“ SEA FORT. Spithead, Portsmouth, PO5 4PA. Tel: +44 (0)23 9252 9952. „
This review is for Spitbank Fort, one of three defensive forts built in the English Channel near Portsmouth. They were originally built in the 1860s by the then Prime Minister, Lord Palmerston. the building was delayed, and the forts are often referred to as follies, as they were never needed and considered to have been pointless.
However, the forts were retained by the military until the 1960s, until they were sold by the Government to a private individual. Since then the fort has been used as a museum, restaurant and so on, and has been refitted whilst retaining most of the original features.
I went there for a themed evening recently at the Fort, the first time that I'd been here. The night started at around 7pm by taking a boat (part of the price) from Gun Wharf Quays in Portsmouth, near the Spinnaker Tower. The total cost for the evening was fifteen pounds.
When you leave from the mainland, it takes only around ten minutes to get there, and the boat is spacious with its own bar, although you won't have much time to enjoy your drink if there's a queue at the bar, given how short the boat journey is.
When you get there, you walk across platforms to the boat, into the main part of the fort. Don't look down if you don't like heights! There is an open centre to the fort, which is circular in shape. There are a range of rooms, and a licensed bar which you can walk through, with a dance floor. The drinks prices were very reasonable and at pub prices, especially as they could have taken advantage people, so this was a positive. The range of drinks was quite limited, but was sufficient.
There was very limited opportunity to get food, with no bar snacks such as crisps or peanuts stocked. Late in the evening, curry was available for 3.50 pounds, with a choice of either chicken curry or vegetarian. It was quite late to serve this, but was of good quality. I'm sure that the venue could have made more money though if they had put on a wider range of food.
The fort itself has lots of steps, and if you climb to the top, you can walk nearly all the way round. If you do have children at the venue (who weren't allowed the night I was there) though, you would have to ensure you were very careful, as there is little protection to stop people falling off the side! The venue must be permanently worried that someone gets in a drunken state and falls from the side, unlikely, but definitely not difficult to do.
There was lots in the fort that was interesting, and you could see little pieces of history throughout. Much of the more interesting areas weren't visible - such as the dungeons, which were made famous a few years back when Jeremy Beadle stayed in them as part of a TV programme. There was also very little information about the history of the fort, which was disappointing. Some more information boards would have been interesting, to show what parts of the fort had been used for what in the past.
It was however a very enjoyable evening, and the boat returned us to the shore at around midnight. The venue didn't feel very professionally managed as some people managed to get onto the fort for free, the food and drinks offering was quite limited, but the charges were very reasonable, and so an effort had been made in that regard.
If you haven't been though, this is definitely a venue worth considering a visit, history on our own doorstep!
I have been visiting Portsmouth for many years, since meeting my husband as he has relatives, there we visit three to four times a year.
I usually opted for the Gunwarf quays to get some retail theory but a few years ago I visited the Spit bank fort in the Portsmouth harbor and I have never looked back as it was a real eye opener.
On arriving in Portsmouth you look out across the port solent from either Portsmouth or Gosport and you are instantly hit with views of four huge circular forts.
These are known as the 'Palmerston's Follies, each of these forts were build to protect Portsmouth's naval base from invasion.
Spitbank Fort is a Victorian sea fort, which was planned and built in 1861. These plans were pondered on by the government for some strange reason so the fort was not completed until 1878.
From 1878 until 1956 the fort was used as part of the navals costal defenses, but in 1962 the naval base did away with it and claimed it was no longer any use to them.
The fort stood unused until 1982 when the navy sold it and the new owner restored it to what we see today.
Out of all four forts Spitbank is the only one that has been fully restored to the public at the moment and offers many tours, dinners and nights out.
The other forts include St Helens fort, which is currently up for sale with a million pound price tag on it, it has been for sale for many years but has never sold. This maybe due to the fact that the fort can not get access to a gas or electricity supply, so if you fancy living by candle light then you could buy it.
Horse Sand Fort is one of the largest sea forts, it is 240 feet in diameter and consists of two floors and a basement. This was built as a gun fort but due to space the royal commission could not operate all of the guns so they were sent over to the other forts.
