Breakwater Fort, Portland Harbour, Dorset

When I was 9 years old, I looked out my Aunty’s conservatory with a pair of binoculars dreaming of the day I could go to the Breakwater Fort in Portland Harbour and explore it. It’s been a dream of mine for over 20 years. A dream that was constantly the brunt of broken promises & false hope.

Staircase going down to the lower levels of the Breakwater Fort
Staircase leading down into the heart of the Breakwater Fort

For years I forgot all about the Breakwater Fort, until recently. I had explored one of the most top secret bunkers in the country and I needed more. Something closer to home. That’s when a plan was hatched to explore the Fort.

The sheer scale of the Breakwater Fort becomes apparent as you approach the small, secluded harbour. We moored up and headed straight to the Fort, the outbuildings would have to wait.
Descending the iron, spiral staircase my heart was pumping so fast. I was living my dream!

Inside the Fort you’re immediately confronted with an atrium with eight sides. This octagonal floor housed the 32 ton cannons used to defend the harbour. The floor below is where it got really interesting.

Two circular passageways inside each other run around the lower floors of the Fort. Radial Passage 1 & 2. The former was used for lifting shells to the cannons above, while the latter stored the shells in its many storage rooms. At the very centre of the Fort at its lowest point was the impressive Engine Room.

UPDATE: A few of my photos of the Breakwater Fort were used in the excellent iPad app created for The British Library by the Archaeology Data Service. Download it on your iPad here

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46 responses to “Breakwater Fort, Portland Harbour, Dorset”

  1. Average Joe says:

    The main reason Port Authority get touchy about the breakwater is because SF regularly use it for training, CQC exercise etc. That, and most of the utility pipelines for Portland run through it.

    PS excellent pics! You get any trouble from any angry RIBs? Lol

    • The Urban Explorer says:

      Thanks, but I was under the impression that Portland’s utilities ran along under Chesil beach? I suppose you learn something new every day!

      No trouble at all, but we did push our luck with a third visit nearer the time the Olympics were on – they were on to us pretty quick then!

      • Jake says:

        I love things like this and im new to the area! Would there be any possibility you could give me info to where this is please I would love to visit!

        • The Urban Explorer says:

          As you’re new to the area I’ll assume you’re not familiar with the local landmarks, but this is (as it states) in Portland Harbour. A quick online search will get you all the information you need.

  2. Morgan says:

    These places amaze me, I live in New Zealand and I must say our history is nowhere near as interesting. I’ve explored one place here called Godley Head in Christchurch and got some pretty cool (albeit bad) photos but so many places are now unsafe thanks to the earthquakes and it’s not worth the risk. Would love to travel back to the UK and explore some more places, I guess I’ll just add it to my bucket list :)

  3. Jack says:

    Went here last weekend. Me and mate took a 2 man kayak. Took over an hour, and if you’re not confident I wouldn’t recommend it. Does get pretty choppy around the harbour. Was pretty interesting out there. Had to climb/dock up the side of the rocks which are slippery and pull it over. Spent a good hour there. Few boats came back just looking. Did eventually have the harbour master come out as we were leaving and gave us a good telling off, but that was it. Was told not to come back.

  4. Ells says:

    I was wondering if it’s possible to take photos there wihout authourities getting on my case, I am doing photography work and I need an abandoned place to take photos in. Will this place be safe to work in?

    • The Urban Explorer says:

      The fort is privately owned and there are several signs saying that you’re not permitted to land on the breakwater… it’s totally up to you, but I’m sure there’s hundreds of other easier, safer options if all you need is “an abandoned place”.

  5. Aiden says:

    I was wondering if it’s possible to take photos there wihout authourities getting on my case, I am doing photography work and I need an abandoned place to take photos in. Will this place be safe to work in?

  6. Derrick says:

    Me and my friends used to Kayak out to this fort loads when we were a bit younger, we’d spend hours jumping from the walls in to the water. Eventually the harbour master would come and tell us to go home, but we had some great memories there! I noticed in your article you said the small secluded harbour of Portland. Portland harbour is not a small harbour though, it is one of the biggest man made harbours in the world.

    • The Urban Explorer says:

      Thanks for the comment Derrick, however you’ve misunderstood what I meant by “small secluded harbour”. I was talking of the harbour actually on the fort – I suppose more of a mooring area.

    • timothy griffiths says:

      We were the scourge of the naval base, being kids on the Downclose estate, my brother, the Collins, the Haylocks, Mowlmams, Tarriers, would set sail in their kayaks made at the YAC on Knightsdale Road and paddle out to the arm, the navy usually sending a wasp to tell us to sling our hook!

  7. argie says:

    I really can’t believe the state of the place like that, it’s a disgrace to the history of Dorset and England. Anywhere else (not UK) and it would be a museum. I think we need to take a leaf out of the Island of Jersey’s book.

    Great pics again, thanks

  8. billy says:

    I’m young and I’m from Weymouth and I’ve done loads of things like this, most often bunker raves. I’ve seen Chernobyl and it opened up my mind to things like this but I was never aware that there was other bunkers on Portland. But I do know one thing, “the forbidden city”. it’s my one dream but I literally have no clue to where it is. Wondering if you could help since you’re local.

  9. rich says:

    Just a quick one. I am interested in doing some exploration myself just wondering how you find out about these places.

    • The Urban Explorer says:

      Rich,

      It’s all about doing research. As plain & simple as that! It’ll also help to join an exploring forum such as 28dayslater.co.uk – surround yourself with like-minded people.

  10. Steve Tizard says:

    Hi,

    A quick note to say I think your photos are excellent! I’ve been reading urban exploration reports for a few years now but yet to take the plunge and actually explore myself, I live in Weymouth and hoping to try a few local sites at some point.

