My parents were coming to see me for a few days and I wanted something special to do to keep them entertained, and to show off my beloved Southsea home. Only one thing for it, a trip up the famous Spinnaker Tower.
This 110-metre structure is the symbol of Portsmouth and seeing as it’s right on the coastline of England, in Gunwharf Quay, you can see it for miles up and down the beach. Once I realised you could have an afternoon tea up there – High Tea – I booked us in immediately.
I hadn’t told my parents before they arrived. Mum, who’s an acrophobic and spent our visit to the London Eye 20 years ago with white knuckles holding onto the bench in the middle in fear, was telling me about the photo of the Spinnaker that had gone viral two days before in the lightning storm we’d had.
“Well, surprise, surprise, we’re going up there tomorrow!” – me
She coped ever so well with the news, and the nerves. So proud.
Going up the Spinnaker Tower
So we parked the car at the Still and West pub round the corner (super expensive at Gunwharf Quays) and sat and had a coffee outside to admire the tower in all its glory. It was a beautiful, fresh day for it, with just a few clouds in the sky to add to the effect.
Within the price of the High Tea you get to go and check out the viewing room as well, so we walked round to the tower an hour before our Tea time and with a quick bag check, we were in.
The Spinnaker experience starts with a 5-minute film to reveal more about Portsmouth’s place in history, and how the Spinnaker came about. Portsmouth is known for being a marine city, of course, but it’s also been home to some super important people from the country’s history. Big names like Arthur Conan Doyle, Rudyard Kipling and Charles Dickens have all called Portsmouth home at some point, as you’ll find out.
“Spinnaker: a large three-cornered sail, typically bulging when full, set forward of the mainsail of a racing yacht when running before the wind.”
The views from the Spinnaker
The viewing room is 100 metres up, or 560 steps. There’s a lift, don’t worry. You can’t really count the height in floors though as the design means there’s only four.
On the first floor you’ll find the viewing room, complete with a glass panelled floor. It totally plays with your mind to walk across it. Everything is telling you not to, and that you need to hold on – there’s even a bar running down the side for you to do just that – but really it’s just the same strength as the rest of the floor.
The views in here were amazing, both looking down into the structure of the tower, and in looking out from the three walls of window panels. You could see all the way to the Isle of Wight one way, and Southampton the other.
High Tea up the Spinnaker Tower
So much food. Loved it. Sandwiches with egg, with salmon, there was a tuna one and a ham too. The second layer had all kinds of different little bite size cakes to try, before moving onto the scones, jam and clotted cream at the top. And then, of course, a Prosecco to top the afternoon tea off nicely.
The café is 105 metres high, definitely the highest High Tea I’ve ever had, and with our table right by the window we had our lunch with one of the best views in England (IMO).
Shout out to Tom who served us too. What a guy. We were asking all about how he got his job and how it all worked, and as I don’t want to spoiler his life story here, I’d definitely recommend you have a little chat with him when you’re up there. He loves his job and was responsible for making the Afternoon Tea an experience for us, and not just a lunch.
Spinnaker Sky Garden
After we’d eaten we went up the Sky Garden where some of the side is exposed to whatever the weather outside is doing. Flowers and plants decorate the walls and the ground. There are also bean bags and deck chairs so that you can sit and admire the views, although it was a bit chilly when we were there so we kind of just had a little walk round and then went back down the six flights to the warmth and brightness of the cafe. Dad loved it ^.