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Isle of Portland

The Isle of Portland is a large sloping block of limestone connected to the mainland by the shingle bank of Chesil Beach (this geographical feature is termed a tombolo). At its highest point – at the northern end – the Isle reaches some 140m above sea-level, from where the land slopes southwards reaching sea-level at the southern tip – Portland Bill.

The pale grey limestone quarried from the Isle has been prized for its decorative use in buildings for centuries. St Paul's Cathedral, most of Whitehall and several of the national museums in London are faced with Portland stone, as are numerous other significant buildings – both within the UK and abroad. The legacy of worked-out and still working quarries dominate the landscape.

Strong tidal currents flow past the southern tip of the Isle, these – combined with submerged rocks – made this part of the coast particularly hazardous to shipping. Standing on the open ground above Portland Bill are several lighthouses, a prominent reminder of the maritime dangers near-by.

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To view any image full size - simply click on the thumbnail

The views of Portland seen here were taken in May, the weather forecast for the day – 'Early mist clearing, then a mixture of sunshine and showers. Showers heavy and locally thundery. Maximum temperature 15 deg C (59 deg F)' – typical for this time of year.


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In the top row of pictures:

  • 'The Spirit of Portland' by artist & sculptor Joanna Szuwalska, on the northern slope of the Isle, Chesil beach and causewayed road beyond (picture)
  • One of the many sculptures in Tout Quarry, Weymouth in the distance (picture)
  • Detail from the stone carving 'Lizard' by John Roberts, located in Tout Quarry – the fine grain of Portland stone gives the sculptor the freedom to include fine detail (picture)
  • St George, Reforne. 'The most impressive 18th century church in Dorset' – Pevsner, designed and built by Thomas Gilbert, 1754–66 (picture)
  • Mutton Cove, West Cliff and Chesil beyond (picture)

In the bottom row of pictures:

  • Pulpit Rock, Portland Bill (picture)
  • The current lighthouse, Portland Bill, built 1905 (picture)
  • Following the South-West Coast Path as it threads its way through the disused quarries along the eastern side of the Isle (picture)
  • Former windmill, Easton (picture)
  • The small village green at the heart of Easton (picture)

See also: Trinity House sea-mark at Portland Bill

Other Portland Bill lighthouses illustrated on this site: The Old Lower Light c.1867

Nearby locations that also feature in galleries on this site:

directionFortuneswell, Weymouth

More views of Dorset in May

Other sites on the web

The Royal Manor and Isle of Portland:   Official (and comprehensive) site for the Isle

The Portland Bird Observatory:   housed in the Old Lower Light

The coastline shown here forms part of the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site

West's Geology Field Guide to the Portland area

Maps of the area on streetmap.co.uk:   1:50,000 – detail, 1:250,000 – locality and route to get there

picture resolution
The pictures of Portland in this gallery were captured at high resolution.
This is images of dorset stock photography gallery 002
All photographs copyright © 1998–2003 John Allen

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