    I would love to do Chernobyl one day, that place really amazes me..

    Keep up the awesome work :)

    Steve

    • Chai Suno says:

      Hi, I actually live on Portland and it’s a wonderful place. I’d really check it out!

      • Max Cutts says:

        Chai, I couldn’t agree more. I also live on the island and quite often I stand places and just admire the place we live in. I would love to go on an explore to this location any time if you would like to, feel free to comment back and we will get in touch. :)

  11. Hi, very interesting site & fascinating info about the fort at portland, dorset. I just wonder though, you have the disclaimer thing at the bottom about not breaking the law to enter a site & not condoning trespass, surely by entering somewhere (like the fort) that belongs to someone else you are doing both, trespassing and breaking the law? what would happen if the landowners took action against me if I wanted to go to the fort (and who are the land owners?)?

    • The Urban Explorer says:

      Hi John,

      The disclaimer is there to protect me if someone uses my name/website as an excuse or reason behind their actions. I’m distancing myself from them and their exploring habits.

      As for “breaking the law” and trespass, I suggest you read up on it if you want to know the ins and outs. I’m correct when I say I do not break the law when entering a site. Breaking the law would include acts such as breaking & entering, criminal damage, theft etc. None of which I condone or involve myself in.

      The Breakwater Fort is owned by Portland Port. They don’t allow visits (I tried to get a permission visit from them). You need to make your own mind up on how you want to get out there.

      As for your worry about them “taking action” against you. Again, I suggest you read up on trespass and your rights.

    • James says:

      Trespass is easy to get around. If you gain access to a site without breaking in or destroying or stealing anything you are not violating any laws. Providing if you are caught by security that you leave when requested you will not be liable for prosecution. However, this does not apply to land owned by the MOD. You can, and are more likely to be prosecuted if caught. My advice is to not take anything with you like knives, jimmy bars or tin snips or anything that could be used to force entry. Take a camera and a good attitude and you should be fine.

  12. chris says:

    Hi thanks for the reply, maybe I was thinking about the cameras at the QinetiQ site, just looking at all the places I’ve never heard of around Dorset, your site is amazing well done. I’m back home in ***** definitely going to have to try and get onto the fort

  13. chris says:

    Hi Adam, im also from weymouth and have always wanted to explore the portland harbor fort but have been put off witht the cctv cameras near by, is it easy to get in and did u not mind the cameras?
    chris

  14. wayne adams says:

    can you visit breakwater fort and if so how can you get to it

  15. Dave Alexander says:

    I have never until the other day heard of your Website, but it really interesting, if you ever get the chance pop over to Folkestone and don’t forget too have a wander around the Warren, as there were when I worked some years ago on the Channel Tunnel some sealed Bunkers (although I expect now they’ll be unblocked, also if you don’t mind a bit of a climb up near the Cliff edge, there is some access to 2ND WW Tunnels, I don’t know if you’ve heard of them or not, but there is a Group based near Bath going by the name of darkplaces.co.uk check them out you won’t regret it,good hunting.Regards,Dave

  16. Mr Steven Cook says:

    Hi Adam,
    What can i say except, wowsome!! Where abouts is the harbour at portland? I thought i knew that area well and yet this is new to me. I am currently working my way through the cordite factory at holten heath and in june may have a guided tour around the secure sections. I have explored loads of it already including the labs. What a tight squeeze it was getting through the bars. Id be very interested in any tips you could give me on sites, kit to take with me to explore these sites. Think they are facinating.
    Many many thanks. Steve.

    • Hi Steve,

      The Breakwater Fort is located on the end of the second breakwater arm from the island here

      Holton Heath is a great site, one I’ve not completely explored yet but it’s sadly becoming more and more battered every time I visit!

      I’ve got no problem with having a chat with you over e-mail regarding sites & equipment etc. (assuming you’ve used your real email address here?)

      • ashley norton says:

        Hi, my name is Ashley, I’m 21 and really interested in walking around abandoned places that have some history to them. I was wondering if you could help me with any good places to visit

  17. Robert H. says:

    Adam- thanks for sharing all the wonderful urbex! You have some really neat sites- especially like this one- military sites are of interest to me. Here in the States, most of the really neat stuff is back on the East coast, as they have a lot more of the “older” locations. Sadly, here (Nevada~) it’s old mines which are too dangerous (gas, failing timbers) or ghost towns- which have been picked clean.

    Just a quick note on this exploration set- the rounds of ammo you found were blanks, live but not terribly dangerous. You can tell by the tips having that kinda “crimp” in them. Probably left over from training exercises with a MAG MG.

    Thanks again for sharing!

    • Thanks for the comment Robert. This site is one of my favourites, but you can probably tell that from my write-up!

      I was in Nevada in 2011 and really wanted to visit the Ghost Towns south of Las Vegas but didn’t get the chance. I see you’re in to some kind of war re-enactment? Looks fun!

      Thanks for the interesting info on the rounds of ammo. I suppose being an American you’re more clued up on that sort of thing than us!

      • Robert H. says:

        Yeah, it was fairly evident you like this site!

        Should you make it out to Northern Nevada- drop a note. Mayhap we can go out and I can introduce you to my Anglophile collection… You see- the reenactments I do as part of the British 1st Airbourne! As such, my collection of small arms include a couple of Stens, some Enfields, and a Bren gun. And a few others, sure, but those are my favorites! So you see- we use that blank ammo a lot when we do our reenactments!

        I’m also researching locations of a couple of mine sites out near us. There are no longer any buildings, but it’s a sort of fun “treasure hunt” to be able to let the folks at the School of Anthropology where a given site is. And we get credit in the research papers, so that’s cool, too!

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