Clifftops: A contemporary oasis on the Isle of Portland

Retreat to the sea for a relaxing break like no other, at the self-catering, ocean-facing luxury lodges in the grounds of Portland's Pennsylvania Castle Estate

A terrace at sunset with rattan outdoor furniture and the sunset reflected in the large glass windows of the apartment
(Image credit: Clifftops/Jim Stephenson)
Woman & Home Verdict

These stylish self-catering lodges make for a luxurious home away from home thanks to their thoughtful design and locally-sourced personal touches that help you feel as immersed in Portland life as the lodges are part of the Portland cliffs. The perfect place to relax, unwind, switch-off, sit back and just relax whilst surrounded by the calming majesty of the sea.

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Immersed in the rugged coastal landscape of Dorset's fossil-rich Jurassic Coast is Clifftops, an exquisitely designed set of luxury lodges nestled within the grounds of Portland's Pennsylvania Castle.

Part of the UNESCO World Heritage Coast, Portland may prove surprisingly industrial to visitors of the peninsula that are not familiar with the Isle’s history of quarrying. Far from a desert island landscape, Portland is an isle of stone, with rugged scenery, rocky cliffs and stony beaches.

The location of the self-catered dwellings feels somewhat remote, but this is part of the beauty and draw of Clifftops. Not recommended for those looking to be right in the thick of the action with the hustle and bustle of a busy seaside town on their doorstep, Clifftops is a retreat for those seeking solace from the daily grind and a simpler, more serene way to spend time. 

That is not to say that the accommodation at Clifftops is devoid of mod-cons and the latest technologies, quite the contrary, but for every high-tech gadget and top-of-the-range appliance in the apartments there are also spaces that invite you to sit and read, relax, talk or simply stare out at the sea and horizon, enjoying the breathtaking view and watching the sea roll in.

Clifftops at Pennsylvania Castle Estate

There are five self-catering lodges on the Pennsylvania Castle Estate, all with incredible ocean-facing views and finished to the highest of standards. 

As well as expansive sea views, the lodges also look up to Bow and Arrow Castle, which is an Ancient Monument, and of course the Grade II Listed Pennsylvania Castle itself, which provides a historic backdrop to the already breathtaking location of the accommodation. 

Clifftops as viewed from the sea with Bow and Arrow Castle, which is a scheduled Ancient Monument, and Grade II Listed Pennsylvania Castle in the background.

The lodges at Clifftops are surrounded by history in the form of Bow and Arrow Castle and Pennsylvania Castle. 

(Image credit: Clifftops/Jim Stephenson)

During our stay at Clifftops we had the keys to Ope, one of the largest lodges at Clifftops with two bedrooms and two bathrooms.

With no dedicated reception space, guests are provided with all the details needed to locate their lodge and key via email ahead of arrival, and once inside the lodge, there is an iPad with all the information needed to get settled in.

What are the Clifftops lodges at Pennsylvania Castle Estate like?

Emerging from the cliffside, although the apartments are less than three years old they blend sympathetically into their rugged and historic surroundings, thanks in part to the use of Portland stone in their design which was quarried only minutes away from the Pennsylvania Estate.

The unique cliffside location allows for uninterrupted sea views and the highlight of the Clifftops lodges is unarguably the view. The awesome vista of the North Atlantic Ocean, stretching from the north to south, is central to the location of these modern apartments and every aspect of the lodges’ design has been chosen with the view in mind. 

An orange and red sunset over the sea.

The uninterrupted, ever-changing view from Clifftops is a real highlight of a stay in the lodges.

(Image credit: Clifftops/Jim Stephenson)

From the more obvious architectural choices to have floor to ceiling windows that span every wall facing out onto the sea, to the large sliding doors that allow for a hybrid of indoor and outdoor living in the summer months, with a spacious terrace set up for relaxing and entertaining with the view as an ever changing, mesmerising backdrop; to the more subtle design decisions, such as the simple but luxurious decor that blends seamlessly with the surroundings to place the view at the centre of attention in the living spaces at all times.

A terrace flooded with sunlight with an outdoor sofa and armchair

The large terrace of Ope lends itself to both relaxation and entertaining. 

