Sitting at your desk on a Spring Friday afternoon, sun is streaming onto your desk (assuming you’re lucky enough to have some natural light in your office…) This is the time of the week where I absolutely mail it in and give up on getting anything else done. My normal weekend schedule revolves around some drinks Friday night and getting up early on Saturday do get climbing before the crowds. Now with the nicer weather, the gym can feel like a dungeon so I started looking for an outdoor option. The Isle of Portland in Dorset became a great escape.
The best way to get out to Portland is going to be by car (3 hours or so) On Google maps I saw that you can get public transport but it was absolutely dreadful and made it prohibitive for a weekend getaway. Learning from past mistakes in regards to traffic with our trip to Brecon Beacons (https://concretewolves.com/2019/03/20/office-to-outdoors-brecon-beacons/) My girlfriend and I decided to rent our car from Budget at Heathrow airport. There are two main ways to get there. The fastest way is the M3 to the M27; however, on bank holidays this can be extremely slow with traffic. When there is high traffic going towards Salisbury and the A303 will be your best bet. We generally leave around Heathrow at 6AM and we are climbing by around 10:00 am. Using the Portland Museum in Google Maps is a great way point. For Parking for The Cuttings, there is a free parking lot about 50 meters after the entrance to the Portland museum, but get there early as it can fill up. There is another great free parking lot about another kilometer up the road.
There are a few options for accommodation. The expensive and most convenient option is to stay at the Heights Hotel (did this for my girlfriend’s birthday.) It costs around 150 a night with a great breakfast spread in the morning. The more realistic options are Airbnb in Weymouth, there is the YHA Hostel in Portland, or (for you dirtbaggers out there) the parking lot near the Portland museum allows overnight and the one up the road camping does not officially allow camping but it does not seem to be policed much.
KEY CLIMBING INFORMATION
- Winds predominantly blow from West to East
- For the easiest climbs (3-5+) check out Godnor Far South (rock scramble to the crag) or the Cuttings (Far left)
- Due to the predominant lime stone many of the climbs under 6B are quite polished
- Some routes have large number of bolts so 12-13 draws will let you climb everything but most are around 6-8 draws.
- The best guidebook is the Rockfax Dorset Book. There is another book just for Portland made by Steve Taylor which is a bit outdated.
The climbing is far better than I expected as it is only 3 hours from London as well as the fact that the UK is best known for trad climbing rather than sport. We have been extremely lucky with the weather on bank holidays. I could go on and describe it more but figure it is better to just show you so that you can see for your self.
After climbing you are always going to need some good food and beer. I highly recommend Billy Winters. It is a fantastic surfer like bar with outdoor sitting and cold beer. If you go here try to park in the small roped off area because this is the only free parking for the restaurant (you’ll have to ask for a ticket at the bar.) If you want something a little nicer, the Crab Shack is amazing seafood and dishes obviously put together by a chef. Also on the nicer side, LnO’s Bistro is fantastic.
All in all Portland is a fantastic climbing location for a weekend get away or just an opportunity to climb outside rather than the gym. Let me know some of your favorite climbs!