Portland Bill is most famous for its lighthouse and certainly this is the most photographed building on the whole of Portland having had literally millions of visitors over the years. However, this 'modern' lighthouse is the third to grace the area and luckily the two older models also still stand to this day. The first lighthouse is now called the Old Higher Lighthouse, was built in 1716 and used a coal fired lamp to warn shps of impending doom. However, in 1789 the second lighthouse was built and that is now the Portland Bird Observatory. Finally, today's lighthouse was completed in 1906 and with no plans to build another I guess they are finally happy with the position. There is a visitors centre at the lighthouse that opens daily unless the weather is really bad.
The Bill itself is made up of upper Jurassic Portland stone and is the destination of many geologists from around the world. On the west side of Portland Bill lie old cliff quarries where blocks of old quarried stone still lie. It's worth taking a closer look at some of these blocks as many contain Myophorella, Camptonectes, Isognomon and Titanites (that's fossils to you and me!). A little further along the Bill towards the many beach huts an old crane stands on an Ipswichian Interglacial raised beach platform. This crane was used to raise and lower fisherman into the sea as there is no beach at the Bill and is still sometimes used today.
Looking out to sea from the Bill you will more often than not see a large expanse of water churning with white horses even on the calmest day. This area is known as the Race. Within a quarter of mile of Portland, with the sea often flat calm because of the power of the flood tide, the water hits the Portland Ledge (an underwater extension of Portland). Like in a river when it shallows rapidly, the speed of the water speeds up even more. It hits the underwater 'wall' and is deflected upwards to the surface as there is too much water to stay calm over this vast submerged barrier. It's a tremendous site with some amazing sea conditions created but it is best avoided by small vessels as the current can get up to 9 knots - considerably faster than most small vessels can manage.
Pulpit rock is also another well viewed area down at Portland Bill created back in 1870 by quarrymen after a natural arch was cut away. If you look closely you will be able to see some Victorian graffiti. It is often climbed although this is not recommended and many people fish from the top of it. It is also one of the most photographed areas of the Bill.
Walking along the Bill again, on past the beach huts you will find two of Portlands secrets. The first is Portlands only stream and waterfall, but this is dry until the wettest parts of winter (or should that read summer these days!). The other feature is the blow hole where the roof of a large cave has broken through to the surface. Visitors are protected by steel bars and it has been possible to stand on this rusting grating and watch the waves pounding into the cave far below. Sometimes the worst weather conditions are the best for viewing things at Portland Bill but dress up correctly.
Once again, this area of Portland is awash with all sorts of wildlife. With the Portland Bird Observatory in the old lighthouse it goes without saying the are is a haven for birdlife. If you get the tide correct, many rockpools will be revealed full of interesting marine life for the youngsters and maybe the odd crab for the older gourmets. Out to sea many species of fish live so this is also a very popular spot for anglers. The area also gets frequent sitings of dolphins and whales. There is a large grass area by the Bill that is a haven for kite flyers and picnickers and many benches along the coast so you can just sit down and admire the scenery.
To bring your group to the Heights Hotel so that you can explore Portland and the surrounding area, please call Jenny or Kathy to discuss your personal requirements on 01305 821361.
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