“ Address: Barrack Road / Weymouth DT4 8UF / Dorset / Tel: 01305 766626 „
Nothe Fort, Weymouth
We have just come back from our holiday to Weymouth and had a lovely time. We were able to fit in quite a variety of different things to work around the weather and so this is the first review of many which I will be writing over the next few weeks, all around Weymouth and the surrounding area. This particular review focuses upon one Nothe Fort situated near the main harbour on Weymouth Seafront.
Nothe Fort is located at the end of the Nothe Peninsula, across the harbour bridge from the main Weymouth seafront.
Nothe Fort is very well signposted from both road and foot and is very easy to find. If you are travelling by car you have the option to park in one of the main car parks surrounding the sea front and harbour, or in the Fort car park itself. We parked in a large long stay car park to the rear of the harbour which I would recommend if you are wanting to be more central to Weymouth sea front as a whole as it is literally a five minute walk to the beach and other sea front attractions. If you chose to walk via the sea front it will take you approximately 30/45 minutes to slow walk to the fort, though for a more direct route you can walk straight through the town which comes out right next to the bridge crossing the harbour. To get to this car park, simply turn down Commercial Road from the A353 roundabout (last turning if you are coming down the main A353).
If you would prefer parking nearer to the Fort then there is a large car park a few minutes walk from the Fort entrance. To get to the fort either continue down Commercial Road which takes you straight across the bridge. Turn left down Trinity Road and right into Cove Street. At the end, turn right again into Spring Road and almost immediately, turn left into Horsford street which leads into Barracks Road which will take you straight up to the Fort car park. The A354 also takes you to the beginning of these directions. However you choose to get here, though, as mentioned, it is very well signposted from most main roads and near side roads as well as on foot. One thing to watch for is the one way streets, some of which seem quite new as they do not register on a sat nav, though the directions above are written as we took them.
The car parks themselves are average for Weymouth sea front ranging from around £3.00 upwards depending on how long you plan on staying. I would not say that the Fort is an all day attraction, though do take in consideration other attractions in Weymouth you may want to visit at the same time, as well as the large Fort gardens situated outside the main Fort. There is also free parking actually inside the fort, though this has to be arranged with the staff beforehand.
The opening times to the Fort are mainly 10.30-5.30 with Sundays and some special days opening for shorter hours or closing altogether. In the main holiday season, the Fort is open as usual, though for other times do check beforehand.
Telephone: 01305 766626
In my opinion, I think the entrance prices are very reasonable. Do remember, you are not going to see a full castle or anything like that and so do not expect to see loads, though for what you pay you will not be disappointed. Set prices at time of writing are as follows;
Seniors : £5
Friend of the Fort: £4
Senior Citizen FotF: £3
Children age 5-16 : £1
Children under five go FREE
2 Adults + 2 Children: £13
1 Adult + 2 Children: £7
Groups of 10 or more adults: £4.50 per person
Guided Tours: £1 extra per person
School Visits: £1 per pupil
Evacuee Experience: £3.50 per pupil
With the important information out of the way, let me take you into Nothe Fort
Nothe Fort began life in 1860 and was constructed on three levels. The lowest level originally being built to store gunpowder and shells, the middle being the gun deck level accommodating 12 heavy muzzle loaded cannons, and the top level forming the ramparts. When it was commissioned a few years later in 1872, it cost £120,000.
The first soldiers to be garrisoned at the Fort were No.2 Battery Royal Artillery who were responsible for installing the original cannons. As Portland Harbour grew in importance, Nothe Fort became an important element in the defences of the naval base. The Fort did not see action against an enemy, though, until World War 2 when the main threat came from the air and alterations were made to allow the Fort to be used as a central anti-aircraft ammunition depot for the south west.
Coast defence was abandoned in 1956 and the Fort was no longer needed to protect Portland Harbour. Instead it was used to house naval stores and degaussing equipment. By 1961 the navy had no further need of the Fort and it was sold to Weymouth and Melcombe Regis Borough Council. Unfortunately, under the ownership of the council, it soon became vandalised though was eventually saved and preserved as one of the best forts of its kind.
A brief history which I thought would be interesting to add to this review as well as allowing others to know exactly what they are going to visit before paying an entrance fee!
As mentioned, there are three levels to the fort, each with stairs and lifts to enable all abilities to comfortably look around.
