Southampton Port Hotels

The port city of Southampton is protected from English Channel storms by the Isle of Wight. Much battered over the centuries—and particularly during World War II—it presents a patchy mosaic, but the historic parts near the waterfront are well worth seeking out.

Spend some time walking the city walls and seeing the archaeology and maritime museums, the Mayflower memorial (it, as well as the Titanic, sailed from Southampton; the Mayflower returned to Plymouth for repairs and began its trans-Atlantic crossing from there), the old Norman arches (called the Bargate) and the Medieval Merchant’s House. One of our favorite sights in town is the well-preserved Tudor House.

Other highlights of the area include nearby Winchester (a Roman and medieval town with an outstanding cathedral) and the New Forest. The forest is a great spot for cycling or walking, and within its borders is Beaulieu, a grand estate with an ancient abbey and a fantastic car museum.

Southampton is located 70 mi/115 km southwest of London.

THe Pig in the wall
Dating from 1810, the Pig in the Wall is the only building actually set in the medieval town walls that once encircled Southampton. A three-story white Georgian building, it was a pub for many years, but in 2012 it reopened as a hotel after a complete renovation.

It stands next to the historic Westgate, where pilgrims set sail in the Speedwell and Mayflower in 1620. Southampton is in the center of England’s south coast, 70 miles from London. The hotel is about 20 minutes from Southampton Airport.

While you are likely to encounter business travelers during the week, the hotel fills with leisure guests, often London-based, on the weekend.

The entrance leads straight into the parlor, which is the only public space. The look is shabby-chic and is deliberately a little cluttered. There’s no reception desk; everything takes place on what was the old bar, including the continental breakfast buffet (US$15).

There’s a homey atmosphere, with an aroma of fresh baked goods filling the air throughout the day. Common areas are comfortable, outfitted with leather and tapestry chairs that welcome lingering. A long pine table and cozy tables for two dot the space. In winter, the wood-burning fireplace makes it even cozier.

The Pig in the Wall is tight on space, so it offers a limited but excellent menu Exteriorof freshly prepared snacks and light meals such as quiche, salad and flatbreads. Guests can also choose to dine at the Pig’s sister properties—Lime Wood Hotel near Lyndhurst, or The Pig at Brockenhurst. Transfers are available in the company Land Rover. There’s no charge for the 20-minute journey.

There are no meeting rooms; the hotel has its own gated parking lot (US$15). No pets are allowed apart from guide dogs.

There are no elevators, and the stairs and hallways are painted a dark olive green. This is a quirky, higgledy-piggledy place with an incomprehensible layout, but the room designs work well with odd room shapes and all their respective nooks and crannies. The wooden floors, made from Italian railway sleepers, run throughout the hotel. A huge glass window on one of the landings overlooks the parking lot and the city walls.

There are 12 rooms—one Snug, eight Comfy and three Spacious. All rooms have a cupboard with snacks, drinks and Nespresso machine. Ground-floor rooms work for those with limited mobility, but they are not suitable for wheelchairs. There are retro radios and alarm clocks in all rooms, as well as plasma TVs and DVD players with a selection of DVDs for guests to use. Beds are king or super-king, except for the Snug room, which has a double.

The Snug room is in the attic, so the stairs leading up are steep. Clever use is made of the space, and the room has plenty of Roomcharacter, with old wooden timbers and the dual aspect windows with perhaps the hotel’s best views—overlooking the medieval Merchant’s House on one side and the walls on the other. The Comfy rooms are larger, with walk-in rainfall showers, while the Spacious rooms have four-poster beds, walk-in rainfall showers and stand-alone roll-top baths. Children are welcome; some of the rooms can accommodate cots and additional beds.

Floor tiles in all the bathrs are a mismatch of patterns and colors laid artistically—or perhaps randomly—to create a patchwork effect. Soaps are locally made with goat’s milk, and the toiletries are Nobile Isle. All rooms have robes, and slippers are available on request.

