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Portland Bill

Portland Bill

Portland Bill is quite literally a place like no other. Combining all the weird and wonderful aspects of the Isle, here you can roam freely over large, open stretches of land set to a backdrop of fishermen’s huts, spectacular lighthouses, and rocky shoreline that make up this unique part of the Jurassic Coast.

You’ll also find the famous Pulpit Rock – an instantly recognisable stack and relic of quarrying at the site, formed in the 1870s when quarrymen cut away a natural arch. The Trinity House Obelisk, too, stands proud at the very tip of the Island – built in 1844 as a warning to ships.

The waters off “the Bill” are as spectacular as they are treacherous – on a stormy day, waves smash into the coastline in dramatic fashion. Even in calmer conditions, there are strong currents at play – Portland’s tidal race is notoriously difficult to navigate, and the waters from here to Chesil Beach are known as something of a “ships graveyard”.

Not too far along from the main lighthouse, you’ll notice the red crane – used in the 19th and early 20th centuries to help workers ship Portland stone off of the island, the newer steel crane is still in use today, helping fisherman lower their boats into the water.

Red crane at Portland Bill

Portland Bill Lighthouse

The famous red and white lighthouse stands 41 metres tall and was built in 1906 to warn boats of the dangerous coastline. The lighthouse, fully automated since 1996, is a truly spectacular sight by day or night, and is open as a visitor attraction along with the former lighthouse keepers’ dwellings.

There are two older lighthouses a short distance away, which can still be seen today (from the outside at least). These date back all the way back to 1716 and used to work as a pair prior to their replacement by the current lighthouse.

The Old Lower Lighthouse is now the home of the Portland Bird Observatory (since 1961) and the Old Higher Lighthouse has been lovingly converted into holiday cottages.

Portland Bill lighthouse

Wildlife

Portland Bill is regularly visited by dolphins, seals and a wide range of birds. The combination of cliffs and greenery ensure that a variety of seabirds and migratory birds can be seen all year round. The site is also popular with a number of birds of prey including short-eared owls and peregrine falcons. Even the occasional puffin has been sighted!

Wild flowers grow along the cliff edge and brighten up the scene with bursts of colour. Bluebells, Golden Samphire, Portland Sea-Lavender and Sea Pinks (thrift), just to mention a few, can all be found at various times of the year.

The open land and vegetation encourages other wildlife too – more than 28 species of butterfly can be seen at Portland Bill, some of which are extremely rare elsewhere in the country.

Wildlife at Portland Bill

Fun Facts

  • In the 15th century, Portland Bill used to be called the “Beel” on maps due to its beak-like shape.
  • There are 163 steps that lead to the top of the current lighthouse (completely worth it – you won’t forget the views).
  • Beware of the legend that is “Roy Dog”! A shaggy black dog as tall as a man, with one eye of green and one of red. Legend has it that this mysterious creature dwells in “Cave Hole”.
  • With the island acting as a wind funnel, along with the ‘race’ of tides (the collision of two currents) – this is one of the best spots in the UK to experience stormy seas.

In summary, Portland Bill is an unmissable experience – there’s so much to discover – gorgeous scenery, fascinating history, spectacular wildlife and much more besides.

Rough seas at Portland Bill

Portland Bill cave

How To Get There

The postcode for Portland Bill is DT5 2JT.

From London: via the M25, take the M3 to towards Southampton, then the M27 West. When the motorway ends, remain on the A31 until Bere Regis, taking the A35 to Dorchester. The A354 brings you into Weymouth and all the way onto Portland. Follow the signs to Portland Bill.

From Bournemouth: follow the A35 to Dorchester, then take the A354 to Weymouth and Portland. Follow the signs to Portland Bill.

Portland Bill coast path

Portland Bill Map

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