ABOVE Bar on a winter’s afternoon. A German sings Christmas karaoke songs, there’s a Poundland to the left and Argos to the right. It’s hard to imagine how it would have looked 400 years ago, when the Mayflower set off on its historic journey to the New World.

But as you walk through the Bargate arches with one of Southampton’s knowledgeable tour guides you’re instantly transported to another world.

Godfrey Collyer has shown hundreds of visitors around Southampton. He hands me a map of the city as it would have been in 1616 and as we walk across what would have been a wooden footbridge into the walled city he brings it alive with descriptions of fletchers, blacksmiths and silk weavers all vying for trade along what would have been a bustling mediaeval street.

The stench of urine from the tannery would have soaked the air, the notorious George Tavern (where Poundland is now) had beds - to be shared with other guests. Reeds surrounded the Arundel tower (next to the new Westquay) and were harvested to make roofs.

It’s an insight into life on the cusp of a new era - and it’s right on your doorstep.

Spending the equivalent of £100,000 in today’s money the group of religious separatists fleeing persecution from King James would have bought everything they needed for their journey across the Atlantic from the town’s traders.

Wander to Argos and that’s where cooper John Alden was recruited for his barrel-making skills, with the aim of transporting salted cod from Virginia back to England to sell.

On to Holyrood - or the Sailors’ Church - and you can feel history seep through the stones. The crew of the Mayflower knew they were about to embark on a dangerous journey - they would have prayed here before setting off.

And just around the corner stands Southampton’s oldest building, St Michael’s Church. Settlers and servants going with the separatists would have worshipped here.

The separatists were routinely punished for treason, and having initially moved to Amsterdam were making their last stop in Southampton before venturing to America, where they would be free to worship without bishops or priests - and free to establish their new colony.

They would have wandered this same route, from the Bargate through the walled city, past the slums and ale houses, underneath the Westgate and on to the ship that would carry them across the perilous seas, but to freedom.

A Mayflower tour from SEE Southampton costs £6 or £60 for groups - but if you take a copy of the Echo with this article in with you on December 16 and 17 it will only cost £5. The Southampton and the Mayflower walk will start at 10.30 by the lions at the Bargate on December 16 and 17. No need to book just turn up.