Keep Portland Weird
Updated: Oct 11, 2019
I'm in two minds about this post. On the one hand, we are big believers in trying to keep wild places wild and Portland feels so precious we want to keep it quiet. On the other hand, it's a rather sleepy old tourist destination in need of some love. And so the latter point wins. Besides, I don't foresee the masses descending due to our teeny blog!
From the moment we started climbing here, we fell in love. Our love goes way beyond the bounty of sport climbing available on its limestone cliffs but extends to the shingle beaches, the sleepy little towns, the old disused quarries which have evolved into little nature reserves and the perpetually laid back locals with their 'Keep Portland Weird' bumper stickers. It has a quirky, endearing charm which sucks you in the second you cross the causeway onto to the headland and makes you miss it when you leave.
We are certainly not the only people who love it here. It is a rarity to have a wild camp spot to yourself. Even in the dead of winter there's always a few motorhomes and vans for company. And if you find yourself in the Cheyne Weare carpark on a sunny weekend get ready for a buzzing atmosphere as you share your overnight spot with dozens of climbers, vans, cars, tents and bivvys.
Our weekends in Portland are rather predictable, a day on the rock being our main focus. Just take your pick of the many crags, all of which have a range of styles and grades to suit every sport climber. You can hide from the wind in the winter or chase the shade in the summer. The shape of the headland means there is almost always somewhere suitable to climb. Just be prepared to share the rock with big groups in the summer.
Every climbing day is followed by a trip to The Cove House Inn for a post climb pint overlooking Chesil Beach. The canine loving bar lady will be sure to make a fuss of any pooch lucky enough to be in a mile vicinity. The food is good and the atmosphere friendly with locals always making visitors feel welcome.
We'll then head back up the hill to stop for the night, cooking our dinner with a view that follows the 18 mile long Chesil Beach. If we are lucky enough, we'll be enjoying our sundowners with a killer sunset that draws the locals to the hilltop with their fish and chips. Apart from one memorable night when the local teenagers decided to throw an all night rave in one of the batteries, our nights have always been peaceful here.
The rest of our weekend activities range from walking to swimming, from paddle boarding to simply chilling out at our favourite beach bar Billy Winters, watching the windsurfers take on the famous Portland winds. FYI, the food here is excellent!
And despite the many weekends exploring this weird and wonderful headland there are more hidden gems to be found. I've been told of hidden underground hospitals and abandoned churches with pirate graves. So if you find yourself on the South Coast and you fancy a little slice of Portland Weird you now know where to go. Just remember to #LeaveItBetterThanYouFoundIt folks.