We decided to start on the lower floor and make our way up, though you are able to take any direction inside the fort that you wish, though keep in mind that some of the rooms and passages may be missed if you flit from one place to another. Signs on the lower floor do help you keep to a specific route, though there are a few corridors which run separate to the main circular route and it is easy to bypass many areas if you do not go back the way you came. One particular route which tails off is the haunted passageway, made even spookier by the fact that there are no lights on down here (with a lovely sign saying that the staff are too scared to go and change the light bulb!!). Apparently, many have heard the ghostly whistling of a Gunner in the underground passages and the fort itself has been voted one of the most haunted locations in the UK. There have been many paranormal experts visit the fort, though I myself did not see anything paranormal unless you count my husband! As we had our three year old daughter with us, we did not actually go down the dark passageway as the underground corridors were already worrying her, though we did go down a small, slightly lit corridor on the main circular route which had my husband jump out of his skin at one point, much to mine and my daughters amusement, though I wont give anything away here!
Most of the underground passageways are well lit though some are quite thin which feels a little claustrophobic. Off of the main circular route are many rooms which have displays of guns and models of the fort. My husband loved looking around these, though they were not really to my taste and I did not like being underground for long, so we left him to it and went up the stairs at the far end which led us to the middle outdoor section.
This section was perhaps my favourite part. Once my husband had finally found his way up to us, we began in the lower left corner where we had come up from the underground passageways. Unfortunately, whilst we were here, there was a school trip participating in an evacuation experience and so some rooms were closed to the general public. For those who are interested in school outings of the evacuee kind, follow the link below;
An interesting cubby hole provided my daughter with some much needed fun as she and my husband sat on an old style motorbike with their old style helmets and then posed for a photo behind a wooden uniform. We then walked around the outside of the middle area which led to many rooms, all dressed up as though we had gone back in time. These rooms consisted of evacuee rooms such as a school room, kitchens, shops and also larger rooms which were dressed out as though the war was in action with full sized actual cannons and dummies dressed as soldiers. It was extremely interesting to look around these rooms and read the plaques of information, though I felt at times that the rooms could have been better dressed, though this was only a small negative as in the main the rooms were fun and appealing to all three of us.
Circling around this way of the central section you will make your way back towards the entrance. Here you will find the only toilets on site, though these are fully equipped with disabled access and baby changing rooms.
Next to the toilets is a large café which is well decorated to suit the fort and war time. The café is a refurbished gun deck and hosts some lovely views out of the windows. There is also outside seating in the main circular courtyard. I was pleasantly surprised at the prices here as I had expected them to be much higher. My daughter had a refugee lunch which came in a brown paper bag and cost only £3.00. The bag contained a jam sandwich (other fillings available), a marshmallow treat, a chocolate bar, an apple, crisps and some juice. The ration bag idea was a lovely added touch though my daughter was too young to appreciate what it was for! Myself and my husband did not have a lunch though had a coffee, hot chocolate and a cake each which came to around £6 if memory serves me right!
On the other side of the café is another couple of rooms with large models of the fort in various stages as well as another large cannon and also a gift shop. Again, the prices surprised me in the gift shop with some items selling for as little as £1.00. There are a few items which fit with the whole feel of the fort as well as old postcards and ration books, as well as general items which can also be found in sea front shops.
As mentioned above, there is a circular court yard in the middle of all the rooms on the central section. This is used for a variety of different reasons including a small seating area and also some free parking, though as mentioned above, this free parking is subject to prior booking. Whilst we were here, the school group were also playing some evacuee games which was actually quite fun to watch!
Occasionally, the fort have specific events and most are hosted on this courtyard, though otherwise, it is literally left for cars and walking on.
After lunch, we walked up a steep slope to the upper level. Like all levels, there is a lift that goes up to save your feet! This level, even with the strong wind that was in Weymouth that day, hosted some fantastic views across Weymouth and the surrounding area. We even got the chance to watch a boat race in the sea! We came to the fort a few years ago and there were about four different guns which you were able to sit on and look closely at, though now there are only three and two of these are unfortunately roped off. The third one is on the highest tower of the fort and is still available to sit on which is something both my husband and daughter loved! There is also a viewing tower on one side of the upper level though it can only be accessed by a lot of stairs! The gun tower is the same unfortunately.
Apart from the guns and the views, there is not much else on the upper level though for the views alone, it is well worth going up there!
Having been here a few years previously, and then coming back again a few weeks ago, I can safely say that I love this fort. It is not anything spectacular per say, though there is just something about it which keeps bringing us back. The underground passage ways are a little claustrophobic, though for those who like guns and history, it is well worth venturing down - you never know, you may see or hear that ghost!! The middle section is really well dressed out, and the views from the top are terrific.
The prices to get in are great and the experience is certainly well worth it. I would fully recommend this fort! You never know, I've been a few times now, you might even see me there again in a couple of years!