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Portland Port, next to the popular seaside town of Weymouth, Dorset, has now become an established call for many of the big cruise ships sailing around England's South Coast.
This article is to give more information about arriving at the Cruise Port and what cruise passengers can expect.
WELCOME TO WEYMOUTH AND PORTLAND!
Definitely be on deck as the ship sails into Weymouth Bay and Portland Harbour. On one side you will see the attactive Georgian seaside resort of Weymouth, arranged around a sheltered east-facing bay with a backdrop of low-rising green hills. On the other, the great mass of the Isle of Portland (not a true island but a peninsula) rises up to 500 feet out of the sea. Stone has been exported from here for some of London's greatest iconic buildings, such as St Paul's Cathedral, for centuries.
The ship will dock directly at the Quayside in Portland Harbour - this is a deep-water port, so there is no need to tender passengers ashore. As you step ashore, you will be greeted by the Portland Town Cryer - definitely an English custom to be experienced!
German cruise ships will also be met by local German-speaking volunteers who will help visitors to make the most of their time. The market for cruises is growing rapidly in Germany and Portand is a popular stop for German cruise ships.
If you are not going on an excursion and you haven't pre-arranged a private tour or taxi, there are free shuttle buses to take you to nearby Portland Castle (just outside the Port) or into Weymouth Town Centre. Portland is also a working freight port so for safety reasons you are not allowed to wander around within the Port.
ON SHORE - DOING YOUR OWN THING
If you don't want to go on an excursion, the Cruise Port provides free shuttle buses to Portland Castle, and into Weymouth - buses set down at Brewers Quay in the centre of town, alongside Weymouth's picturesque harbour. Spend a day exploring this attractive Georgian seaside resort, made famous by the patronage of King George III. Alternatively, during high summer you can catch the 501 open-top bus and explore the fascinating and other-worldly atmosphere of Portland. You could also catch the bus to the County Town of Dorchester, a 30-minute ride away (see below).
If you want to go further afield, it is recommended that you use an excursion. The area surrounding Weymouth is deeply rural and public transport provision, apart from the frequent bus route to Dorchester, is limited; any disruption means you run a real risk of missing the ship. Bear in mind that excursions will be operated by local companies, employing locally-based drivers and tour guides; so your patronage will support the local economy.
Things you could do in Weymouth:
- Simply explore the town. The courtesy bus drops you at Brewers Quay, close to the Harbour. The harbourside is one of the most picturesque in the UK, and is still a working fishing port. The harbourside is crammed with pubs, restaurants, tea rooms and speciality shops. Across the Town Bridge and into the Town Centre, the main shopping streets of St Mary Street, St Thomas Street and St Alban Street house many household names as well as a variety of independents, and more pubs and restaurants - you need never go hungry or thirsty in Weymouth! Other streets in the town centre, especially along the Esplande, boast fine Georgian and Regency buildings, harking back to the days of George III whose patronage established Weymouth as a firm favourite for holidaymakers. The sandy beach is also a delight, and great for families; there are plenty fo facilites available, and a gentle slope makes it safe for paddling and bathing.
