Portland Bill is the island’s main attraction and has rocks scattered around that contain fossils. They are not very well preserved and only oysters and bivalves can be found, along with trace fossils. However, it is a nice location for a short visit.
♦ Being the island’s main attraction, accessing it is very easy. Simply follow the main road signposted to Portland Bill, or ‘The Bill of Portland’ as written on some maps.
♦ There is car park, but as it is privately owned and you will need to pay to park there. However, toilets are provided on site, and there is a museum and cafe, together with an excellent pub.
♦ Walking from the car park, there are plenty of rocks that contain fossil oysters and other shells. West of the lighthouse, a raised beach can be examined that contains a range of Mesozoic rocks, as well as granite, bunter and quartzite pebbles.
♦ Ref: 50.51458°N, 2.45826°W
FIND FREQUENCY: ♦ – Fossils at Portland Bill are not common and those that can be found are poorly preserved. Most of the fossils are oysters and other molluscs, which are from the Portland Beds.
CHILDREN: ♦♦♦♦ – Portland Bill is suitable for children and toilets are provided on site.
ACCESS: ♦♦♦♦♦ – Access to Portland Bill is very good, because it is the main attraction on the island and is therefore easy to find.
TYPE: – Fossils are mostly seen in the rocks lying around from the disused quarry and in the quarry waste. They are most frequently found in the piles of rocks around this area. However, you should photograph rather than collect them, because this is private land and collecting is prohibited, and others should be given the opportunity to see and enjoy them.
The quarry is private, so collecting, hammering and taking samples is not permitted. However, within the rocks, scattered around the lighthouse area, you can see the burrows of animals (trace fossils), algae traces, bivalves and oysters, which are all common. We recommend photographing these and certainly do not recommend trying to remove them.
At the top of the cliffs at Portland Bill are the Purbeck beds. These are Cretaceous in age and are part of the Lulworth Formation. Below these are the Portland Beds, from the Cherty Member. Rocks from the Basal Shell Bed can also be seen in blocks fallen from the cliff. These are Jurassic in age.
West of the lighthouse, a raised beach can be examined with Mesozoic rocks, as well as granite, bunter and quartzite pebbles (from Budleigh Salterton). This is known as the ‘Portland Raised Beach’. Fossils can also be found here, as many of the rocks and pebbles are from the Portland Stone and Purbeck Beds. The latter now tend to be covered in rubble, but once made up the top most part of the quarry.
Common sense when collecting at all locations should always be used and prior knowledge of tide times is essential if exploring the foreshore at Portland Bill. The sea often reaches the base of the cliffs, so you could become cut off.
This is private land. Therefore, the best bit of equipment to take is a camera to photograph rather than collect the fossils.
This site is an SSSI and forms part of the UNESCO World Heritage Jurassic Coast. This means you can visit the site, but hammering the bedrock is not permitted. For full information about the reasons for the status of the site and restrictions please download the PDF from Natural England – SSSI Information – Portland