We fully intended to get around the whole of Portland today, emerge triumphant from the other side then head a few miles away where we thought we might be able to bag a quiet wild camp. There’d be nothing on Portland to distract us, it was probably flat and really boring, a bona fide piece of piss.
The first challenge of the day was trying to find an open toilet in Weymouth at the ludicrously early time we rolled in. As we rattled locked doors on our fourth toilet block, then rattled them some more in desperation just in case we got a different result, a bloke walked by and said, “If you’re looking for a toilet Wetherspoons is open. It’s just there…” he pointed yonder. Oh you saviour! Also, ‘Spoons do unlimited coffee and tea refills. Sorry, bladder.
It was 6.5 miles from where camped last night to the causeway leading into the Isle of Portland. This is the upsetting thing; once you’ve circumnavigated it you have to walk back up the causeway the way you came. Tarrant hates a double back and she couldn’t see this as anything but a double back. For me it just upset me that we’d have to do all those miles and not make any progress along the coast. It’s 14 miles from the top of the causeway back to the same spot. Fine. Let’s get it over with.
The wind was brutal again today and the causeway is long and exposed. Fuck me, it was cold! We got to the other side, muddled our way through the Marina where either the way isn’t that clear or we were just being spectacularly blind, then we saw Portland Castle. Well isn’t that cute? Also it’s English Heritage and we’re members and yeah, suddenly we’re at the ticket desk brandishing our membership cards and yes actually we’d love the complimentary audio guide, please.
So it’s not a castle, it’s a Tudor fort, one of many that Henry VIII had built to defend the coastline. It’s not very big and would only house up to 15 soldiers and a fuck tonne of weapons and gunpowder, unless shit kicked off and they’d send in the reinforcements. A lot of the original cross loop windows were replaced over time as bangy killy technology got bigger, then when the war with the French finished it was eventually taken over as a private residence.
I really liked it and was glad we stopped by but it fucked up our day. So much for nothing to distract us. And so much for it being flat! We were chatting to the lady at the castle and she asked us if we were going up The Incline. The what now?? So because port security wouldn’t let the SWCP pass through the port you have to come inland, climb up a fuck off great big hill, do battle with conflicting signage, then weave your way back down to the cliff tops.
God it’s gorgeous too! I wasn’t expecting this at all. It’s very photogenic in a rugged sort of way. I adore all the Portland stone randomly strewn about the place in huge boulders. The cliffs that the climbers use are so stunning and the coastline is devastatingly gorgeous. Obviously I had to stop a lot and point my camera at it.
Portland stone is, apparently, world famous. A lot of important buildings in London are made from it. I mean like, Buckingham Palace and St Paul’s Cathedral level important. Portland Harbour is apparently one of the biggest man made harbours in the world and it was made from Portland stone quarried by convicts. The first convicts arrived on the island in 1848 and had to build their own cells, then they were set to work quarrying 1500 tonnes of stone a day to build the breakwater.
We got to Portland Bill when we figured that whilst we could easily get off Portland today, it was only six miles, we wouldn’t have enough time, energy or daylight to get to somewhere we might find a camp so we panic-bought ham egg and chips because we didn’t have enough food to stay on the island. We bought food assuming that we’d make it back to Lidl or a convenience store just north of the island to buy something for dinner. What a rookie error, lesson learned.
Annoyingly, for the price of the meal we could have got a bed each at The Bunker then popped to Lidl for the food we should have bought anyway. That’s what you get for leading with your stomach and not researching properly, I’m a bit pissed off at myself for that. I’m usually a much better planner, but then I’ve usually eaten my body weight in crisps at any given moment.
It was early when we found a decent spot to camp but Tarrant persuaded me to pitch the outer so we could get out of the wind. I sat in terror, convinced an angry local would come and give us a bollocking. Two people walked past us that we heard and neither of them even broke stride. To be fair, they’ve no idea who’s in there. Could be a 6’4″ psychopath. No one would consider a neurotic lesbian and her long-suffering girlfriend.
Osmington, Dorset to The Isle of Portland, Dorset, England
Stayed at: Wild camp on the west coast of Portland
Useful shit to know…
- Portland Castle is £8.70 if you’re not an English Heritage member.
- There are toilets at Portland Bill as well as a café.
- I haven’t seen any water refill points on the island. You could ask at the café though.
- There are bivvy spots along the east coast around The Cuttings which are the climbing walls. I don’t think you could pitch a tent unless it was freestanding.
- There are more bivvy spots down the west coast but they’re cliff top and exposed to the weather.
- There’s a Lidl right at the top of the island.
- We didn’t stay at The Bunker but it looks like a good budget option. £20 pppn, or £15 of you use your own sleeping bag.