(Image credit: Clifftops/Jim Stephenson)

With two rooms to a lodge there’s enough privacy to be had if sharing the space with friends or family members, but there's also plenty of communal space for dining, relaxing and entertaining.

The contemporary sofa curved stylishly around the lodge's large, electric fire makes for a cosy conversation spot or comfy place to gather to watch the flat-screen TV, the imposing dining table in the centre of the lodge provides an all-weather space to enjoy meals and the real show-piece of the lodge - the large and spacious outdoor terrace - is complete with a full outdoor kitchen, dining space, sofas and a hot tub large enough for four people for the ultimate outdoor communal area. 

On a sunny day you could easily pass a whole day out here, marvelling at the view and relaxing to the sound of the waves in the distance. In the summer, the team at Clifftops can also help guests book yoga lessons out on the terrace, a serene spot to practice and flow with the sea in the background.

A contemporary apartment designed using wood and concrete with mid-century modern furniture and sea views.

The stylish and contemporary interiors of Ope. 

(Image credit: Clifftops/Jim Stephenson)

We thought the level of design and attention to detail that had clearly gone into the creation of Clifftops was exceptional. The apartment was really stunning with no small detail or luxury spared. From clever design details that just added to the feeling of luxury and comfort, such as the under floor heating throughout, the concealed storage and touch-to-open cupboards and drawers that keep the space easily clutter free, or the bathroom mirrors that magically de-mist immediately after showering; to the personal touches that make the lodge feel like home – even if just for a short time. This included the luxurious Bramley toiletries and treats that champion local businesses found throughout the lodge. 

Each lodge comes with a bottle of Pennsylvania Castle Estate's own gin, specially crafted by Fordington Gin - a distillery found just 30 minutes from Clifftops – along with two mini bottles of tonic; perfect for that 'ah we've arrived' moment once you've worked out how everything works and where everyone is sleeping. 

There was also a bag of Burning Cliff coffee set up next to the French Press, ready for the next morning's first coffee of the day. Burning Cliff is one of the seasonal speciality coffees by Fountain Rock Coffee Roasters, another local brand showcased by Clifftops who are based down in Weymouth. You can make an appointment to visit the roaster on Albany Road during your stay and pick up more coffee to take home. More info can be found at fountainrockcoffee.co.uk (opens in new tab).

A composite image of a view from the clifftops lodges out to see with a pair of binoculars resting on a padded bench seat and a bottle of gin on a wooden work surface with a contemporary apartment living room in the background.

Thoughtful touches, such as providing binoculars and locally crafted gin in every lodge, really makes Clifftops stand out from other luxury self-catering options locally. 

(Image credit: Future/Rachael Martin)

Where is the Isle of Portland?

The Isle of Portland is in Dorset in the south of England. 

The southernmost point on the Jurassic Coast, the Isle of Portland is connected to Weymouth on the mainland via a road on a causeway flanked on one side by the pebbled Chesil Beach and with the English Channel on the other.

Portland is an industrial Isle with a strong quarrying and naval past. Portland Stone is still quarried in the area and the Isle also has a very commercial port.

The easiest way to get to Clifftops is by car. The Pennsylvania Castle Estate is just under 20 minutes by car from the centre of Weymouth and the use of a vehicle allows for maximum flexibility during your stay. 

There is also a train station in Weymouth and South Western Railway runs trains to cities including Bournemouth, London, Southampton, Exeter and Reading. A taxi from Weymouth station to Clifftops will cost between £20-£30 one way.

Best things to do on the Isle of Portland

If you can drag yourself away from the comfort of your luxurious lodge, and the weather lends itself to outdoor activities, there are lots of things to do on the Isle of Portland. 

The Pennsylvania Castle Estate sits on the South West Coastal Path which means you have just shy of 10 miles of walking trails with epic views on your doorstep. 

Walk (or run) the cliffs, or brave the sea winds and take a walk on the 18 mile long, pebbled Chesil beach that forms part of the causeway connecting the Isle of Portland with Weymouth. 

There are also opportunities to climb, horse ride and cycle across Portland, as well as explore the quarries and areas of outstanding natural beauty that the Isle is renowned for. 

A woodland path on the Isle of Portland in the spring

There are plenty of trails and paths to explore on the Isle of Portland.