Today Horse Sand fort is deralickedand is only inhabited by wildlife.
Lastly the forth fort is called No Man's Land Fort and is located 2.2 kilometers away from the isle of Wight, but it can still be seen from Portsmouth. This was built fort the bargain price of £462,500 and it worth millions today.
This is by far the best fort and it is identical to Horse sand fort in size and appearance from the outside. I personally love this as it is now a luxury home and hotel, that was before its closure in 2004 it was very expensive to stay in. This was due to the high quality finish and the privacy offered.
In 2004 legionnaires was found in the hotels water unit, so this forced its closure.
This place is like a palace and consists of deluxe rooms, a swimming pool and it even had a casino and two helipads. After the closure this was put up for sale in 2005 with a ten million price tag.
ABOUT SPITBANK FORT
The fort is a massive round building, surrounded by the sea in Portsmouth harbor and the only way to access it is by boat or a water taxi.
Spitbank is a mile out to sea and can hold up to 400 people at a time, this ex military fort offers spectacular tour of this structure built of stone, granite and concrete and 15 ft thick armored walls, built to once protect the fort and the naval base against heavy fire.
This fort is not only a spectacular view from ashore but even inside the fort has some amazing sights, at the top of the fort you can take in the stunning view of Portsmouth, the Gunwarf quays, South sea castle and even the Isle of Wight.
This fort has a light house in which you can spend the weekend, it has 50 rooms that you can roam around to take it the history and all display guns. These are all situated around a central courtyard and spiral staircase. If you are daring and don't mind damp dark and confined spaces you can walk through a 400 foot passage by candle light.
If you only visit the fort and don't eat then you can buy refreshments at a small bar / café situated on the courtyard, the prices are same as you would expect to pay in a bar or café down south.
If you want to make an afternoon of it you can you can go over to spitbank for a spit roast, these usually take place on a Wednesday and a Sunday afternoon during the summer season, but I have known spitbank to take bookings for these lunches well into the winter.
If you opt for a spit roast dinner then prices include the meal, a guided tour, time to roam around on your own and boat transport to and from the fort. This spit roast usually last three to four hours.
The spit roast is great value as you get the roast, jackets potatoes, salads and a dessert plus you get the tour and some stunning views to boot, you can even learn a thing or too I certainly did.
As an anniversary gift this year my husband took me over there for the weekend, the fort hires out the light house for the ultimate escape. Here we stayed in a nice modern two story apartment situated in the light house, this can sleep up to four people and has an observation deck for you to take in the views.
This is basically a self catering break but it is a much better break than I have ever had self catering, the fridge came fully stocked with food and alcohol and we didn't even have to pay extra for it.
Spit bank have recently started to do disco nights, the fort basically turns into a night club once every month over the summer months, local Djs sail over and take up residence for the night.
I have to say this is really novel and I would advise it for anyone, but don't get to drunk as you have to come back by boat. The disco finishes at two in the morning but the only snag being the return boat departs at midnight, crazy I know but if you want to stay you can get a water taxi back that will cost you roughly 6.00, which isn't too bad if you want the extra two hours.
You can as book the fort for private functions like, birthdays, weddings and Christmas parties, I just wish I knew this when I got married, well maybe not it would cost a fortune.
For the spit roast dinners you can expect to pay
£ 22.50 per Adult
£ 15.90 per Child (between 9-12 Years)
£ 11.00 per Child (between 3-8 Years)
£ 20.00 per OAP
Which I feel is very reasonable, because the first time I went I paid £12.00 just to visit the fort, I would highly recommend the dinner as it tastes amazing.
If you have any special requirements they will cater for you but you need to let them know when booking.
To spend a night in the lighthouse it will set you back £275.00 based on two people sharing, if you want longer than a night they will cater for that and give you discount we got two nights for £475.00 saving us 75.00 in total. This price includes the boat to and from the fort.
Disco party nights do vary but you can expect to pay roughly 25-00 to 30.00 but it all depends on who the Dj is that night.
