With the release of the new film On Chesil Beach, based on Ian McEwan’s 2007 novel and starring Saoirse Ronan, we share some great ideas for things to see and do when visiting this fabulous destination on the Dorset coast.
A stretch of shingle reaching 18 miles from Portland to West Bay, Chesil Beach is remarkable for being separated from the mainland for much of its length. Viewed from above, the beach looks as though it has peeled away from the mainland, trapping an area of water – known as the Fleet Lagoon – between itself and the bottom of Blighty.
Despite appearances, Chesil Beach is actually a shoal that has rolled its way landwards, joining the Isle of Portland with the mainland in an extraordinary fashion. It’s also part of the Jurassic Coast, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and a location in Ian McEwan’s novel On Chesil Beach, now also a film directed by Dominic Cooke.
Overlooking Portland harbour – one of the largest of its kind in the world – Portland Castle is one of the finest forts in Henry the VIII’s portfolio. It was built in the 1540s to protect England from invasion from the French and the Spanish, and later a key stronghold for Charles I during the English Civil War.
Discover 450 years of history when you explore this impressive bastion, with its splendid sea views, gun platforms and collection of cannons.
The Crab House Café in Wyke Regis, on the mainland just north of the Isle of Portland, serves locally-sourced oysters and crabs – some of the best you’ll find in the UK. The crabs are served dressed or, if you’re feeling up to it, with a hammer, nutcrackers, various picks and forks and a bib. Get stuck in while you look out at picturesque Chesil Beach.
Chesil Beach is roughly an hour’s walk from the centre of Weymouth, making the city the perfect base for exploring the wider area. Visit Weymouth’s sandy beach with its promenade and traditional seaside attractions, including deck chairs, beach huts and pedalos for hire.
For 360-degree panoramic views of the surrounding coast, head up the 53-metre-high Jurassic Skyline. Once the gondola takes you to the top of the tower, it gently turns a full circle, letting you see Chesil Beach, Portland and beyond. However, make sure you check website first, as the attraction closes during the winter months, opening again in spring.