Here is a free map of Weymouth Town Centre to help you find your way round: Weymouth map
- Weymouth Museum: find out more about the history of this ancient town that has been an important harbour since the Middle Ages, and really came into its own when King George III favoured it as his summer retreat. The Museum is situated within the Brewers Quay complex, right next to where the shuttle bus sets down. Weymouth Museum website
- Tudor House, in Trinity Street, a stone's throw from where the shuttle bus drops off, is a perfectly-preserved house from around the year 1600. Open Tuesday-Friday from 1pm to 4pm (other days/times possible by prior arrangement), enthusiastic volunteer guides from the Weymouth Civic Society will be happy to show you around. Tudor House website
- Visit the Sea Life Centre (about a mile walk along the seafront or buses 4, 503 from King's Statue), where you can get up close and personal with many of the creatures that have made the sea their home. Sea Life Centre also runs the new Sea Life Tower alongside the Pavilion Theatre at the end of the Esplanade, the tallest structure in Weymouth which gives 360-degree views of Weymouth Bay and the Jurassic Coast. Combined admission tickets are available and the two are linked by a land train along the Esplanade. Weymouth Sea Life website
- If you like ART , right next door to the Sea Life Centre, you will find Sandworld - the home of the annual Weymouth Sand Sculpture Festival, where you can see the most incredibale sculptures made from 2000 tonnes of sand and water in spectacular style. Visitors are able to have a go at sand sculpting for themselves, or sit and enjoy a drink and snack in the cafe. Well worth a visit. Facebook
- Nothe Fort, a few minutes' walk from Brewers Quay, occupies a strategic location at the entrance to Weymouth Harbour. Built in 1860 when the threat of invasion from the UK's neighbours was still very real, it was occupied until coastal defences were abandoned as recently as 1956. View the diplays and mammoth guns that were deployed here over the years. Website
- Boat trips. As if you haven't had enough of being on the water, Weymouth Boat Trips offers an hour-long boat trip from Weymouth Harbour out into Weymouth Bay and Portland Harbour; boats depart hourly (10.30am-4.30pm) from the Harbour Steps, next to the Pavilion Theatre and Condor Ferry Terminal. Adult £10, child £5, no advance booking. Weymouth Boat Trips website Coastline Cruises offers a variety of ferry routes and coastal cruises along the Jurassic Coast; their fleet includes the much-loved 'My Girl' who served in the Second World War transporting stores, munitions and troops (including many American servicemen) out to the naval base at Portland. She is registered with the Historical Fleet of the United Kingdom. Their kiosk is on the Harbourside, right by Brewers Quay where the shuttle bus drops off. Coastline Cruises website
- Nature walks. The Radipole Lake Nature Reserve is right next to the town centre, and the Lodmoor Country Park and Nature reserve a mile to the north along the seafront. Both sites are managed by the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) as important habitats for birds and have facilities for bird-watching. Websites: RSPB Radipole Lake & RSPB Lodmoor
- Walking trails. Walk along the Esplanade and seafront to Lodmoor Country Park (1 mile, and the location of the Sea Life Centre), Overcombe Corner (2 miles) or Bowleaze Cove (3 miles, partly via clifftops). There are buses if you don't fancy the walk back! Or take the Rodwell Trail from the far side of Westham Bridge, a 3-mile disused railway line that has been converted to a traffic-free walking and cycle route and will take you all the way back to Portland. Stop to visit the ruins of Sandsfoot Castle along the way. The trail also takes you past the Chesil Beach Centre, with displays showing what makes this unique shingle beach so special.
- Water lilies. Bennetts Water Gardens, a short bus ride away in the nearby village of Chickerell, were created in 1959 from the quarries of a disused brickworks. EXtensively landscaped, trails now lead around a series of ponds that are now home to an impressive collection of water lilies from both the UK and abroad, as well as other wetland plants, trees and flowers. The Gardens have a café on site, as well as a small museum telling the story of the brickworks, the nearby Fleet Lagoon and the village of Chickerell, which featured in the Domesday Book of 1086. Catch the no. 8 bus towards Chickerell from Town Bridge (every 15 minutes (30 minutes Sundays), journey time 15 minutes) and get off at Chickerell Army Camp; bus fare £3.00 return. Bennetts Water Gardens website
- Bus ride to Dorchester, the County Town of Dorset and home to shops, museums and plenty of places to eat and drink. Bus 10 departs from King's Statue on the Esplanade (about 10 minute's walk from Brewers Quay) every 15 minutes (hourly Sundays) for the 30-minute journey. Day return fare £4.
- Play golf at Weymouth Golf Club. This well maintained and beautiful club is only 1 mile from the centre of Weymouth town and was founded in 1909. It is a good test of golf for all players whatever your handicap and you will be given a warm welcome. Special Rates for Cruise Liner visitors are available and golf club hire is available from the Pro. Visit www.weymouthgolfclub.co.uk for further details.
