Portland is a ‘tied  island’ at the southernmost point of Dorset, linked to the mainland by a 5 mile strip of steeply banked stones and pebbles called the Chesil Beach (or to the older among us, Chesil Bank) that runs northwest towards Abbotsbury and West Bay. There is now a road, of course. The bank’s formation is known as a ‘tombolo’, where a spit joins to land at both ends,  creating a tied island and often a lagoon (here known as the Fleet).

Portland MapPortland Lighthouse 2

I’ll be posting about Chesil Beach and other aspects of Portland in due course. Meanwhile, I’ll focus on the southern tip of Portland, known as Portland Bill. There are 3 lighthouses there. Two were operationally replaced in 1906 by a classic red-and-white striped edifice, and are now, respectively, holiday apartments; and a bird observatory. The ‘new’ lighthouse stands guard over a strong tidal race caused by the underwater continuation of the Portland rock ‘shelf’ and the Shambles sandbank further offshore. 

Portland Lighthouse 3The LanternPortland Lighthouse 4

Portland is one of the ‘Sea Areas’ familiar from UK shipping forecasts, located between Wight and Plymouth. The lighthouse, 115 ft high, is a prominent navigational landmark for the English Channel.

Portland Lighthouse 1

Since 1514, Trinity House has been the organisation with responsibility for lighthouses and the safety of UK shipping generally since the grant of a Royal Charter by Henry VIII. The Portland light bears the Trinity House arms.

Portland Lighthouse 6

It also bears a substantial foghorn, essential to warn of the coastal rocks as well as the strong current from the tidal race

Portland Lighthouse 5

As ships are warned by the foghorn, so humans are warned of the foghorn…Portland Lighthouse 7

At the cliff edge is a stout obelisk of portland stone erected by Trinity House in 1844 (before the present lighthouse existed) as a daylight warning to passing ships of the dangers of the offshore race.

Portland Lighthouse 8 Portland Lighthouse 9


  1. What an interesting post, Mr. Trinityman RH. I love lighthouses (there should be much, much of them in Norfolk instead of the lights in the church towers! 🙂 ) and I think each and every one the photos are great, but my favourites are number two and five, very fine captures indeed. Mrs RH, again?


    1. Thanks Dina! Neat tie-in with Trinity (though unrelated to Cambridge). I agree about lighthouses, but I think the North Norfolk Church Towers are very special as well. RH. PS I always credit Mrs Harbour, of course, but none of these are hers. She stood beside me, though, so made a major contribution!


      1. 🙂 Say hello to Mrs Habour from me. A very inspiring woman indeed.
        Of course, the church towers are very special, I thhink everything in North Norfolk is different. We had a lovely long walk around Felbrigg Hall today, the weather was gloious compared to yesterday.

        Now I’m packed and ready for Cambridge, I’ll give TC a salute.
        Have a lovely evening


    1. Swimming at PB? That’s potentially lethal isn’t it? Or is there a nice cove protected from the currents? Fossils – some coming up soon. Just don’t get me started on the whole ‘Jurassic Coast’ tourist marketing… RH


      1. If you are looking at the lighthouse there are plenty of swimming places on the left past the sandwich cabins. I was too young but the hardier would catch crabs there too.


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