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Portland Castle

Visited August 2013

Location Portland, Dorset
Entrance Fee Yes
Railway Station Nearby No
Parking Yes
Facilities Gift shop, Café, Toilets


This castle was built on a strategically important site on Portland Bill, as part of Henry VIII's coastal defences. It has fared better than its sister fort  of  Sandsfoot Castle, which was almost allowed to slip into the sea. Both castles can be easily visited on the same day.






The castle was in continuous use for defence until after the threat of a Napoleonic invasion had passed. It was then converted into a family home, which explains how it has survived in such good condition.


Above the entrance  is the coat of arms of Charles II, added after the civil war. Charles did not build any castles himself, but added his arms to existing ones, see also Southsea Castle for his arms over the gatehouse there.


The present day ticket office is housed in a side building, which was once the brewhouse and stables for the castle. More recently it was used as a naval officers residence, which led to its current day name of the Captain's House.





Inside the castle itself, it has been restored back to how it would have been in the Tudor times. In common with other coastal forts it is heavily stocked with cannons pointing out to sea.  The upper gun deck is these days open to the elements- at one time it would have been roofed over, with four guns mounted on the roof. This provided a wider range of fire for the guns.


There is an interactive puzzle in the castle, where you have to add all the essential to fire a gun in  the right order- if you manage it the gun will fire (virtually of course) I failed to set the gun off despite trying about six times, so I am sure I would have been a pretty useless defender of our coasts should I have been put to the test! (But the children managed it easily)





On the day we visited there was a children's trail which involved finding cardboard cut outs of various British monarchs. It was quite good actually, but that old rascal Henry VIII was devilishly difficult to find! Some of the cut outs were outside, but I don't know what they do on a rainy day. The castle gardens have been recently re-planted , they were pleasantly quiet on the day we were there, and have plenty of seating areas for a quiet sit and contemplate. The old moat has been completely planted with ornamental grasses, which certainly made a change from either water filled or overgrown with your common old green grass!


There is a cafe at the castle but it was not terribly well stocked on the day we were there. Ok for tea and cake, but if you want lunch then there was not much on offer.


After Portland Castle, consider a trip to Portland Bill lighthouse (website details on our 'Other Places of Interest' page)





More info: English Heritage Portland Castle

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