VISIT FORT VICTORIA COUNTRY PARK
The Country Park by the Sea
THE HISTORY OF FORT VICTORIA
Fort Victoria was built between 1852 and 1855 as one of a series of defences built to protect the western end of the Solent. The channel between the Island and Hurst Spit on the mainland is only about 1.2 km wide at this point and is a vulnerable back door to Portsmouth and Southampton. Fort Albert, just to the west, forms a strong triangle with Hurst Castle.
Fort Victoria was built in response to a perceived French threat. But due to rapid advancements in technology with the introduction of rifled canons which had the ability to destroy brick built forts with precision, Fort Victoria was placed into reserve in 1860. Finally being de-armed in 1876 and then being used as a barracks, experimental and training base up until 1962 when the military left. The original casemates remain in place as a reminder of a different age.
The fort was designated a local authority Country Park in 1971, intended to provide a place for quiet recreation. It has been managed as a public park ever since by the Isle of Wight Council who own the site.
THE COUNTRY PARK
The Forts attractions together with the availability of a Countryside Ranger to give guided walks of the seashore and woodland make Fort Victoria an excellent interesting and educational visit for school groups and any visitor to the Isle of Wight who wants to combine leisure with education. Why not stop for lunch at Verdi's Cafe whilst looking out over the Solent, then get back to the rest of the fun that the park offers.
NATURAL BEACH & COASTLINE
Fossils and Rock Pools
Take a walk along our fossil rich beach, The shore at Fort Victoria being mostly sand with some rocks and boulder areas, Has a reputation as one of the islands best for beachcombing especially for fossils amongst the shingle.
The rapidly eroding shoreline is interesting to the fossil hunter. Mollusc shells are evident to all, the keen eyed will also find pieces of turtle shell and crocodile scutes whose owners lived when the Isle of Wight was a rather warmer place! You are sure to find fragments of Turtle millions of years old left from when the area was a tropical swamp.
The park has approximately 1km of beach, which is close to the Fort, car park and facilities. The sea wall and beach is popular with fishermen and visitors who enjoy watching the passing yachts and boats. The Country Park is an excellent place to watch the annual round the Island Race. However swimming is not advised due to the fast-flowing currents.
Sconce Point is popular amongst Island birdwatchers for its seabird passage in the spring and autumn.
School groups are recommended to book the services of a Countryside Ranger as a guide. An increasing number of schools now combine a Ranger Tour of the Park with visits to the Forts other educational attractions, making Fort Victoria a favourite visit for many parties
WOODLAND NATURE TRAIL
22 Hectares of woodland to explore
Fort Victoria Country Park occupies 22 hectares of woodland and landslip on the North West shore of the Isle of Wight. There are peaceful woodland walks alongside stunning sea views across the Solent. The Park is used by schools interested in seashore and woodland study, fossil hunters and those who just want to walk or sit and enjoy the atmosphere. The surrounding Country Park offers Seashore and Woodland walks and the site is one of the best vantage points for watching the Solents boats and shipping.
The Country Park has the old Military Road that once connected Fort Victoria with Fort Albert running though the park. Within easy walking distance of Yarmouth, the footpaths and walks through the park connect Yarmouth on the eastern side of the Yar Estuary with Totland in the west.
The woodland is a combination of planted trees such as Corsican Pines and a variety of native deciduous trees the area having developed in a semi natural fashion, management now aims to maximise the variety of habitats by cutting or coppicing some areas and letting others develop to maturity. The variety of habitats is greatly increased by the eroding coastline resulting in slippage over much of the park
The quiet visitor may be lucky enough to see a beautiful (but shy) Red Squirrel, the Isle of Wight is one of the last places in Britain where these can still be found. The Solent has so far proved a effective barrier to its invading competitor the Grey Squirrel. Download Nature trail Map Here
Built in 1855
The present building with its series of arched gun casemates is all that is left of a massive triangular fort. The barracks blocks were demolished in 1968 but the building of Fort Victoria was the culmination of many hundreds of years of protection for the area. The area is also known as Sconce Point from the Dutch word ‘’ schans ‘’ for fortification. Henry VIII built both Yarmouth Castle and Hurst Castle to defend the narrow channel.
