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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 Portsmouth.

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

Just a half hour's journey west along the coast from Portsmouth, two ships once set sail from the fair city of Southampton. One was called The Mayflower and helped colonise America with Puritanical whites - no change there; the other, a few hundred years later, was the Titanic which unfortunately sank en route to the same place, so giving us the world's largest metaphor and three hours of Di Caprio eyeing up Winslett.

Well the Hampshire Ram's gone straight and Voltz has simply shut, so the obviously place to find first harbour is Freedom Café on the High Street, the only gay coffee shop-cum-bar in town, run by a co-op of radical vegetarian lesbians doubtless, though with a fulsome and extremely inexpensive menu. Then drift 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.

All the style happens uptown in a cluster. Bar Fusion on St Mary Street by the railway line has a swish interior and - gripe some locals - "tries to be a London bar" with all it's fancy curves and beige woods. 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.

Over the way, unmistakably daubed in gun-metal grey against which the silvery club logo shines, is one of the longest established gay nightclubs in the country. Magnum still packs 'em in with pure pop and cheese in the main room and chart and dance in the other spaces. A shuttle bus is laid on from the London Hotel when that fine venue shuts due south. But arrive early to ensure you get in or it's back over the road to The Edge for you.

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.

THE LITTLE BLACK BOOK
Freedom Café (132 The High Street; T: 023 8063 8999)
London Hotel (2 Terminus Terrace; T: 023 8071 0652)
Bar Fusion (100c St Mary Street; T: 023 8036 6163)
The Edge, Loft & Box (Compton Walk; T: 023 8036 6163) Website
Magnum Club (113 St Mary's Road; T: 023 8033 5049) Website
Pink Broadway (79-80 East Street; T: 023 8023 8804)
Portsmouth and Southampton are approximately 1˝ hours away from London Waterloo by South West Trains. For information and booking www.swtrains.co.uk.

Revised January 2015.

 

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