PIER-ING into the past! That was the lucky group who joined a special heritage day organised by Kuti’s Royal Thai Pier in Southampton to mark the launch of British Tourism Week.

The weekend saw a national celebration of the country’s piers and their history.

Little remains of Southampton’s pier, opened in 1833 by Queen Victoria’s mother, the Duchess of Kent, and once a proud city landmark thronging with visitors.

After devastating fires in 1987 and 1992, just a small, decaying piece remains, but the ornate gatehouse which now houses Kuti’s restaurant has been beautifully restored.

Among those on the tour – which included a splendid lunch overlooking the pier – were people who remembered it in its heyday.

Barry Bevis, 67, and wife Janis, 64, from Hythe had a romantic reason for coming on the tour.

“We met on the pier 40 years ago almost to the day,” said Barry. “It was a wonderful place to visit in those days.”

It was also an extra-special day for Denny Macklin, 75, and his wife Anne, 72, from Sholing, Southampton, who were celebrating their 51st wedding anniversary.

They were delighted to see how Kuti’s have brought the gatehouse back from the brink of dereliction, but felt more should be done to celebrate Southampton’s rich heritage.

“We have so much history that seems to be largely ignored,” said Anne.

“It makes my blood boil when Plymouth has commemorations for the sailing of the Mayflower, when we know she actually set sail from Southampton!”

After viewing the remains of the pier the group hopped aboard the new “Sea the City” bus operated by Xelabus which will be running hop-on, hop-off 90-minute tours around the city while cruise ships are in port from May.

They were taken into the port area to visit the Shieldhall, the largest sea-going steamship in the UK which is operated by a dedicated team of volunteers.

The 56-year-old Shieldhall has been given a free berth by port operators ABP but money is becoming ever tighter and the ship’s prodigious consumption of heavy fuel oil at £500 a ton is becoming difficult to meet.