Pictures of Portland
in the county of Dorset
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As it juts into the sea Portland is bounded by some of the finest coastal scenery in the land, leaving behind the wide curve of Weymouth Bay, and to the west the panorama of pebbles forming the giant sweep of Chesil Bank, it appears as if to stand alone.
It is a fact that for many years Portland could only be reached by ferry. Today it is held to the mainland by a slight finger of Chesil Beach, and perhaps it was this earlier inaccessibility which helped to give Portland its unique charm and atmosphere.
The quality of its famous stone as been recognised throughout the land for hundreds of years. What finer accolade for Portland other than the fact its stone was put into London's St.Pauls Cathedral by Sir Christopher Wren in the 17th century. Since then this gorgeous stone has been used in churches and grand houses up and down the land.
Portland is an important stopping place for thousands of migratory birds. Quarries bled dry of their stone have become habitats for a wealth of wildlife. In the soils filling the crevices you can investigate rare plants, one of them being the orchid which appears to almost ramble at will amongst what little stone and soil is left.
The town's strong links with the Royal Navy go back to the Crimean War, and a military base was maintained here until quite recently. However, when the Government called for cut backs in defences, the Navy withdrew. Some of the redundant buildings are now thankfully being taken up by new companies specialising in ship repair, engineering and technology.
There are superb views over the harbour from Fortuneswell. The original harbour was built by prisoners awaiting transportation to Australia, it was begun in 1847 and the prison building which held the prisoners still stand.
On the northern shore visitors can see the magnificent castle built on the orders of Henry VIII as part of his coastal defences. It is a wonderful place to tour, and from its lofty heights gives spectacular views of luxury liners heading for the harbours of Portsmouth and Southampton. Back in the 16th century the scene from here was that of the Spanish Armada beating a hasty retreat back up the English Channel.
Because of treacherous waters, ships often floundered of Portland's coast, thus smuggling plays an interesting part in the history of the town. Visitors can learn all about this and the people of Portland by visiting the Portland Museum and Shipwreck Centre which is housed in the former Lighthouse Keepers house. The Lighthouse was originally built in 1844, it became automated late in the 20th century.
Around the coast of Portland there are strange rock formations to be seen. One of the more curious is known locally as the "Durdle Door" sculpted by the seas of centuries, this strange limestone phenomena standing out against the swirling ocean, backed by reddish Dorset sand is one of the most photographed views of Portland.
The town was immortalised in " A Shropshire Lad " by A.E. Housman, in 1896.
With so much history, attractive places and splendid views Portland on the lovely Jurassic coast is well worth a visit.
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