Portland is situated on the southern point of Dorset, England. It is a “tied island” which means it is not truly an island but is attached to the mainland by a strip of land called Chesil Beach. For all practical purposes, Portland has the look and feel of an island. It is 4.5 miles long by 1.5 miles wide and rises 400 feet above sea level.
Portland is noted for its quarries which have supplied limestone to some of the most famous buildings in the world like Buckingham Palace, St. Paul's Cathedral and the United Nations Building. Over 6 million tons of stones were taken from Portland to rebuild London after the Great Fire. And Portland stone was also used to make thousands of headstones for fallen soldiers of WWII.
Portland Bill is a narrow stretch of stone on the southern tip of the Isle of Portland. It is home to three lighthouses which warn ships of the shallow reefs and strong tides that race in the area. The newest lighthouse is called the Portland Bill Lighthouse. It was built in 1906 and is in full working order although it runs automatically today. The Portland Bill Lighthouse is also a tourist attraction and educational centre which offers guided tours during the summer months. Take in the various displays about the lighthouses, wildlife, Portland stone industry and shipwrecks. A visit to the Pulpit Rock, a fantastic rock formation next to the lighthouse, is well advised.
Portland Castle is another point of interest on the island. It was originally constructed by Henry VIII in 1539 to protect England from Spanish and French invasion. The castle is rich with history and contains many interesting war relics. The castle is open for touring from April through October.
Portland and the surrounding coastline is a haven for dive enthusiasts. Chesil Cove is one of Dorset’s popular diving destinations that are not to be missed. The cove itself is fairly shallow and calm which makes it ideal for young and beginning divers. There is a diverse population of sea creatures to be seen such as spider crabs, lobsters, dogfish, cuttle fish and pipefish. Chesil Cove is also popular with fishermen and birdwatchers that are drawn there to view the many wading birds. The beach is clean and accessible which makes it a good place to spend the day sunning and taking part in water activities.
Chesil Cove is also part of the Jurassic Coast which has been called one of the world's greatest natural wonders. The coast spans a distance of 95 miles and is part of the South West Coast Path. You can’t leave Portland out if you are following the Coast Path’s full route, but the walk up to the top is pretty strenuous. On a clear sunny day the scenery is simply stunning and you can see right along the South Coast towards Bridport and Lyme Regis beyond.
Portland is an ideal destination for nature lovers or anyone looking for a fun weekend getaway. There are plenty of sites to see both natural and manmade. You will also find quaint shops and restaurants as well as cozy pubs for lodging.
Portland is home to the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy. The academy is situated on the northern end of the island on Weymouth Bay and Portland Harbour. Many important sailing events are held at the academy on both a national and international level. The Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy will host the sailing and windsurfing competitions for the 2012 Olympics. The academy was chosen because the harbour and bay are known to be among the best sailing waters in the world and the academy offers superior facilities. Sailing athletes from all around the world will compete in the Weymouth 2012 Olympics and Paralympic Games.