Isle of Portland

Portland wonder

Picking up from where I left in my last post on Weymouth we trekked from Sandsfoot castle towards Portland along the seafront. The coastal footpath is quite a scenic route with the beautiful view of English Channel and the Weymouth harbour to our left. Isle of Portland is a small island connected to Weymouth by a 29 km long shoal, spit of shingles called Chesil beach, that runs all the way to West Bay at Dorset. 

Portland is a very geologically significant island of UK. It is a central part of the Jurassic coast of Dorset, especially a subject of keen geological interest for its landforms. The island has a famous prison and several limestone quarries, as it is famous for its special limestone only found in the isle, Portland stone, that has seen its use in the past for contributing in the creation of some of the historic world architectures like St. Chathedral and the UN headquarters, and is still quarried at the isle. Portland harbour is one of the largest man-made harbours in the world, built initially as a naval base during the wars but is now more of a recreational and civilian port.

Weymouth and Portland harbour
Coastal footpath towards the isle of Portland
Lovely seafront


Chesil beach

Making ourway through the woods, to gravelled path, on to the Portland beach road, and across the main road, we walked on to the tombolo. It is a conspicuously tedious ridge to trek on considering it is entirely made of shingles that give in to the body weight that does not provide a very solid ground to easily walk on. Indeed, it took us a bitter longer than expected to walk across the whole shoal until we got to the other side. However, we did have quite a nice time eating snacks and sun-bathing on the strip along the way.

View of the houses in Weymouth from the Chesil beach
Crossing a little riverine towards the shoal
One of the sea creatures apparently from the English channel
Shoal view of the sea
 Once on the tombolo, we walked about half a mile until we decided to eat some nibbles, enjoy the sun (it was indeed a very lovely day), take a few photos, relish the moment, let the sea enamour us, watch the fish dive in and out of the water while the seaguls go fishing, stack up some pebbles, talk about life and the universe, before continuing onwards to Portland.

The interesting fact about this particular tombolo is that it provides the perfect environment for learning recreational watersports. For the ones that utilizes the wind, depending on the direction, the wind coming from the one side of the barrie carries onto the other side while all the big waves and tides are stopped by the shoal. And other sports requiring the use of big waves can utilize the side of the barrie.
Shingly shore
Seaguls across the sky
Here are our stacks... The one on the far left is my favourite as the pebbles were all inclined
The Portland hills
Our stacked rocks and the view of Portland
And so, here we were. After about 3 hours of walking from Weymouth train station to Portland (with breaks and all), we were ready to explore the lovely island of limestones and jurassic coasts.


View of Weymouth from Portland
The isle of Portland is incredibly beautiful. The South West Coast Path runs around the coast of the isle and is the longest national trail of UK, at 1,014 kilometres. Once we got to the Isle, we walked around the seafront a bit more, contemplating our next plan. We wanted to see the most of the island. The island is quite small and definitely walkable from north tip to the bottom tip in a day, but seeing as we had only about 3 more hours to spare before we had to return to Weymouth, pick up our bags from the Cafe we dropped them at and get to our camp ground (which itself was about an hour's trek from Weymouth town centre) we decided that we will bus it to the southern most stop, which was Southwell.

Things to do in the island:

- Visit the olympic sign on top of the hill from the town
Olympic ring installed in 2012
- Walk the coastal path around the whole island
- Discover the Dorset jurassic coast
- Partake in various recreational watersports
- Visit the Portland Bill Lighthouse
- Take a tour of the famous Portland limestone quarry
- Take a tour of the Portland Castle

(Here is a full list of things to do at Portland)

Being an island, it has some really fascinating and rare species of flora and fauna. One particular bird that caught our attention was a hovering bird that seemed to keep afloat afixed at one single point as if attached to a pole that balanced itslef like magic against the wind. It was incredible to watch it stay still in the wind as if the time had stopped for it only.

Curious hovering bird
 The hills were covered in all shades of wild blossom that made the view that much prettier for a flower fanatic like me. There were geological features of great interest on the cliff walls that could surely keep a geologist busy for years to come.
Speed boat
Bill point view from Southwell
Floral vista
More floral vista
Perfect shot (IMHO)
If hills had eyes, they would be in love
Mountain weed... They look like wheat or barley

 Bill lighthouse

It took us about 15 minutes to get to Southwell from Victoria square. From there, we walked on to the coastal footpath on the west side of the isle, beside the seafront all the way to the Portland Bill Point, the southern most tip of Dorset.
Portland Bill is the southern most tip of the island consisting of three lighthouse towers:
  • The Old Higher Lighthouse 
  • The Lower Lighthouse
  • The white and red Lighthouse

The smallest lighthouse at the highest point among the lighthouses is now dwelling and holiday apartments; the Lower Lighthouse is now a bird observatory and field centre which opened in 1961. The current lighthouse is the white and red lighthouse located at the Bill Point. It is an important landmark for ships passing the headland and its tidal race.

L-R: higher lighthouse, lower lighthouse and the white and red lighthouse

We walked up to the lower lighthouse, from where we took a turn towards east to Walking for about 15-20 minutes from the old higher lighthouse all the way till the lower lighthouse, we passed through a few local settlements, lovely rapeseed fields, and crossed a few roadways that are taken by the tour busses. Once at the lower lighthouse, we walked on to the coastal footpath again towards the Bill point. 

It is a beautiful abode here, with many vintage sailor cottages and beach huts that add the quentesential marine charm to the place. It almost feels that all the colour from the rest of UK has come and accumulated here (ha ha!) 

Here are a few of my scenic moments from the place.

Marine abode
Beach huts
Current lighthouse
Old cottage
View of the sea from Bill point
Current lighthouse at Bill point
Old higher lighthouse across the yellow mustard field
Wild flowers and cottages

After a bit of sightseeing, sun bathing, and the mandatory waterfront ritual of eating an ice cream, we got ready to make our way back to Weymouth. Thankfully, there are buses that run all day long (sorry, I'm a little foggy on the frequency of the bus times but not longer than every 30 mins for sure). So we bid the wonderful landscape farewell, and hopped on to the bus all the way to Weymouth town centre.

That's all for now about Portland. Eagerly awaiting my next opportunity to explore more south-western coasts, as there is still so much left to do...

Until then,

Much love!