As promised, we arrived in Dorset the same day we visited Gloucester, and set ourselves up in a Caravan Park overlooking the Isle of Portland. It’s not far into the centre of town from here, so we settled in for the night, ready to explore the area over the next few days…
Status: Weymouth & Portland District, Dorset, Town, England
Travel: Car, South West Trains (Weymouth – Southampton)
Eating & Sleeping: Chesilvista Holiday Park, Daniel’s Chip Shop, The Ship Inn
Attractions: Weymouth Beach, Sea Life Tower, Aquarium, Marina, Clock Tower, Sea Life Centre, Museum, Nothe Fort, Sandsfoot Castle, Bascule Bridge, Royal Hotel etc
Our first stop was a pub called the Ship Inn, which Gemma has been to before as she is a regular in these parts. It’s sat on the banks of the river Wey, with the Marina visible past the bridge, where all the boats are brought in and kept. Fishing boats are moored down the quayside and they regularly catch things like fish and crabs. A typical feature of an English seaside town is the different coloured houses, which liven the place up and indeed the rest of the UK has a similar tradition by the sea. You can see a plethora of colours on the far side of the river and they really bring the place to life.
The bridge I pointed out before is a bascule bridge, lifting up on both sides to let the boats sail through, as they have tall masts. The bridge has been in place since 1930, and opens regularly every 2 hours between 8am and 8pm.
This port is notorious, as it was the place the Black Death entered England in 1348, as people fleeing from it in Europe arrived here and spread the disease.
Heading down to the sea front, there is a statue of George III (1738 – 1820) standing magnificently atop a pedestal guarded by golden lions. During the 1790’s the King and his family regularly took holidays in Weymouth, which brought much attention to the town and helped it thrive, hence the statue here.
The esplanade is the main centre of the town for tourist and there are some impressive buildings, such as the Royal Hotel. The hotel was built by Andrew Sproule in 1773 and opened as Stacie’s hotel, becoming the Royal Hotel much later. It is these grand buildings that give seaside town’s in the South of England their appeal, another good example being the Grand Hotel in Brighton, a magnificent giant of a hotel.
My personal favourite part of the esplanade is the beautiful Clock Tower, built in 1887 to mark Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee. Although it is not obvious now, it was originally built on a rock in the middle of the beach, standing out proudly. The esplanade was built in the 1920’s however to protect the beach and stop shingle being moved in from the eastern beach, and the Clock became part of the pavement.
It is much loved in Weymouth, with the New Year celebrations being counted down to by the locals as they watch one of the four clock faces tick over to midnight.
This picture is taken near the clock and shows the full expanse of the beach, which is quite sizeable. On the left hand side right at the end the pavilion is visible, which is a local theatre from 1908 (formerly called the Ritz). During World War II it was taken over by the army due to its location on a coastal port near Europe, and many people were kept safe there including evacuee’s from the Channel Islands after the Nazi’s invaded.
The beach is always busy at this time of year, and there are donkey rides for the kids near the other end. You can swim in the sea, and its great fun to mess around. It’s the first proper seaside holiday I have had in a very long time so it was fun to get out and have a good splash!
Slightly further back into the town is a statue of another monarch, Queen Victoria herself, sat outside St John’s church, an impressive Victorian building. The church spire is visible from most places around the beach and the rest of the town, second only to the new Sea Life Tower, shown below.
Even though the tower is nowhere near the Sea Life Centre itself which is all the way back down the esplanade and back a bit, the tower has the associated name. It is sat just past the Pavilion, jutting out around the water. At it’s base you can just make out a round white building, which is the main part of the tower that rises up and down during the day. You can get tickets for it and the views will be excellent from up there, back over at Weymouth, and the other way towards Portland. It is the newest attraction in the town, from June 2012, and has a total height of 174 feet tall. We didn’t have time to go up it, which is a shame, but maybe next time.
We spent a lot of the day on the beach, having a dip and exploring the stalls, statues and monuments, and there is plenty to see. There is another statue on the esplanade, of Sir Henry Edwards (1820 – 1897, MP for Weymouth), as well as a War Memorial and a series of very detailed sand sculptures, which this year include E.T. and Iron Man.
Further around the town, away from the centre, you will find some more historical sections, including this fort looking out to sea, known as Nothe Fort. It was built in 1872, to protect Portland which is used as a Naval Base, and it was of particular use in World War II. It has been abandoned since 1956, and in 1961 was preserved and is now a museum, and is the most well preserved fort in the country. The whole site is quite extensive.
Further along once more, we came across the ruins of Sandsfoot Castle, built by Henry VIII (1491 – 1547) in 1541. It looks out at Portland, and gives the best view of the overall island that we found all holiday. The castle played a key role in the English Civil War which broke out in the 1640’s. After this it fell into decay, and part of it collapsed into the sea in 1837. Portland Harbour was enclosed from the sea in the 19th century which has helped to protect the rest of the castle from erosion by the sea.
English Heritage listed it in 2003 and it has undergone a period of restoration recently, in 2012.
Outside there are some small gardens, which make it look quite majestic. There are some interesting and colour flowerbeds with a pool in the middle, which have also been updated in 2012.
And this is the view of Portland we got stood at the back of the castle, which was the perfect end to a perfect day, Portland will be our next step, so keep an eye out for my next post when we explore the island.
So that is a snapshot of the seaside town of Weymouth, and there are many other attractions, including the Sea Life Centre, Weymouth Museum in Brewers Quay, and also there is a house in the town centre that was hit by a cannon ball around 1645, and the cannon ball is still there to this day. It took us a while to find and unfortunately I didn’t get a picture due to the angle we were at as we were in the car on the way out, but keep an eye out. It is located on the corner of Maiden Street and St. Edmund Street.
Throughout the town centre there are plenty of shops for whatever you need as well as various old town houses and pubs that show off English History. There is much to explore in the town and it’s a great place for a seaside vacation.
Weymouth train station provides direct links to London, via the city of Southampton and the major towns of Poole, Bournemouth and Christchurch amongst others. By road the nearest motorway is an hour and a half away in the city of Exeter, and links to Bristol, Birmingham and eventually to the M6 for Scotland and the rest of the UK. Weymouth is connected to the county town of Dorchester by a main road, the A354 and it doesn’t take long to get there.
Overall it’s a great town, so if you want a seaside holiday in the UK, consider Weymouth.