Although Fort Victoria was a state of the art construction at the time it was soon outdated by rifled shell firing guns and armoured ships. Both Fort Victoria and its near neighbour Fort Albert, 1.5 km to the west, were built as precursors for the Palmerston forts built to protect Portsmouth in the 1860s. Each of the brick casemates housed a single gun mounted on a large wooden platform. In addition to the 21 guns in the remaining casemates, there were 6 mounted on the roof of the barracks blocks.
The footprint of the barracks blocks may be seen outlined in the car park which was originally the parade ground within the fort. Once the guns were removed Fort Victoria was used for experimental work on searchlights and sea mines. Latterly the casemates were formed into workshops and it became an important training base. When the soldiers were in occupation the surroundings were kept clear to provide a wide field of view for the artillery. The woodland has grown up since then.
The attractions here at Fort Victoria Country park are privately owned and operated so have their own individual opening times and prices. If there is an attraction you are particularly interested in visiting please see their website for further details.
Our exhibit of Live reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates of the world are in naturalistic themed displays that explore the biomes these animals inhabit.
H.M.S GLADIATOR EXHIBITION
(Opening - delayed due to covid!)
At approx 2.30pm on the 25th April 1908 the H.M.S Gladiator was in a collision with the S.S St Paul off of Fort Victoria with the loss of 27 lives. In this Brand New Exhibition we retell the story of what happened that fatefull day.
GIFTS & SOUVENIRS SHOP
New for 2020! Find all your traditional seaside gifts and souvenirs in our gift shop.
New for 2020! Find the Cogsmiths Cabin in the Mythical street scene in the old museum building. Steam punk ornaments, etc.
PIRATES CABIN TOYS & GIFTS
New for 2020! All the kids favourites, from foam swords to Clockwork teeth! Find the Pirates Cabin in the Old museum.
Visit The Mythical Menagerie and meet our Winter Dragon! Be carefull you dont wake her up though! You will find this little shop front in the old museum and purchase a range of dragons, unicorns, fairies from the mythical realm.
Cafe on site open seasonally
Food and drinks are available on site at Verdis cafe which is open seasonally.
Large free car park
The best of it all is the FREE on site parking! Each attraction is a very short walk from your car
Baby Change Facilities & Disabled Toilets
Public Toilets on site are open 24/7 with disabled and baby change facilities
Large Grass areas for picnicking plus a dedicated picnic area with benches.
This is your Service Description. Use this space to explain this service in more detail.
The Council has installed three purpose-made barbeques for family or small group use at Fort Victoria. Although groups of 12 people or fewer may turn up and use the barbeques without booking if they are not in use, at peak times they are in great demand and so to reserve a place, booking in advance is strongly recommended.
Family Barbeques (for up to 12 people)
There is no charge for the use of the barbeques for parties of under 12 people but the barbeques cannot be booked if you choose this option, and you may have to share the site with others or wait for your turn. It is not necessary to use the booking form for a Family Barbeque. But if you do wish to guarantee a place you can make a Party Barbeque booking.
Enjoy a Woodland Walk
Follow the Fort Victoria Nature Trail, starting from the Green behind the building take a stroll through the woods, with stunning views across to Hurst Castle from the Viewpoint.
The park is open all year, every day.
Attractions and cafe are open Seasonally typically between February and October.
We’re conveniently located in between Freshwater and Yarmouth, right on the outskirts of yarmouth town. For information getting here using public transportation or by car, scroll down. If you’ve got any remaining questions or need more details, you can give us a call or email us.
Fort Victoria, Westhill Ln, Freshwater, Yarmouth PO41 0RR, UK