Ahoy me boys! OutUK's manly mariner Adrian Gillan drifts into port for a two-day naval binge along the coast of the Solent doubling his by visiting both Southampton and the city just 30 miles down the motorway Portsmouth.

Is it no holds barred, or will you find yourself all at sea?

Our naval journey starts to the West in Southampton, where two ships once set sail from this fair city with an aspiration to explore the Americas. One was The Mayflower which helped colonise America with Puritanical whites; and the other, a few hundred years later, the Titanic which sank en route to the same place, so giving us the world's largest metaphor and three hours of Di Caprio eyeing up Winslett.

So what is Southampton like for a gay night out? Well you can start the evening off by drifting down Bernard Street, along the curve that is Oxford Street, passing The Grapes pub where many of the crew of the Titanic downed their last pints, to the London Hotel pub (not a hotel) on the corner. It's billed as "Southampton's friendliest gay venue" and we'd certainly vouch for that - the staff bend over backwards to welcome all wayfarers and lost souls, to set you on your way with a smile - nightly evening cabaret and karaoke.

Yet further north, there's the purple-coated gay multiplex that is The Edge, Loft & Box. The Edge is a large bar-cum-club with polls to dance around - all you'd expect plus more. The Loft upstairs offers a range of snacks and light pub grub. The Box next door is open at weekends, pumping out hard dance music.

The Pink Broadway sauna near Debenhams can work off any excess steam remaining. Or there's plenty of outdoor cruising action on Southampton Common - especially in the woods near the County Cricket Ground on the south side, with easy parking and even easier lads who seemingly get younger as the night goes on. Complaints from the public over careless disposal of condoms have reputedly prompted limited police action, so the north side of the common may be more expedient - up at the top of Hill Lane where the toilet is now boarded up but there is a huge amount of activity in the woods over quite a large area.

How's Your Head? is a gay nightclub in Southampton on Onslow Road. It's a great place to have a good night out and they even have 'a very British drag bingo' on some nights. Isobar is a modern bar open 7 nights a week, situated at the top of St Marys Street. With legendary partys, spectacular theme nights, cheap drink promotions the bar is close to other gay venues in Southampton.

The Stage Door is Southampton's only Fringe Theatre, Live Music Venue & Bar in the heart of the Cultural Quarter, serving up some of the best Live Music, Cabaret, Burlesque, Comedy, Plays, Musicals, Children's Theatre, Cocktails, Wine & Beer and much more. They host a number of drag shows and music. In Vernon Walk you'll find the Orange Rooms Southampton which is a bar with kitsch, 70s-inspired leather sofas, pouffes and booths, for cocktails and weekly DJ nights. It's certainly camp if not entirely gay.

Just a half hour's journey west along the coast from Southampton you'll find Portsmouth, the city that gave Nelson his Victory and has given sailors a warm heartfelt passage ever since. We're talking about one of the most famous naval cities in the UK or Pompey as it's known to the locals. Will it be no holds barred, or a case of being all at sea?
Eastern Docks in Southampton.
Well if you're warming up for your big club night out, totter along to the trendy Hampshire Boulevard where all the bright young things hang out ship-shape along it's lengthy bar or in the spacious summer decks outside to the aft.

And if the old horn pipe's still strangely aloft, there's a range of options for the old shivered timbers. For a hot steamy time try Tropics Sauna, though its steamy cabins are perversely only open afternoons and evenings, not nights or Sundays - Monday afternoon is reportedly busiest for old sea hands. If it's late night fayre you're after, outdoor cruising's rife back down at South Parade around Henry VIII's little old castle by the sea, though beware - a giant straight club backs onto the area and groups of drunken het hunks have been known to cause trouble.

Far safer is the gay nudist beach by day, right beneath the MoD's rotating radar, a half hour ramble along the coast - follow the coastal road eastward ho until it bends left, then take the single track on the first right, following it between the caravan site and the MoD HQ. You'll soon reach a beach with a sign plainly foretelling of nudity. Waft yet further east along the beach and cast your towel - the MoD radar won't be the only thing picking up naked men!


How's Your Head? (27 Onslow Rd, Southampton; T: 07511 041536; facebook)
Isobar (100c St Mary Street, Southampton; T: 023 8023 6343)
London Hotel (2 Terminus Terrace, Southampton; T: 023 8071 0652; Website)
Orange Rooms Southampton (1-2 Vernon Walk, Southampton; T: 023 8023 2333; Website)
Pink Broadway (79-80 East Street, Southampton; T: 023 8023 8804; Website)
The Edge, Loft & Box (Compton Walk, Southampton; T: 023 8036 6163; Website)
The Hampshire Boulevard (1 Hampshire Terrace, Portsmouth; T: 023 9229 7509; Website)
The Stage Door (78 West Marlands Road, Southampton; T: 023 8063 0300; Website)
Tropics Sauna (2 Market Way, Portsmouth; T: 023 9229 6100; Website)

Portsmouth and Southampton are approximately 1 hours away from London Waterloo by South West Trains. For information and booking www.southwesternrailway.com.

Revised September 2021.


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