The Isle of Portland is a large mass of limestone which is linked to the mainland by the shingle ridge of Chesil Beach and is home to the Portland Coastal Half / Marathon which starts and finishes at the iconic Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy. Runners are treated to a dramatic run featuring rugged cliffs, nationally rare plants, hidden coves and stunning views.
The run will take you clockwise around the SouthWest Coastal Path for the first loop of the island, taking you past the recently built Osprey Quay around to Portland Castle, heading up Merchants Railway to the Verne. The impressive architecture of The Verne Citadel: now used as a prison, the citadel was designed by Captain W Crossman of the Royal Engineers and enclosed an area of 56 acres on the highest point of Portland. Work began in the mid 1800s and the Great Verne Ditch took 30 years to complete.
The run continues along behind the back of the YOI and down Goat Hill. You will be running past one of the best places and most popular areas to climb in Dorset along the old disused railway line until you reach the back of Rufus Castle. The remains of the striking Rufus Castle, which is thought to have been built originally for the red-headed William II, who was nicknamed Rufus. Much of what remains dates from the 15th century. The views stretch out to the English Channel for miles to sea and you may get a welcome message from your phones provider welcoming you to France! I kid you not 😉 Heading along from the Castle you will descend in to Church Ope Cove: this is the only beach on the eastern side of the island and is a peaceful, sheltered spot with soft sands, making it a good place for a picnic.
The next prominent point will be Pulpit Rock and Portland Bill: especially dramatic on a rough day, the southern most tip of the island fills you with an exhilarating feeling of space as you take in the spectacular views which extend to Start Point in Devon and ahead to Durlston Head in the east. On a clear day you can actually see more of the coast from here than from any other part of the entire South West Coast Path. The distinctive red and white striped Portland Bill Lighthouse is at the tip of the Island where the centre is open to visitors from Sunday to Friday between 11.00 and 17.00 from April to September, and it is also possible to climb the 153 steps to the top of the tower for some exceptional views. Heading back towards the Sailing Academy you will encounter breathtaking views from the top of West Cliff back along Chesil Beach and the Fleet Lagoon, which is the largest tidal lagoon in Britain and a Site of Special Scientific Interest due to the extraordinarily rich variety of wildlife found here. The ‘Spirit of Portland’ sculpture which depicts a fisherman and quarryman to represent the two main industries of the Isle can be seen before descending down Lankridge Hill on the Southwest coastal path – towards the Cove Inn – one of the finest pubs in the land (We’re not biased in anyway but Friday nights in the summer, after swimming, just wouldn’t be the same without the Cove!)
The final section of the first loop will take you out along Hamm Beach before a 180° turn sending you back to the Sailing Academy. At this point you will cross the half way split and you will be sent on your way for loop 2. This loop will be run in an anticlockwise direction making you retrace your steps giving you the opposite views to what you may have seen on your first time around.