Wednesday 8 January 2014

Trip to Portland, Dorset, UK

This last weekend (03 January 2014), my wife and I managed to get away for a small 2 night break in a hotel she found on Wowcher. The hotel was the Venue Hotel which is located high up on top of Portland, which is situated on a small piece of land that juts out from the mainland, connected to Weymouth by a very thin strip of land (literally just a road).

We were set to go just when bad storms were hitting the south coast of England (great timing), but we had rearranged the date several times already so did not want to put it off again. We didn't have the kids with us so we wouldn't have to worry about entertaining them in the rain. Being on our own we could just do something to suit ourselves...for a change! I think it was the first time we had both been away from the kids (currently 3 and 5) for two nights.

The drive down was longish (think the whole journey took about 4.5 hours including a half hour stop). This was longer also due to a diversion due to a closed road due to flooding. There had been a lot of flooding and rain around the country and Dorset was one of the worse hit. Evidence for this was abundant on the way down as many fields either side of the roads had been transformed into lakes! We didn't hit any floods ourselves to traverse on the way down (luckily).

It rained pretty much the whole time we were there. We got there in time to check in, get ourselves sorted in the room then have dinner in the hotel restaurant. The restaurant was a section of the building that was on the first floor, that protruded out over the main entrance, so cars could drive underneath it, so it was sat upon pillars. We could actually feel the restaurant swaying slightly in the gale! Still, there's something nice about being indoors listening to the storm outside. Especially when eating gorgeous food, which is what we had.

Next day we woke late, then headed off out to a place we had been before and wanted to see again, Lulworth Cove, a lovely little bay, made from steep surrounding cliffs, eroded away to form an almost complete bowl/basin/bay, with just a small gap out to sea.

In the rain, it was very deserted. But the few coffee shops there and gift shops and the visitor centre were open. Must be long quiet days for the staff of them at this time of year. We had been here previously in the summer time and it was a very different story. Very crowded and busy with many people on the beach and filling the coffee shops. Still, it was nice in a way to have the place to ourselves. We walked around a bit, had a hot drink in a coffee shop, walked up the side to see Stair Hole. I enjoyed taking a few pictures, although the rainy weather made it a bit impractical.

There was a nice rusty bit of machinery, which, for some reason, I like taking photos of. I think its because of the richness of the colours in rusty metal, especially when given the HDR treatment.

Want to come back here with the boys...they would love being on this beach and we would do some DIY fossil hunting for sure. The crazy rock structure here reveals multiple layers of rock spanning many millions of years of geological evolution.

We set off to find somewhere to eat and decided to go back to a place we had been to before, the Smuggler's Inn in Osmington Mills, just a few miles down the coast from Lulworth. This is a cute little pub we have been to before also, so a little trip down memory lane. We got there about 1600... and luckily, the Sun had just started to break through the clouds just before dipping below the horizon, creating an absolutely amazing sunset view over the sea! Talk about being in the right place at the right time... I was so glad to be able to snap some shots of this. Here is my favourite from these shots:


I made this gorgeous (subjective) panorama from 4 shots. Each shots comprised of 3 exposures, merged together to form HDR images. So in total, 12 shots made this photo. I am rather pleased with it. My keen amatuer photography keeps growing (still a long way to go for my own satisfaction though).

I took a few others too after we'd been in the pub. It was dark by then so I tried a long exposure of pretty much the same view:

Then we drove back to Weymouth down to the sea front (the esplanade) to see the sights. It was night, but it was all lit up nicely, still a few Christmas decorations up. Weymouth has some funky laser thing going on too...they are aiming green lasers from up high in street light poles into the sea...not sure what for.

We parked up and had a little walk around (mainly to find a shop to get a few supplies to take back to the hotel room), which was nice, albeit cold and deserted. I could spend a lot of time taking photos around places like this.

On the way back onto Portland, we drove up the north side, but being dark and unsure what I was looking for didn't find much. I did pull over for a quick view over Portland, which was worth it in the dark. Tried taking a photo:

The sky was amazing too! It was maybe 95% clear and the stars were just amazing! Being quite far from the mainland out into th ocean, the light pollution was low and the amount of stars visible was so cool. Could have spent more time looking at that too!

The next day, it was time to go home. We had breakfast and checked out by 1100 and wanted to stop in Weymouth (we saw some good coats on sale in a shop - so now we all have new coats!). After that we just set off to head home, back through the flooded landscape of Dorset, which gradually receded into normal wet, wintery England countryside. The drive back was pretty uneventful and a lot quicker than on the way down.

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