Truly unique and full of surprises, No Man’s Fort is one of our must visit destinations of 2016. The experience is one that is memorable to say the least and like no other we have visited.
Set in the Solent (just off the coast of Portsmouth), this wonderfully restored naval fortress can accommodate up to 200 guests by day or 44 for luxury, overnight accommodation. No Man’s Fort is not alone, however. Also a part of the Solent Forts collection is the Spitbank Fort (a smaller version of No Man’s Fort with only 8 rooms) and the Horse Sand Fort (a beautifully preserved and untouched fort).
So, if you are looking for a slightly more private and intimate affair or if you are in search of a historical visit, the Solent Fort catalogue has you covered. What No Man’s Fort does particularly well is to transcend your normal hotel visit and instead becomes an ‘experience’, and a memorable one at that. The scale of the building really gives the air a buzz of anticipation on the approach. But from the moment you depart the shore along with the other visitors, to the moment you step aboard and walk up the heavy metal stairs to the door, you are on a journey. An adventure.
The distinctive history of the fort (and its sister fort Spitbank), makes for an inspiring and atmospheric setting. At a cost of £43.5 million (in current monetary terms), building on the forts began in 1860, in order to keep British shores safe from French invasion. The biggest irony of this project being, that when the forts were completed some years later, a truce had been struck with the French and they were rarely used until the Great Wars. With the forts initial function being protection of the shores, you will now find replica cannons and other subtle reminders of their original purpose. There aren’t many locations in Britain we can think of with such a great combination of unique history and a uniqueness of setting. The fort is by no means small, but not vastly expansive either. However, there is a plethora of activities, morsels of history and other gems to get your teeth into.
In terms of accommodation, the fort also excels in most areas. Our suite was beautifully adorned with the maritime feel, as you would imagine. However, it would have been nice to have a couple of extra elements such as a coffee machine or mini-bar, but maybe we are just being fussy. The fort is actually owned by the owner of Dreams beds, so we could at least count on a very comfortable night’s sleep. Take a look below.
On arrival guests are encouraged to congregate in the centre of the fort and indulge in a glass of bubbly. Following this, one of the members of staff then took us on a fascinating walking tour of the fort to give us all an insight into the history of the place and to help us get our bearings. Our tour moved up to the lighthouse where we overlooked the Solent and the fort roof, upon which you will find a pair of bubbling hot tubs, bar and some stunning views. After a fun, insightful and interesting tour, we were lead to the French style bar and shown to a lavish buffet, before being given the key to our room. This unique space for our lunch has been designed to echo the feel of a Parisian café and gave us our first insight into the Fort’s service. Throughout our visit we found all the staff to be extremely helpful, polite, amicable and attentive. We could not find one flaw with service and the staff’s dedication to giving visitors a great experience really showed.
To get a breadth of this experience and to see how our visit shaped up chronologically, just take a look at this jam-packed itinerary.
Aboard the fort you will find snooker tables, pool tables, billiards, board games, books and lots of other activities to keep you amused. However, we found the visit to be packed to the brim with things to do on the schedule and we didn’t find too much time to try out the extras. Bizarrely, there was also the pleasant addition of laser tag during our stay and we indulged with 4 other couples on board. It was a real thrill running through the lower echelons of the fort in pitch black darkness and it’s not a thrill we were expecting.
Your Fort Break package includes all food on board including the lunchtime buffet, afternoon tea, canapés and a 3-course meal in the evening. All you pay for aboard is your drinks and this is settled on departure. Following a brief freshening up, we were treated to a trio of canapés in the Fort’s Cabaret club, which we gladly enjoyed with a glass off fizz. Here we placed our order for dinner and we were not disappointed with the menu. Dinner took place in the Fort’s original mess hall, a very subtly lit room with dark corners and oodles of romantic ambiance.
Starting the show, I went for the hand picked Brixham crab, ruby grapefruit and spring onion. The crab here combining beautifully with the grapefruit for a light and refreshing course. Other dishes of note included the pan-fried cod, saffron potatoes, samphire, bok choy And Saffron Sauce. This was a dish that took the classic duo of samphire and succulent cod, but then gave it a slight oriental twist with Bok Choy and Saffron. Delicious, full of flavour and of a high standard. The best dish of the evening, however, went to the local Hampshire fillet of beef with Pont-Neuf potatoes. It melted in the mouth and went terrifically with our matched wine. Overall, food was of a great standard and in keeping with the high standard of the fort experience.
From it’s dark and sinister exterior we were surprised to find an Aladdin’s cave of treats lurking within No Man’s Fort. There really is too much we could say about our visit, but we would implore you to take a look and consider making your own journey. Superb. Most people we met were visiting for a romantic treat or getaway, so we would highly recommend it for that. But, there are lots of options for events such as weddings and private parties to consider too. Find out more about No Man’s Fort here.
Disclosure: For this blog post we were able to gain access to a sample product or service.
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