Holidays in Portland Dorset
Holiday Guide to Places to Stay & Things To Do in Portland

For a holiday, short break or day visit Portland in Dorset has plenty to offer the visitor. You'll be spoilt for choice for attractions, activities and other things to do in and around this lovely visitor destination. Portland and the surrounding area boasts a superb selection of hotels, Guest Houses for Bed and Breakfast, holiday parks and camp sites. You will also find plenty of self catering holiday cottages and apartments in and in the surrounding area of Dorset. To help plan your visit we also feature listings of things to do, restaurants and pubs in Portland. To view the accommodation and other directories we offer just select from one of the links below. If you are planning on touring the area around Portland take a look at the Dorset page where you will find more details of nearby places you may choose to visit on your holiday.

Portland at the Centre of The Jurassic Coast & host for the London 2012 Games sailing events ...

Portland, Thomas Hardy's 'Isle of Slingers', juts out like a bird's beak into the English Channel. This fascinating island offers the most perfect vantage point to marvel at the panoramic views of Dorset's Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site stretching both east and west along the Dorset coastline. Portland is home to the National Sailing Acedemy and along with neighbouring town Weymouth is pround to have been josen to play host to the sailing events in the 2012 Olympic Games.

Most visitors only know Portland for its famous stone or the lighthouse but there's a lot more to discover, from walks along the cliffs to exploring its varied history. Be sure to put it on your list of places to visit whilst on holiday. The Isle of Portland is not really an island, though it is only joined to the mainland by a narrow strip of land and the Chesil Beach. The mass of land that juts out into the channel is formed from a block of limestone 4 1/2 miles long by 3/4 of a mile wide and rises from near sea level in the south to over 400 ft high in the north.

Portland has been inhabited since early times and traces of occupation have been dated back 7,000 years. The Romans knew it as "Vindilis' and Thomas Hardy wrote about it as 'The Isle of Slingers' due to the fact that Portlanders used to throw stones to keep Kimberlins (strangers) away. It is a Royal Manor and many of the quarries dotting the landscape are owned by the crown. The breakwater, which forms one of the largest harbours in the world, some 2130 acres, was started in 1849. Prince Albert laid the foundation stone on the 25 July and Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, laid the last stone on 18 August 1872. The twenty-three years of construction had cost the lives of twenty-two men. Convicts, who had hewn 5,731,376 of stone to form the breakwater, carried out most of the construction work at a cost, in 1871, of £1,167,852. Inigo Jones had used Portland stone before the Civil War, and Sir Christopher Wren, Weymouth's MP, used it to rebuild London after the Great Fire of 1666. St Paul's Cathedral and some fifty other churches and buildings were built with the famous white limestone. Over six million tons were used in the rebuilding, the stone loaded onto barges from piers on the east side of the island then transported along the coast and up the River Thames to the building sites.

An excellent short film made by students from Royal Manor Arts College,
Portland, Dorset about Portland Castle.
In partnership with Calling the Shots, English Heritage,
Heritage Lottery Fund & Weymouth and Portland Borough Council

In 1972 approximately 600 tons of stone were quarried for the restoration and repair of St Paul's. Included in the delivery was a block originally selected and marked for Sir Christopher Wren, 300 years earlier. The stone was also used for the Whitehall Cenotaph, the national memorial for the dead of the Great War. A special quarry was opened at Wakeham for the carefully selected stone, and the order from the Commonwealth War Graves was for half a million headstones; all were shaped, carved with names and badges and shipped from Portland to the Western Front. Over 800,000 gravestones were also produced in the 1950s for the nation's war dead of the Second World War. Following attacks from the French, Portland Castle at Castletown was built in 1539. Its partner, Sandsfoot Castle at Wyke Regis, is now a ruin due to sea erosion of the sandstone cliffs. The Castle is built of Ashlar stone, the finest Portland Stone available, and cost £4,964 at its completion around 1540. Its plan is impressive, like an open fan with the curved face of the two storey gun battery facing out to the sea. A climb to the top will reward you with wonderful views across the harbour and beaches, including the point where the US troops embarked for the D-Day invasion in June 1944. It is one of the best preserved of Henry Vlll's castles and is of interest as it shows the transition from medieval to more modern methods of fortification.

These days the Verne, on the top of Portland, is a prison, but it was originally constructed as a citadel for the army and held 700 men, though in time of war it could accommodate over 2000. It was heavily fortified and was armed with 30-ton guns. The latest prison to open on the island actually floats! It is HMP Weare which is anchored in the former Naval Base. Bought from the American Prison Service, it was carried across the Atlantic on a huge barge, it had originally been built to accommodate British troops stationed in the Falkland Islands. There are many businesses situated on Portland, some of which are featured on these pages. The presence of the Navy and its associated scientific establishments was the mainstay of the island's economy for many years, but with the recent changes in defence policy this changed in 1995 when the Royal Naval Base closed. This was followed by the closure of HMS Osprey, the Naval Air Station, in March 1999. With this in mind local businesses are turning to tourism as an important part of their long-term future.

If you wish to stay on or near Portland there are hotels, guest houses and self-catering accommodation that should fulfil your needs, also if you're looking for somewhere to eat, there are pubs and restaurants to suit all pockets. And at Wyke Regis, on the way to Portland, there is the Oyster Farm where you can buy fresh oysters harvested from the Fleet Lagoon. Weymouth is just a short drive away and here you will also find planty of hotels, b and b's, holiday cottages and campsites or holiday parks.

If you feel like a bit of adventure you can go scuba diving or sailing in Portland Harbour, or there are some fine coastal rides if you prefer horse riding. Portland Castle, at Castletown, is well worth a visit and you will find Portland Museum at Wakeham, on the way to Portland Bill. The island has lots to offer at any time of year, with its splendid coastal views, fascinating history and varied walks. Why not come back out of season, the spectacular coastline can change into a boiling maelstrom with gigantic waves rolling in from the Atlantic and crashing against the rocks and surging onto Chesil Beach, but whenever you come, you're sure to enjoy your visit to Portland.

Use the map of Portland below to zoom in or out to view directions or click the satellite button for an aerial view.

To open a large version of the map in a new window and plan a journey to Portland click here.

Heights Hotel Portland

Kite Surfing in Portland Harbour

Portland Lighthouse
Portland Lighthouse

The Wiers Portland
The Wiers Portland

Church Ope Cove, Portland
Church Ope Cove, Portland

Riding on Portland
Riding on Portland

Tout Quarry Sculpture Park Portland
Tout Quarry Sculpture Park

Kite & Windsurfing , Portland
Kite & Windsurfing , Portland

We hope that you will find our guide useful in planning your short break or holiday in Portland, Dorset. If you are not able to find the type of accomodation that suites you try visiting the Dorset holiday guide. Here you will find links to the visitor guides of other places in the area where you will also find plenty of accommodation and activity information.

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