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Fort Nelson – What You Need to Know Before You Go 2021

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Fort Nelson front

Including what to do at Royal Armouries Fort Nelson

Royal Armouries Fort Nelson is a great place to visit for the whole family. Based in Fareham near Portsmouth in Hampshire, Fort Nelson overlooks the South Downs National park.

The Royal Armouries Fort Nelson is home to an astonishing collection of artillery. This may not sound very family-friendly but it really is. The armouries museum is completely interactive and outside there are tunnels and little hidden parts of the fort that we keep discovering every time we visit.

When was Fort Nelson built?

Fort Nelson looking at the buildings

Fort Nelson was built in the 1860s to protect the city of Portsmouth against a French invasion. Even though that didn’t happen in the end, Fort Nelson played a big part in both world wars. It was a barracks for troops waiting to be deployed during the First World War and an aircraft ammunition supply depot in the Second World War.

Fort Nelson address

Fort Nelson and the Royal Armouries museum can be found at Portsdown Hill Road, Fareham, PO17 6AN. It is 20 minutes from central Southampton and really goes well with a trip to Porchester Castle as they are only 5 minutes apart.

Fort Nelson prices

It is free to enter Fort Nelson but they do charge £3 to park. Make sure that you book in advance though. This is free to do through their website.

They are currently open Wednesday through to Sunday, 10am – 5pm.

Fort Nelson inside cafe

We normally visit Porchester Castle in the morning, have lunch there, then go to Fort Nelson in the afternoon.

What to do at Fort Nelson

We love Fort Nelson as there is so much to do for the whole family. It’s an extra bonus that it is free to enter and they offer so much for a family to do.

They don’t just have their amazing artillery museum, which is packed full of local history, they also offer free tours and things to do for the kids.

This historic site has everything you need for a fun-filled trip out with the family.

Parking is right by the entrance of the Fort. Most of it is on grass which can be a bit slippy in rainy weather.

At the front entrance, once you’ve had your ticket scanned, you’ll find a cafe and a small gift shop. This is where we buy glow sticks for the kids when they reach the tunnel. They cost £1.50 but are a great way to encourage the kids to go down the dark tunnels and are a fun little accessory that makes the day extra special.

Right by the cafe is also the toilets and a small picnic area with benches.

Your first stop is the armouries. This museum covers everything you need to know from what was used during each World War to how cannons work. They host loads of events from a Dragon Trail to mazes and explorer trails.

You can bring buggies into the museum and let the kids explore. If you’d prefer to chain your buggy up, they do have a buggy point right by the exit of the vistor center by the benches looking into the museum.

The museum staff are lovely and are happy to answer any and all questions they may have.

The museum itself is huge and is like a big corridor that offers loads of interactive events that will really get your kids hooked into local history.

They do have a lift to get down to the lower floors if needed.

Fort Nelson tunnels

Right outside the museum is one of Fort Nelson’s many tunnels. This takes you into the hillside so you can fully explore where all the armor was kept and what is was like to live in the fort.

It can get pretty dark down there but there is loads of overhead lights to stop it from being scary. Many of the tunnels are intertwined so don’t worry about getting lost. You’ll come back to the main path back upwards once you’ve explored the barracks underneath.

Make sure you make it to the very end of the tunnel where you will find a staircase upwards. This floor shows you how the cannons would have worked through the little windows.

Inside Fort Nelson tunnels

We recently discovered a second set of tunnels. If you go outside into the main courtyard, where the sandbag maze is (more on this later), you’ll find a second dark tunnel that leads downwards. This takes you to the Northside of the fort which has loads of small nooks and crannies for you and the kids to explore.

We ended up playing hide and seek their ages and it was a great place to have a snack out of the rain.

Fort Nelson courtyard

Make sure you visit the main courtyard at the top of the fort. This is where they house all the huge cannons. This is up a grassy hill though which does get muddy at times. You really can get up close and personal with everything that the museum has to offer out here. You also get amazing views of the South Downs and Portsmouth city.

The courtyard plays host to a range of different activities for the whole family. While we were there, they had this amazing sandbag maze that the kids loved running around. They also had a trail that kept the kids moving and spotting the various creatures.

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They had loads of benches up here for lunch or snack breaks. We normally head back to the cafe though to get ice cream and either sit on the benches outside the museum or go find a quiet spot outside on the grass by the car park.

Fort Nelson really is a great day out for the whole family. It’s free to visit and is perfect if you are looking for somewhere to visit in bad weather as most of it is inside.

Laura x

If you enjoyed this post and would like some more ideas on things to do in Hampshire then head over to the Things To Do section here on Things To Do In Hampshire With Kids where you’ll find over 50 day out ideas in Hampshire that the whole family will enjoy. You could also pop over and follow our Facebook page here or our Hampshire days out Pinterest boards for lots more ideas on what you can do as a family in Hampshire; Days Out For The Kids in Hampshire and Cheap and Free Days Out in Hampshire.

Fort Nelson is a great place to visit for the whole family. Run around their huge grounds and explore this free museum by Laura at Things to do in Hampshire with kids

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