There is no room service, but food is available in the restaurant until 10 pm. The bar is open until 10:30 for nonguests but stays open all night for guests.Despite being in the city center, the location is quiet, and the Pig’s position in the town walls means it’s ideally placed to explore the Old Town and Tudor House Museum. It’s also close by the Mayflower Memorial and the Isle of Wight Ferries. The Mayflower Theatre and SeaCity Museum are a short walk away.

The Pig in the Wall is a mere piglet compared to the Pig Hotel in Brockenhurst. The standards are about equal, but if you are looking for more space and a foodie experience, The Pig at Brockenhurst has an excellent reputation for its food.

the grand harbour hotel

Marble-clad with a huge sloping glass facade, this hotel was designed to look like a ship at sail.

It’s situated near the medieval Town Walls and overlooks Southampton Water, located just a few steps away from the Westgate, where the Mayflower and Speedwell set off on their voyages to the New World in 1620. Southampton is about 70 miles from London on the south coast and is around 90 minutes by car and 80 minutes by train. The hotel is about 20 minutes from Southampton Airport. The hotel’s proximity to four cruise terminals means that it is popular for passengers about to sail away with the tide. Excellent pre- and post-cruise packages are available.

Originally a De Vere property, the Grand Harbour Hotel was built in 1994. Now privately owned, a US$6-million refurbishment was carried out in 2014.Entry is through revolving glass doors. Warmly clad in wood, the main lobby is spacious with a circular central seating area.

Reception opens into a sun-drenched atrium with glass elevators and the Hamtun Bar and Bistro where lunch is served. It’s also a wonderful spot for afternoon tea, all-day coffee, or evening cocktails. The bar closes at 11 pm. The casual Boardwalk restaurant is the main dining spot for guests, serving breakfast (included in rates) and dinner from an a la carte menu. It overlooks the Town Walls, which are especially atmospheric when lit at night.

ExteriorThe hotel spa is small but offers a wide range of treatments as well as a steam room and sauna. Even more popular are the modern gym and indoor pool; a whirlpool has recently been added.

Free wireless high-speed internet access is available throughout the hotel and works surprisingly fast for a large property. It has excellent, purpose-built conference facilities comprising 10 meeting rooms and plenty of audiovisual equipment. The largest is the Mayflower Suite, which has its own entrance and can accommodate up to 500 delegates. Car rental can be arranged, as can transfers to the cruise terminals, although City Terminal is just a 15-minute walk. There is a large parking area that charges US$15 per night.

Elevators take guests up to the air-conditioned accommodations, which overlook either the water or the city (none look to the interior atrium). Hallways were recarpeted and decorated as part of the refurbishment. Classic rooms are the entry-level standard, with double beds or twin singles. They are sizeable and comfortable, with modern furnishings typical of a tourist hotel. All rooms come with flat-screen TVs with selected digital channels, phones, large desks with free Wi-Fi, an international socket panel, and tea/coffeemakers.

Baths are well-lighted and have Pecksniffs Mood Therapy toiletries and combination tubs. Executive rooms add separate shower stalls, robes and slippers.
Deluxe rooms have king-size beds and add space, but keep the same style of amenities. Executive and Junior Suites have more spacious baths. They also have balconies, which make them the most popular options. A few Deluxe rooms sport balconies, but they must be requested in advance. The best view is from the Presidential (Carver) Suite on the fifth floor, which has a large terrace overlooking the waterfront.

There are nine pairs of connecting rooms. Room service is always an option. There are eight fully wheelchair-accessible rooms. Guide dogs are the only pets allowed. A same-day dry-cleaning and laundry service is available. Reception is especially busy on cruise days when up to four ships can be in port, but the staff remains helpful and efficient. The hotel is well-placed to explore the Old Town and to walk the Walls, and it’s also very close to the Isle of Wight. Ferries can transport guests to Cowes in as little as 20 minutes.

This is a decent option by the sea that attracts significant business for its size and recreational facilities rather than any high standard of elegance. If you are looking for more old-world charm then the Mercure Southampton Centre Dolphin might have more appeal.