Walk - Isle of Portland Circuit

13.0 miles (20.9 km)

Isle of Portland Isle of Portland

Moderate - Moderate

This is a walk of dramatic, rugged cliffs, nationally rare plants, hidden coves and stunning views. The Isle of Portland is a large mass of limestone which is linked to the mainland by the shingle ridge of Chesil Beach. Centuries of quarrying and military presence have altered the natural landscape, leaving visible records of the history of this important part of Dorset. The Isle’s white limestone has been used for construction since Roman times. Nature has reclaimed some of the disused quarries, which become a stunning mass of grasses and wildflowers in the spring and summer months.

Follow either the road and cycle way from Ferry Bridge, or the shingle ridge of Chesil Beach, to join the Coast Path as it climbs to the top of the cliff providing stunning views. The Path then offers fairly easy walking around the Isle along old quarry tracks, with some short, steep ascents and descents in places. Take time to enjoy the impressive views from Portland Bill before walking the east coast back round to Ferry Bridge.

Interactive Elevation

Highlights

  • The breathtaking views from the top of West Cliff back along Chesil Beach and the Fleet Lagoon, which is the largest tidal lagoon in Britain and a Site of Special Scientific Interest due to the extraordinarily rich variety of wildlife found here.
  • The ‘Spirit of Portland’ sculpture which depicts a fisherman and quarryman to represent the two main industries of the Isle.
  • Pulpit Rock and Portland Bill: especially dramatic on a rough day, the southernmost tip of the island fills you with an exhilarating feeling of space as you take in the spectacular views which extend to Start Point in Devon and ahead to Durlston Head in the east. On a clear day you can actually see more of the coast from here than from any other part of the entire South West Coast Path.
  • The distinctive red and white striped Portland Bill Lighthouse. The centre is open to visitors from Sunday to Friday between 11.00 and 17.00 from April to September, and it is also possible to climb the 153 steps to the top of the tower for some exceptional views. For further details see Trinity House.
  • The Bird Observatory housed in the old lighthouse. For further details see Portland Bird Observatory.
  • The flowers and butterflies which fill the old quarries in the spring and summer months.
  • Church Ope Cove: this is the only beach on the eastern side of the island and is a peaceful, sheltered spot with soft sands, making it a good place for a picnic.
  • The remains of the striking Rufus Castle, which is thought to have been built originally for the red-headed William II, who was nicknamed Rufus. Much of what remains dates from the
    15th century.
  • Keeping a look out for the island’s many nesting sea birds, including peregrines, guillemots, fulmars and kittiwakes.
  • The extraordinary pirate graveyard at the old church of
    St Andrews.
  • The tiny Portland Museum: housed in two thatched cottages above Church Ope Cove, the museum contains artefacts from Portland’s maritime history as well as fascinating tales of smugglers and shipwrecks.
  • Watching the rock climbers: Portland is said to be one of the most popular climbing venues in the whole of the South West of England.
  • The impressive architecture of The Verne Citadel: now used as a prison, the citadel was designed by Captain W Crossman of the Royal Engineers and enclosed an area of 56 acres on the highest point of Portland. Work began in the mid 1800s and the Great Verne Ditch took 30 years to complete.
  • The views to Portland Harbour and the cliffs of Purbeck: the harbour is very sheltered and therefore an ideal home for the National Sailing Centre and was a natural choice for the venue for the sailing in the Olympics of 2012.

Places of interest

  • Take a short detour to see the amazing sculptures of Tout Quarry.
  • Portland Castle: built under Henry VIII in the early 1540's to defend the island from French and Spanish invasion, the castle was also used in the D-Day preparations of World War II. It is open to visitors between March and October. For further details tel: 01305 820539 or see the English Heritage website.

Shorter option

You could walk a distance and then return to Ferry Bridge, or seek accommodation inland.

Longer option

After returning to Ferrybridge, continue to Weymouth Clock Tower, which is about halfway along the seafront (an additional 3.4 miles, 5.5 km).

Nearby refreshments

There is a pub at Ferry Bridge. Further refreshments can be found in the shops, pubs and cafes of Fortuneswell and the cafe at Portland Bill, or in one of the settlements inland.

Public transport

The nearest train station is Weymouth. From here, buses run regularly all year around to Portland Bill. For timetable information, zoom in on the interactive map and click on the train station and bus stop symbols, visit Traveline or phone 0871 200 22 33.

Parking

Ferrybridge, Portland Heights, Portland Bill and above Church Ope Cove.

Nearby Walks

Loading weather...

close
close

Walk Finder

Find...

Postcode, placename or click the icon to use current location

Click/hold and drag the map to set the centre point of your search location under the red crosshair

from this location

Difficulty

Length (miles)

Themes

close

Find somewhere to Eat & Drink, Sleep or Do

Find...

Postcode, placename or click the icon to use current location

Click/hold and drag the map to set the centre point of your search location under the red crosshair

from this location
close

Interactive Map