BOAT PICK UP POINTS
There are four different pick up and drop off points, so you can chooses which one will suit you.
Gosport ferry terminal.
The Historic Dockyard - next to the HMS Warrior.
The Hard, Portsmouth - Ferry station.
Gunwharf Quays, water bus pier.
As time vary, when you book you will be given your pick up and drop off times.
You may get lucky and be able to book on the same day as you want to go, but in my experience we have had to book months in advance so I would highly recommend you book to avoid disappointment, especially in the peak summer season.
For further information you can contact staff at spit bank at,
Spitbank Fort Ltd.
Town Quay House
99 Gosport Road
Telephone: 01329 242077
Fax: 01329 822591
If you are going over in a group try to haggle to price as they do give good discounts but only if you ask.
This is a great day out if the weather is nice but if it miserable you could be disappointed, also remember that you have to cross by boat so calm water is essential well in my case anyway. If the weather is that bad they cancel the trips and fully refund your deposit.
Visiting spitbank has offered me some spectacular views the spinnaker tower is one of many things that stand out there.
I love that the Isle of Wight and the P&O ferries just steam straight past the fort, you can even see the people waving at you an the ferries.
Another bit of information that is relatively useless but some may be interested in, this that spit bank was used for six weeks back in June 2002 for Ant and Dec Saturday night takeaway, It was called banged up with beadle where Jeremy beadle was locked in a dungeon and he had to learn new skill with a member of the public each week. I told you useless but I couldn't resist.
Lastly I just want to say I would highly recommend you book because it is worth a visit even if you go for the tour only.
If you look out across the Solent from Portsmouth you will see a series of circular forts. You might think that doesn't sound so unusual but you'll think again if I tell you that they are built in the middle of the sea. These forts are part of a chain of coastal defences built to put a stop to any ideas Napolean may have had about invading Victorian Britain. He didn't. The Forts have been known ever since as 'Palmerston's Follies'. One of which is Spitbank Fort an unusual tourist attraction and function venue all rolled in to one. Situated a mile out to sea you reach Spitbank Fort by boat from the Portsmouth or Gosport side of Portsmouth Harbour. It can get a bit choppy out on the water and sea-sickness tablets are a must if you are that way inclined. If its too rough the boats don't go. The Fort offers 360 degrees of view around the Solent and out into the English Channel as well as the chance to explore some of the 50 room which include an original Victorian kitchen. Replica guns are on display in this water-bound fort with its own freshwater well. Its great for us locals when we need to find things that the in-laws and friends might enjoy doing and haven't done before when they come to stay so we take them out to the Fort for a mouthwatering spit-roast chicken Sunday lunch and spend the afternoon discovering what lies inside the Fort. You are free to explore the rooms as you wish, and roam the passageways by candlelight. Last time we went (over the Easter holidays) Katherine completely forgot about being a stroppy pre-teenager and thoroughly enjoyed herself, taking charge of little Joe and the visiting twins and leading them through the passageways on adventures that could only happen inside children's heads. I think they killed several sea-monsters and defeated countless pirates as us adults sat in the circula
r courtyard enjoying that refreshing bracing feeling you get when out at sea. Boats leave Gosport pontoon at 12 noon and the Historic Dockyard at 12.15pm. It costs £15 for adults and £8 for children and includes the meal. A vegetarian meal is available but you need to arrange it beforehand. Wednesday night is Pig Roast night. Boats leave Gosport Pontoon at 7.15 pm and 8.30 pm and Portsmouth Hard at 7.30 pm and 8.45 pm. Return times from the Fort are 9.15 pm and 10.30 pm. The Price is £15 for adults and £8 for children and includes lashings of roast pork and crackling, accompanied by a jacket potato and salad and followed by a sweet. Again a vegetarian meal is available by prior arrangement. Friday and Saturday nights are party nights on Spitbank Fort. The boat leaves Gosport Pontoon only at 8 pm and the return boat leaves the Fort at Midnight. The price is £20 per head and is inclusive of a 2-course supper and disco. Bar prices are reasonable and about the same as a normal pub. If you just want to visit the Fort and not eat Afternoon visits are available on Wednesdays and Sundays. Boats