Our guide to holidays in Portland
The Isle of Portland sits just to the south of Weymouth, and even though it’s connected to the mainland by a long causeway that stretches from Chesil Beach, it has an ‘island’ feel to it that awakens the spirit of adventure in those lucky enough to visit it.
Maybe it’s the fact that Enid Blyton wrote the Famous Five books in the area, or maybe it’s the dramatic Jurassic landscape, but whatever it is Portland’s a playground for those who love the Great Outdoors. Chesil Beach is a pebbly beach, and it rolls on for mile after mile making a popular spot to try out kitesurfing, and it’s a favourite with walkers too.
There’s an annual festival designed to showcase everything that’s brilliant about Portland, and that means for nine days every year visitors can join the fun and enjoy live music, entertainment and
Things to do in Portland
When it’s time to start looking for things to do in Portland, there’s only one place to start – on Chesil Beach. This 19-mile pebble beach stretches all the way from Portland to West Bay, and there’s a saline water lagoon between it and the mainland for most of its length which only adds to the area’s beauty. Part of the Jurassic coast and right in the heart of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the beach is perfect for sports, walks or just those lazy days by the water.
And then there are the walks. With some of the most significant stretches of coastline in the world, Portland’s the perfect destination for a walk with unique, dramatic landscape every step of the way. The Portland Bill Legacy Trail takes walkers right to the centre of the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site, and it’s a great route for catching sight of wildlife and the area’s geology.
If you fancy a walk with a difference, Portland’s quarries are an intriguing place for a wander. With tunnels, gullies and rocks packed with fossils, you’ll be able to while away hour after hour clambering this historic patch of land.
The bustling resort of Weymouth may be just a short drive away, but when it comes to Portland attractions, it more than holds its own. Let’s start with the iconic Trinity House Lighthouse at Portland Bill. Jutting proudly out to sea and with a history that dates back for three centuries, this lighthouse welcomes visitors to step inside and climb up to the top. The lighthouse tour offers a glimpse into what life’s like as a lighthouse keeper, and the invaluable role each one plays in protecting those out at sea.
There’s another Portland landmark that you should add to your ‘to visit’ list, and that’s Portland Castle. Owned by English Heritage and overlooking the harbour, Portland Castle remains one of the coastal forts constructed by Henry VIII to protect the country against threat from France and Spain. Make your way up to the gun platforms and you’ll be met by some of the most unspoilt views in Portland, and there’s an audio tour to fill you in on all that history as you make your way around.
It must be all that sea air, but we always find ourselves with a hankering for good food somewhere lovely during a Portland holiday, and the good news is that there are plenty of cafes and restaurants to oblige.
Right beside Portland Bill lighthouse, you’ll find one of the resort’s most established (and most popular come to that!) eateries, in the form of The Lobster Pot. If you visit on a sunny day and sit on one of the picnic benches, you’ll get to indulge in sea views you’ll never forget and great food – and what a combination they make. With a reputation for its yummy crab, the restaurant serves up Dorset cream teas, hot snacks and everything in between. In fact, it was once features in The Telegraph as one of their top 25 most charming seaside cafes.
For that evening meal that’s all about choosing from the specials board and finding a new favourite, it’s got to be The Cove. One of those restaurants in Portland with a loyal following of foodie fans, this one’s cosy, friendly and has a reputation for good food and delicious seafood. This pub’s right beside the beach too, so if you want to work up an appetite you can plan a walk there and back so you can enjoy some of the area’s scenery and work off all that food. Just make sure you book your table ahead as it tends to be very busy.
The Portland events calendar centres around one main shindig every year, and that’s the 9-day Spirit of Portland festival. Held every summer, the event takes place at various venues throughout the town, so there’s plenty of opportunity to choose some entertainment and go along for a great time. The event usually takes place at the end of July to the beginning of August, so make sure you check what’s on if you’re thinking of staying in the region for it. Spirit of Portland focuses on celebrating everything that makes the Isle of Portland unique, and the smaller events that make up its programme include foodie events, walks, talks and even the odd seashore safari.