And some ideas for Portland:
- Portland Castle. A courtesy bus will drop you here; spend an hour or two exploring the fascinating history of this fine Coastal Fort, that dates back to the time of King Henry VIII and also saw action during the First and Second World Wars. Now maintained by English Heritage. Small admission charge, free audio tour available. Portland Castle - English Heritage website
- Walk up to Portland Heights, or take the no. 1 bus from Victoria Square (or open-top bus 501 from Portland Castle in high summer) for spectacular views over Weymouth Bay, the home of the 2012 Olympic Sailing events; and along the 16-mile Chesil Beach, one of the natural wonders of the world.
- Tout Quarry Sculture Park is next door to Portland Heights; as well as exhibits you may be lucky enough to see sculptors working in Portland Stone - the same stone that adorns many of London's famous buildings. Such was the demand for stone after the Great Fire of London in 1666 - it was shipped from here by sea then up the River Thames - that Portland grew wealthy on the proceeds. Traces of quarrying can be sen all over Portland, and one or two quarries are still in use. Admission free.
- Portland Bill with its iconic lighthouse that can be visted (small admission charge); an atmospheric place that really gives the feeling of being at the edge of the world. Open-top bus 501 from Portland Castle in high summer; or take bus 1 from Victoria Square to Southwell then about 1 mile walk each way. Lighthouse Visitor Centre website
- Portland Museum tells the fascinating story of this unique place, forged in the Jurassic era, inhabited since neolithic times, and a place of stone and seafaring which has very much made its own traditions and is quite unlike anywhere else in the UK. Also nearby are the ruins of Rufus Castle, and if you are feeling energetic you can drop down to the beach at Church Ope Cove - just remember as you take the 365 steps down, you also have to come back up! Open top bus 501 from Portland Castle to the Museum in high summer; or take bus 1 from Victoria Square to Easton Square and walk half a mile along Wakeham. Museum website
- Hiking - footpaths circumnavigate the entire coast of Portland, around ten miles; or you can catch buses part of the way. Also the three-mile Rodwell trail right into the heart of Weymouth.
- Open top bus 501 operates a few times daily in high summer (2014 dates: 5th Junly until 31st August) and provides a convenient way of linking up several of the sites on Portland including Portland Castle, Portland Heights/Tout Quarry, Portland Museum and Portland Bill. It also runs into Weymouth Town Centre too. Day tickets are available from the driver.
For more information about what to see and do in Weymouth and Portland, visit the official tourism website:Visit Weymouth website
ON SHORE - EXCURSIONS
Yoru cruise company will have details of on-shore excursions to local places of interest. Destinations will vary by cruise line but may include:
- Thomas Hardy's Dorset.
- Abbotsbury, a typical Dorset village with Swannery and sub-tropical gardens
- Corfe Castle, again a typical Dorset village overlooked by a romantic ruined castle. May also be combined with the attractive small seaside resort of Swanage and the Swanage steam railway.
- Athelhampton House and gardens near Dorchester
- Jurassic Coast; Weymouth and Portland are in the middle of England's first 'World Heritage Site', an area noted for its rock formations and fossilised remains. Excursions taking in Lyme Regis, Charmouth, Lulworth Cove and Durdle Door will include part of the Jurassic Coast.
Or further afield:
- Salisbury Cathedral and Stonehenge
- The UNESCO World Heritage City of Bath
- Winchester and Cathedral, may be combined with the New Forest
If you don't fancy the cruise company's offerings, a local independent company 'Discover Dorset' can work with you to create your own excursion, using their chauffered vehicles and own tour guides. Phone 01202 557007 or +44 1202 557007 or e-mail them at firstname.lastname@example.org
Portland Port likes to give its visitors something to remember!
As you depart there will be entertainment from local people on the quayside - brass bands, choirs or the local sea cadets; and as your ship sails away, there will be a very loud salute from the Nothe Fort Artillery's cannon as a final goodbye!
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