THE SOLENT’S FORTS. LUXURY AT A STONES THROW
On a recent cold and cloudy early spring day Paul and I were fortunate enough to visit No Man’s Fort in the middle of the Solent to check out one of their Fort Experience packages.
Like many of us, since I was a child I’d wondered what the forts were like inside. Ever since seeing the forts as a child in the middle of the Solent, to catching a glimpse inside through Doctor Who’s “The Sea Devils” – I was hooked. The six episode serial, which was filmed on the fort in 1972 saw John Pertwee’s Doctor Who and his assistant Jo Grant visit the Doctor’s nemesis ‘The Master’ in his island prison. Although this episode means the fort will always have a place in my childhood, as an adult I’m more interested in the luxury hotel, restaurant and spa facilities that have since taken over.
No Man’s Fort is one of three forts run by the Solent Fort group. They offer various packages where you can visit for lunch, a day or an overnight package and gain a taste of fort life for yourself.
…you can visit for lunch, a day or an overnight package and gain a taste of fort life for yourself
…the fort was built back in the late 1800’s to protect Portsmouth in times of conflict
After booking into the Solent Forts office (situated opposite Cafe Rouge in Gunwharf Quays,) we departed on the ferry on our 30 minute journey to the fort. I could sense that I wasn’t the only one filled with excitement as the journey was filled with passengers eager to capture their first experience of the fort.
Once on board we received a warm welcome from the staff along with some bubbly in the Atrium, already giving an indication of the luxury that was in store. Once the introductions were finished we were taken on a historical tour which took us from the sea level bunker to the top deck, taking in a number of facts along the way, such as how the fort was built back in the late 1800’s to protect Portsmouth in times of conflict.
No Man’s Fort Facts
- It was built for a cost of £462,500, which if adjusted for inflation is nearly equivalent to just over £43 million.
- During WWII the forts came into their own as defences for the Portsmouth dockyard and the approaching sea channels. Life on site was grim and those serving their country were deliberately chosen based on their inability to swim, to avoid any attempts at escaping their post.
- In 1956 coastal artillery was abolished, leaving the forts empty and unused. They were then put up for sale in 1963 but no one invested in these historic landmarks until the 1980s.
- Walls are up to 15ft thick made of solid granite from the Menai Strait in Wales.
- Commandos used to use the gantry as a test of nerve as they were told to jump off it and climb back up 3 times as part of the initiation.
- Potential visitors have no need to fear overnight stays as No Man’s Fort as there has never been any reports of paranormal activity. Spitbank Fort on the other hand is haunted by Sir Henry Atrill. Atrill was the only officer to die during occupation of the Fort. The Most Haunted team even visited the fort to see what, or who they could find.
…those serving their country were deliberately chosen based on their inability to swim, to avoid any attempts at escaping their post
…my favourite part of the fort has to be the Lighthouse. As well as containing luxury accommodation, a dining suite and a rum bar, the top floor offers amazing 360° views of the Solent…
After our tour Paul and I were treated to a fantastic buffet from the La Resistance Wine Bar. There was something to suit every palette, all freshly prepared by their highly trained chefs. Perfect washed down with a nice cold beer.
After we’d finished the food we were allowed a couple of hours to digest and thoroughly explore the fort and enjoy their range of facilities. Ordinarily we would be enjoying the views and the facilities such as the hot tub and spa, however being dedicated Strong Islanders we were focused on obtaining footage for our feature. With so many picturesque scenes Paul and I were actually quite rushed to finish capturing everything and believe me, there was so much we missed!
Although it would be tough to choose one, my favourite part of the fort has to be the Lighthouse. As well as containing luxury accommodation, a dining suite and a rum bar, the top floor offers amazing 360° views of the Solent, taking in the Isle of Wight, Portsmouth and Gosport. You will also find mirrored flooring from the ceiling of the ground floor dining room all the way up to fourth floor.
If you are interested in the Fort Experience we received then this is available for a very reasonable £65 per person. For what the package includes and the uniqueness of the experience I cannot recommend it enough. In addition, they have a range of dining options available including a Saturday and Sunday lunch options. Both options include a tour of the fort, a varied 3-4 course menu and prosecco on arrival. For those who fancy giving their fathers an extra special treat on June 19th, there will be a package available with a small cost to upgrade to include accommodation.
In addition, No Man’s Fort can be hired for weddings and private events as well as hosting a number of their own events throughout the year. Information for all of this, as well as anything else you need to know can be found over on their website.