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Isle of Portland

Isle of Portland Dorset

With a certain atmospheric charm, the giant lump of limestone that is the Isle of Portland looms out of the sea, dominating the surrounding landscape. Not, in fact, an island but rather a headland connected to the mainland by a long causeway, it’s a quirky place – car bumper stickers aptly read ‘Keep Portland weird’. Riddled with the quarries that have provided stone for some of the UK’s greatest buildings, including St Paul’s Cathedral, the first impression it gives is of a place with little greenery, some large and rather run-down industrial buildings and a bleak-looking prison. Once you get beyond the port, however, the landscape improves, particularly on the far side of the island around Portland Bill. Here a working lighthouse crowns dramatic cliffs overlooking the rugged shoreline, and there are some great breezy clifftop walks with fantastic views. Portland boasts a few historical buildings of interest, too, including Portland Castle, commissioned by Henry VIII; the Verne Citadel, a Victorian fortress which sits high on the headland; and the ruined Norman Rufus Castle. Last year, the harbourfront underwent a regeneration programme and was spruced up for the sailing events in the 2012 Olympics.

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