Situated on the Isle of Portland near Weymouth, the castle is looked after by English Heritage.
It had been on our list of places to visit for a longtime, so one Sunday we woke up early and drove down to the Dorset coast from our home in Somerset. It was a miserable morning and rained the whole way. Undeterred, we drove over to Portland and followed the brown tourist signs for the castle. We parked up and made our way to the entrance where we were greeted by the member of staff who was more than happy to answer any questions we had. I think she was surprised to see anyone there that day!
Due to the weather we had the place to ourselves and explored the gun batteries, Tudor kitchen and the rest of the castle for a couple of hours. In need of warming up, we headed to the Captain House tearoom for hot chocolate and a piece of cake. Who doesn't love cake for breakfast!
Built between 1539 and 1540 for Henry VIII, the castle’s main purpose was to protect ‘Portland Roads,’ an important anchorage. It was part of a number of fortifications built along the English Channel known as ‘The Device.’ Their purpose was to defend the coast from the threat of invasion from Spain and France. Portland was the smallest.
Built close to the shore, it had a great vantage point. The gun batteries were on two levels and the weapons were the most up to date for the time. They could also cross their fire with Sandsfoot Castle which sits across the bay.
Later in history the castle would be used as everything from a prison to a private house - what a place to live! In 1917, a Royal Naval air station for seaplanes was made on the mere next to the castle, then during the Second World War the Isle of Portland was the main anti-submarine base, HMS Osprey. After the war, the base continued to be used until the 1990s. The castle opened to the public in 1955 , with the exception of the still lived-in Captain’s house which remained closed off until the base's closure.
I love the Isle of Portland. I think some of my interest comes from the fact that my Dad was based here when he was in the Royal Navy, so I can remember him telling me all about the castle too.