(Image credit: Clifftops)

For those brave enough to take to the water, activities such as paddle boarding, kayaking and sea swimming await. There is also the chance to dive, and both sailing and kite surfing are also popular locally thanks to the steady winds.

If the British weather doesn't allow for outdoor activities, you can still immerse yourself in the coastal surroundings and enjoy the atmosphere of Portland from your lodge - whilst sitting next to the fire – thanks to the large windows and 180 degree views.

Use the binoculars provided in your lodge to spot birds such as Peregrine Falcons hunting near the cliff during the day, and when the sun sets prepare to look to the sky. The Isle of Portland has some of the lowest levels of light pollution in the UK which makes it the perfect spot for star gazing. Stargazing on the terrace or in your very own hot tub is just one of the many benefits that Clifftops and its incredible location has to offer guests.

Where to eat near Clifftops

While the lodges at Clifftops are all well equipped for a fully self-catered stay, if you'd like a break from cooking during your visit there are plenty of fantastic cafes, pubs and restaurants either a short walk or drive away that are well worth booking.

  • The Hayloft Café Located on the Pennsylvania Castle Estate, walk here from your lodge to grab a coffee or choose from a range of locally sourced, healthy meals with a tasty twist. Opening times can vary so check the chalk board on arrival to see when you could pop in during your stay. 
  • The Red Lion Weymouth - A delightfully traditional pub with a local feel and warm and friendly atmosphere. Expect this cosy tavern to have full tables most nights of the week. Book in advance and choose any of the fish options on the menu to avoid disappointment. For more information visit theredlionweymouth.co.uk (opens in new tab).
  • Taste Café at Chesil Beach Whether popping in for a takeaway coffee, a quick warm drink and a cake after a walk on the stoney shore, or you're looking for a home-cooked breakfast or warming lunch, this is a fabulous place to come. A 5 minute drive from Clifftops and right next to the Chesil Beach carpark, pop in for breakfast from 10am, lunch from 11.30am – 4pm or a hot drink and cake throughout the day. Reasonable prices for tasty food with friendly service. 
  • Lobster Pot at Portland Bill -  Located next to the famous Portland Bill lighthouse, pop in here for one of the Dorset Cream Teas this family-run eatery is known for or enjoy their homemade crab sandwiches while taking in the view. lobsterpotrestaurantportland.co.uk (opens in new tab).
  • Quiddles - This small, pink, beach café is only open for breakfast and lunch but is always popular thanks to their extensive menu and brilliant location. Often closed from January through to March, this café is best visited in the summer when the sun is shining and you can enjoy the beach view from the terrace. See the Quiddles Facebook page (opens in new tab) for announcements about when they open again for 2023.
  • The Cove - Enjoy locally caught fish and classic pub food in this 18th-century public house. A great option if visiting Portland in the colder months thanks to the pubs open fire and plenty of indoor seating compared to other local cafes and pubs. Visit thecovehouseinn.co.uk (opens in new tab) for more info.

Taste Café at Chesil Beach

There's an extensive drinks menu on offer at Taste Café at Chesil Beach. 

(Image credit: Future/Rachael Martin)

Clifftops also offer 'Arrive & Cook' meal options that can be delivered to your lodge. Perfect for the night of your arrival especially, the two course meal arrives ready prepared and just needs to be popped in the oven and then it's ready to eat. Menu options include lasagne with garlic bread ciabatta, classic fish pie and beef bourguignon plus a range of irresistible desserts. 

The Arrive & Cook options start from £50 and can be pre-ordered at thepennestate.co.uk (opens in new tab).

Clifftops, Isle of Portland prices

Prices for Clifftops will vary depending on the lodge and the time of year, however the price of a stay at Clifftops in 2023 starts at £649.00 for a 3 night stay in lodge ‘Silva’.

Visit thepennestate.co.uk (opens in new tab) for more information, to check availability and to book. 

Rachael Martin
Digital Editor - Woman & Home

An internationally published digital journalist and editor, Rachael has worked as a writer and editor for both news and lifestyle websites in the UK and abroad including Metro UK, Homes & Gardens, Ideal Home, GoodTo.com, honey.nine.com.au and body+soul. 

 

Rachael's published work covers a broad spectrum of topics and she has written about everything from the future of sustainable travel, to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the world we live in, to the psychology of colour.