The coastline of the Solent is dotted with the remains of our defence heritage and the industries that this shoreline once supported. It provided a safe anchorage for thousands of years and consequently it displays a rich heritage of commerce and defence. It is the most important site in the country for its military and naval historic features. There are over forty castles, museums, great ships and stately homes which have played a major role in shaping the history of the country. Of particular importance are the Henry VIII castles along the coast, and the ring of Palmerston Sea Forts around Portsmouth and Gosport.
The Solent has many historic towns and villages such as Lymington, Hamble, Warsash, Emsworth, and Buckler's Hard. The Solent and the Hamble River were popular centres for boat building in the last century, as supplies of wood were plentiful. Bucklers Hard in the New Forest has a re-created village, to show life in past times. On the coast, especially west of Lymington, are significant remains of old salterns (salt workings).
On the Isle of Wight there is evidence of settlements dating as far back as 1900 BC. Cowes has a long maritime heritage and is known as the most important site in the World for yachting. Yarmouth is one of the Island's oldest towns and was the seat of the Governor to the island. There is still a castle there which was one of four 'blockhouses' that Henry VIII built as a defence against the French.
Due to its long maritime heritage, for both defence and commerce, the Solent has many important collections of castles, historic ships, museums, stately homes and fortifications. Hampshire's Military attractions are popular with visitors. There are numerous heritage attractions on the Isle of Wight.
Portsmouth's Historic Dockyard is one of the most popular historical military attractions and charts Britain's naval history. It hosts a series of magnificent historic ships including HMS Victory, HMS Warrior and the Mary Rose as well as the fascinating Mary Rose Museum, Royal Naval Museum and Action Stations, an interactive attraction on the modern-day Navy.
The Solent is of national importance for maritime archaeology. The study of its drowned coastline provides valuable information about historic changes to the coastline and our past maritime heritage. There are 500 known shipwreck sites. A good place to learn about this rich legacy of maritime heritage is at the Sunken History Exhibition, which is housed in the Archaeology Discovery Centre at Fort Victoria on the Isle of Wight. The exhibition brings to life ships claimed by the treacherous coast of the Island, the work of maritime archaeologists and the Lost Land of the Solent.
Further information on maritime archaeology is available from the Marine Archaeology Trust.
Other attractions around the Solent which provide a fascinating look at its history, culture include: