accommodation, advice and local literature. Car parking is available on local roads around the Common. In summer there are fish and chip shops, beach cafes and ice cream sales points.
Southsea Castle has its own park, and displays on the Portsmouth defences, archaeology and maritime history. Next door to Southsea Castle is the D-Day Museum - opened as part of the 40th Anniversary of the Normandy landings.
Continuing along the seafront for four miles from Old Portsmouth the route passes the Royal Marines Museum (with its own car park) and the Eastney Pumping Station in Henderson Road after turning north to join the Langstone Harbour seawall path. This passes the lock entrance to a former Portsmouth Canal, and also the old airport field at the north end of the Island, now an industrial and housing estate. A small road gives access to Farlington Marshes from the A27/A2030 roundabout junction.
Along the seawall around the important nature reserve there is a coastal path which continues right around Langstone Harbour to Langstone itself. This old waterside village (10 miles walk from Eastney) has two pubs and a limited amount of car parking. Havant railway station is about one mile away but there are bus services from Portsmouth.
For the last few miles the Solent Way crosses the fields facing the north end of Hayling Island. The path passes Warblington Church and the ruins of Warblington Castle. Emsworth itself is an attractive small old port once celebrated for its oyster fleet.
The town now has good car parks and a small but busy centre with a wide range of shops. There are good train and bus links to Chichester an Portsmouth, and back to Southampton (via Portsmouth).