On a day out in Dorset, a place which is probably not on the tourist map so much as its neighbouring town of Weymouth, is Portland. The peninsula, which dangles off the south coast, has a surprising amount to do, so if you want to avoid the summer beach crowds in Weymouth, then head over to Portland for something a little different.
It wouldn’t be 'days out' article without a reference to a castle, and luckily for all you culture vultures, Portland does have its very own castle. Possibly not quite what you’d expect, as it is in fact more of a coastal defensive fort, but it served Henry VIII very well and is still standing. Portland Castle has several floors to explore, as well as interactive displays, dressing up, and a fabulous tea room and gift shop as well. Free to English Heritage members and a small fee for non-members, an audio guide is included in the price, and is well worth listening to if you want to brush up on your history.
If a castle isn’t what you’re after, then perhaps one of the three museums on the isle can tempt you instead. There is, quite naturally, the Portland Museum, or for something a little more specific, then there is also the Castletown D-Day Centre, and The Grove Prison Museum. The prison museum in particular attracts many visitors off the beaten track and is completely free to go in and absorb some of the history of the island.
For the geologists and nature lovers among you, then the Tout Quarry Sculpture Park and Nature Reserve is the perfect way to spend an afternoon. The quarry has created its very own stone circle, similar to that at Avebury, and stands proudly erected in white stone. If you want to stretch your legs for a couple of hours then you will be welcomed by peace and quiet, along with natural rock formations, sculptures, wildlife and sea views. Plus free entry and free parking is always a hit!
After all the fresh air and exercise, then you’ll have more than earned some good grub. The Lobster Pot at the far end of the island offers amazing crab sandwiches, as well as excellent cream teas. There is even the stunning view of Portland Bill Lighthouse for you to enjoy in the background.
Alternatively, particularly in the height of summer, Quiddles Cafe Beach Bar provides excellent quality food for all the family, situated right on the beach so the kids can go and play whilst you brood over a well earned cuppa.
Naturally there are also beaches surrounding you pretty much anywhere you go in Portland, so there is nothing wrong with simply setting up a pitch on the sands and enjoying the seaside with all the family.