Look out for the Good Journey Mark – where car-free visitors are welcome and enjoy a discount
Car-free adventures aroundWeymouthDorset
There are royal connections in this iconic Dorset town: when George III went famously mad, his doctor sent him to Weymouth as “the Resort of many people of the first Distinction”. But there’s no need to go mad or get stuck in traffic to enjoy these long sandy beaches and chalk-white cliffs; travel via picturesque paths or scenic railways, open-top buses or coastal bike rides…
1. Bus to Portland
Although it’s technically connected to the mainland by a long causeway, the tied island of Portland has its own distinct feeling in so many ways. With sunshine sparking from the turquoise water, the wild, white cliffs have a Mediterranean air with their coastal flowers and rock-hopping ravens. Four miles long and never more than half a mile wide, Portland has sea views on all sides. The north end of the island, nearest to Weymouth, overlooks Portland harbour and Chesil Beach while the southern tip, with its red and white lighthouse enjoys glimpses of migrating birds and huge panoramic seascapes.
- From Weymouth, head out of the railway station onto Queen Street and turn left into King Street to see the clock tower ahead of you on the Esplanade. This bright red landmark commemorates Queen Victoria’s jubilee in 1887.
- Turn right along the Esplanade, with the beach on your left and you’ll soon reach a statue of George III, who made Weymouth fashionable with his love of swimming in the sea. There’s a replica of his bathing machine nearby, a sort of beach hut on wheels.
- From the King’s Statue, you can hop on a bus to Portland (and other places). Late May to September, there are open-top buses to the lighthouse at Portland Bill. Other times, catch the frequent Bus 1 to Southwell and walk along pretty Southwell Road to pick up the coast path. Turn right along it for a beautiful mile and a half’s walk to the Lobster Pot café near the lighthouse.
2. Tout Quarry Sculpture Park
New York’s United Nations HQ, Dublin’s City Hall, the Tower of London, St Paul’s cathedral, the Cenotaph… there’s a long worldwide list of historic buildings and monuments made with white Portland stone and mining equipment stands abandoned along the rugged cliffs. To get a sense of the sites where this iconic stone originated, visit Tout Quarry, where fanciful sculptures are carved into the pale boulders and rockfaces overlooking Chesil Beach.
- Hop off number 1 bus at the Portland Heights hotel, just ten minutes ride back from Southwell and 25 minutes from the King’s statue in Weymouth.
- Walking from the hotel towards the nearby mini roundabout, look out for the stone circle that is part of Tout Quarry. Remnants of tunnels and horse-drawn tramways are monuments to this former quarry’s industrial past and some of the subtle relief carvings feel like the ghostly memories of the stone itself.
- Dotted among the flowers and bushes that now soften the landscape are sculptures, some simple, some spectacular. Anthony Gormley’s “Still Falling”, where a human figure seems to swim head-first down through layers of Purbeck and Portland limestone, dates from the Sculpture Park’s creation in 1983.
- More recent sculptures include the mythical Roy Dog; local stone worker Damien Briggs spent more than a year carving the Portland legend, a monstrous dog with one red and one green eye, completing the sculpture in summer 2018.