depart from the Historic Dockyard and Gunwharf Quays at 2.45 pm. But you are advised to check these details when booking. The afternoon trips cost £6.95 for adults and £5 for children. Perhaps there is a group of you that is looking for somewhere a little less run of the mill than the local theme pub for a night out in which case Spitbank Fort is ideal. The Group Social nights take place on Tuesday and Thursday nights and cost £15 per head, which includes a spit-roast chicken supper. (Or vegetarian option by arrangement). Boats leave Gosport pontoon at 7.30 pm and Portsmouth Hard at 7.45 pm. Group bookings only are accepted on these nights. You are advised to book your trip or night out on the Fort in advance. Unfortunately the Social evenings are n
ot something you can just do on the spur of the moment you have to pay a 20% deposit on booking and need to have paid at least 21 days in advance, and the deposit won’t be refunded if you cancel with less than 14 days to go to your intended visit. Sunday lunches and pub nights require a £2.50 deposit for groups of 8 more. But any other payments are accepted on the boats. Spitbank Fort also offers a venue with a difference if you are looking for somewhere to celebrate that special occasion. Its available to hire right through the year. For bookings and further details :- Something Different Leisure Ltd 9 Mumby Road Gosport Hamsphire Telephone 02392 529952
Spitbank Fort is one of four Victorian sea forts in Portsmouth harbour, known as ‘Palmerston’s Follies’. They were originally planned to protect Portsmouth naval base against French invasion. However, by the time of their completion it was apparent that France was not only not going to attack, but had never planned to do so. Hence the 'folly' nickname. Work had begun in 1861 but the plans changed several times; work was also delayed while the government debated the relative merits of such forts as compared to armoured ships. As a result, construction the fort was not finished until 1878. Of the four sea forts, Spitbank is the only one restored and open to public. It remained in use as part of the coastal defences until 1956 and was declared surplus to requirements by the MoD in 1962. They sold in 1982 and the new owners restored and opened it. Of the other forts, one is currently unused, while another has been converted into a luxury home (now available as a luxury venue for events, and currently for sale at a bargain ten million pounds). The fort is a round building, surrounded entirely by sea so that the only way to visit is by boat (the trip takes about 15 minutes each way or can be part of a three-hour tour). Built of stone, concrete and granite, the walls are 15ft thick and were armoured with teak and iron to resist heavy fire. This construction makes the fort a distinctive and imposing sight both viewed from shore, and at close quarters when you land by boat. Although initially, I wasn't too keen to visit the fort as I'm not really interested in military history, I'm very glad I did as I enjoyed myself immensely. On arrival, you can take a guided tour: this is well worth doing as the fort is a bit of a maze, so the overview is helpful, and you also learn a lot of fascinating history. Most interesting of all, you get a strong sense of what life was like in the fort during the
nineteenth century - although it's hard to appreciate how claustrophobic and overcrowded it must have been when it had its full wartime complement of over 150 people. After the tour, you are free to explore at will. There are over 50 rooms arranged around a central courtyard/staircase, and all of these seem to be open to the public. As well as those which held guns (there are several replica guns now in place), you can see the kitchen, forge, and well. Dug (or do I mean drilled?) in 1877, the well is just over 400 feet deep and can provide large quantities of very pure, fresh water. If you're feeling brave, you can explore the 400-foot passage which circles the fort. It's barely wider than your shoulders, and lit only by a candle you carry with you. (It's also wet and smelly...). Climbing the steps to the top of the fort is also worthwhile (and definitely less smelly!), with great views across Portsmouth harbour. Once you’ve finished exploring, there is a bar/tea shop, so you can pause from exploring the fort to have refreshments. Despite the monopoly, prices are very reasonable. This was a brilliant way of spending an afternoon, and I enjoyed it very much. Reasonable weather probably helped: although most of the time was spent indoors, it was fun to climb onto the top and to sit in the courtyard for drinks. Calm sea also ensured an enjoyable crossing! All in all, a boat trip to Spitbank Fort provides a fascinating insight into an unusual landmark.