It might be a bit rough around the edges, but this seaside town has so much to offer visitors. Discover why to visit Weymouth!
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Weymouth is a well-established and highly regarded holiday destination on Dorset’s Jurassic Coast. However, you might be forgiven for thinking you’d got off at the wrong station if you’re arriving by train.
Frankly, the area around the terminus is a bit rough around the edges. But fear not, just a few streets away is a mighty stretch of golden sand and beach huts… backed by guest houses and pubs that all look they’re been transported in from 1979, wholesale, complete with peeling paint and coloured flashing bulbs.
Erm so why visit Weymouth exactly?
I can tell you’re not warming to Weymouth. Let me assure you that first impressions are wrong.
The front is as traditional as any British seaside could be… and it’s great fun. Yes, it’s tacky but that’s its charm. There are ice-cream vendors and donkey rides – what more could you want?
Weymouth’s harbour area
Moreover, just ten minutes away you’ll find yourself in the harbour area, which is a wholly different kettle of fish. It’s actually pretty darn swish with plenty of expensive yachts moored up, great pubs and restaurants and some extremely tasty fish ‘n’ chips. All in all, it’s lovely.
But what’s there to do aside from snack on fresh fish, washed down with some excellent local beers? Well, just a short walk from the harbour there’s Nothe Fort, which was built between 1860 and 1872 to protect the Naval Harbour at Portland from the old enemy, the French.
It retained a military role into World War II and was partly converted into a nuclear shelter in the 1980s as a District Command Centre. It’s well worth a couple of hours of your time, especially if you like a bit of military history. The surrounding gardens are also very nice and make an excellent picnic stop.
Slightly further along the coast there’s Sandsfoot Castle, constructed in 1541 by order of Henry VIII. It was seen as an essential defence against French [yes, them again] and Spanish invasion.
By the 17th Century it had fallen into ruin and by 1930 it was declared unsafe – bits kept falling into the sea.
Step forward to 2012 and a Heritage Lottery Fund grant helped stabilise what was left, which is now surrounded by a very nice garden that also contains a decent café. The castle itself was never more than a gun deck but the views it commands are spectacular.
Weymouth for wildlife lovers
For those of you who like a little wildlife there’s RSPB Lodmoor, a reserve that combines reed beds, open water, salt marsh and wet grassland.
This mixed habitat attracts a wide variety of birds including Bearded Tits and Cetti’s Warblers, Gulls, Ducks, Kingfishers and Winter Waders amongst others. It’s a very pleasant walk, which is best appreciated if you bring some binoculars. With the exception of the ducks, the birds stay well clear of people.
Just a short walk from RSPB Lodmoor is Weymouth’s Sea Life Centre, which is well worth a visit. I like an aquarium – I’ve been to many on my travels – and this one scores well. It’s not huge but the quality of the exhibits is very good.
You want to walk through a clear tunnel with sharks and rays swimming overhead? Not a problem. You want penguins – and frankly who doesn’t? Problem solved. The staff I encountered were excellent, too. An interesting two hours of fun-filled sea life adventures that you’ll currently need to book in advance.
Take a trip to Portland
Down south on Portland – a short ride from Weymouth on the number 1 bus, which leaves from stop 4 on the seafront every 15 minutes – you’ll find Portland Castle.
This is another of Henry VIII’s fortifications designed to protect our shores against incursion by those tricky French. It’s in a good state of repair and gives a clear idea of what life would have been like during its long lifespan.
Today it’s owned by English Heritage, which has attached a garden, apparently ‘designed’ but looking, to all intents and purposes, like a lawn and some trees. The castle itself is, however, a small delight.
Just a short walk along the coast is the Castletown D-Day Centre, located on what was once Portland’s thriving harbour front. The pubs and houses date back to the mid 18th Century but the hustle and bustle of its heyday are long gone – the stretch of buildings is tired, dilapidated and generally rather sad.
Not so the museum, which is rich with hands-on experiences and lots of great history. D-Day is beyond doubt one of the most important military events in the history of the world; the deeds of the people involved shaped history in ways that are still felt today. The centre captures that in a fun and informative way and really shouldn’t be missed.
Why visit Weymouth?
Weymouth and its surroundings have plenty more to offer. This is the famed Jurassic Coast, after all. Sadly many of the attractions are currently closed due to Covid restrictions, so check ahead before you travel.
So is Weymouth for you? Do you like seafood, a classic British seaside, decent pubs and restaurants selling local fare, lots of history, wildlife and ice cream?
If the answer’s ‘yes’ hot foot it to one of Dorset’s most interesting towns. You won’t be disappointed.
This is a guest post by Anthony Clark, journalist, copywriter and longtime friend of the Ladies What Travel team. He loves beer, cheese and travel and is a genius when it comes to making the most of his annual leave.