The Royal Manor of Portland, the Isle of Portland and the Isle of Slingers are just three names that this isthmus is known as.
This is the place where much of the stone that built London Portland Stone, came from. However it also has one of the best circular walks on England’s south coast.
A tour around its coastal path will take up to around 4 hours depending on your mood and the stunning views will hold your attention as this is the centre of World Heritage Jurassic Coast too!
A good starting point is adjacent to the Portland Heights Hotel and here as you face North you have a choice to go either left or right, I prefer to go left and head for what is called locally West Weares. The meaning of which seems to be fence or screen in heraldic terms and with cliffs several hundred feet high they would be a natural fence for sure.
This is the high point of Portland and the ‘island’, as its called locally gently slopes down to its Southern end at Portland Bill and this makes it a really easy 8 mile walk with the opportunity to stop off half way for a meal, tea or ice cream at the famous Lobster Pot café.
Starting off in this direction the first view to your right is the long sweep of the 18-mile long Chesil Beach. This natural landmark a left over from the ice age has been regarded as one of the best views in all of the UK.
Although Portland has great age and is generally made of very solid limestone even this on occasions can be fragile as is this beautifully illustrated currently where a huge pillar has become detached and has started to fall away 150feet to the foreshore below.
This natural fracture has caused the path to be diverted inland through part of Tout Quarry now a haven for sculptors and artists who can use the stone there to create works in a whole variety of ways. Famous artists like Sir Antony Gormley have left their mark there in his case with his ‘Falling Man’!
Back on the coastal path and the sheer cliffs offer up great views over Lyme Bay to Start Point in South Devon 60 miles away and of the seabirds that can be found nesting in the crevices. Wild flowers like Portland Sea Lavender only grow here and rare butterflies Silver Studded Blues also inhabit these areas and summer is a great time to see them in their full glory.
Now a modern round construction will catch your eye as you approach Blacknor Fort, as it was a former gunnery emplacement during World War II but now a circular house has been built in the former military vantage point.
The high cliffs continue and you start to get glimpses of the half-way point past what was one of the most secret places after the World War II. This former underwater weapons facility now an industrial estate was where torpedoes were developed and tested during the Cold War. Its also was featured in a book called Operation Portland the story of two Russian spies Harry Houghton and Ethel Gee who were based in the nearby Navy dockyard but they passed on secrets that were certainly part of the work of that cliff top establishment.
Portland has three lighthouses the Upper Light, the Bird Observatory and Portland Bill lighthouse itself and from the cliff path you can see all three as you head down the slope to the end of the island.
Its here you will find your chance for comfort break, meal or snack at the Lobster Pot or just spend some time exploring nearly the most southerly point on the UK mainland. The Lizard in Cornwall has that prize but Portland Bill is well worth a visit and a tour up the 120foot high Trinity House lighthouse is possible for a few pounds.
Turning the corner and heading back on the Eastern side of Portland you spot some of the former stone cranes that now are used by the fishermen to lower their boats but was where some of that stone that helped to construct iconic buildings in London like Buckingham Palace, St Paul’s Cathedral and the Bank of England was shipped out from.
Sea pinks and tiny beach huts are part of the landscape here too. These tiny huts that change hands for many tens of thousands of pounds and are coveted by the locals.
Heading along to the Cheyne Cliffs where often rock climbers can be seen dangling over the edge or trying climbing moves on some of the sheer and nearly polished rock faces that are on the left of the footpath at this point.
A quick cut inland again along the road and then near to Pennsylvania Castle the former home of John Penn the Grandson of William Penn founder of Pennsylvania in the USA and you can head back down onto the last section of coast path via the tumbledown ruins of Rufus Castle.
However staying on the road there is the museum and well worth a visit, also after you can visit the village of Easton the hub and centre of the island. Here there are pubs, shops and a cafés to visit and a straight walk up the main road will take you back to your start point.
Taking the longer coastal option after Rufus Castle can then be seen sitting high on the cliffs a Young Offenders prison built in Victorians. Further along yet another former prison The Verne. Coming back before you hit the fenced off dockyard you head inland and you are almost back to your starting point.
A small farm called Fancy’s Farm can be seen and visitors are welcome here, next The Verne citadel where visitors are not so welcome now an immigration detention centre this former prison was built during the Napoleonic wars.
A sharp left turn into what is called New Ground and head back to the Heights hotel area for that view again of Chesil beach and maybe stop for a photograph with the Olympic Rings. This Portland stone legacy to record the time when Portland hosted the Olympic sailing events back in 2012!
Also a fitting place and symbol to mark where you have also completed your circular tour of Portland!