Portsmouth, England

Photo: AmaZing Venues
Photo: AmaZing Venues

You’ve been quite a busy elf the last few weeks. The mailman has been delivering packages to your door nearly every day. Boxes are quickly covered with bright, sparkly wrapping paper. While the pile of gifts no longer fits under the Christmas tree; it spilled onto the carpet over the weekend. But there’s always one difficult person. This year is no different. Instead of a reusing a gift idea though, you might want to consider a unique experience.

It’s a pretty safe bet that the last person on your list has never stayed in a fort. Especially a fort surrounded by water. The Palmerston Forts were built on the land, the islands, and the sea around Portsmouth, on the south coast of England, in the mid-18th century to protect the country from a French invasion. Four of those forts sit in the Solent, the strait that separates the mainland from the Isle of Wight. And one of them was recently transformed into a hotel.

No Man’s Fort is a round fortress with a red-and-white lighthouse atop it. A sun deck and hammocks, hot tubs and a sauna dot the rooftop. Four floors have been turned into spacious, nautical-themed bedrooms. There’s an indoor pool, a cabaret bar, and plenty of activities to keep you occupied. Plus the views of the Solent are breathtaking.

Photo: AmaZing Venues
Photo: AmaZing Venues

When you arrive in Portsmouth, find the Solent Forts Port Office to check in for your trip. Browse the adjacent Gunwharf Quays’ shops while you wait for your boat to the fort. Pass huge naval ships crossing the Solent on the ride across the water. Accept a glass of Prosecco as you’re welcomed onto the fort. Learn about British military history as you tour the citadel. Then check out your chic bedroom, which has a comfortable seating area, a slate-lined bathroom, and endless sea views.

Spend the afternoon playing snooker, flying a kite, and running around the LaZer Battle Arena. Ride a powerboat to see the other forts in the Solent. Tour the Caribbean through a rum tasting, which includes bottles from Jamaica, Grenada, and Barbados. Eat a three-course dinner of Lymington crab, butter-poached rabbit, and a raspberry-and-mascarpone torte for dinner in the Mess Dining Hall. Follow your meal with tea in the Ward Room. Eventually, make your way back to the rooftop to toast marshmallows by a crackling fire pit and the nearly full moon. You’ll still be talking about this amazing fort when you start to shop for Christmas presents next year.

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