Whether George III’s passion for sea bathing was a symptom of his eventual madness is uncertain, but it was at WEYMOUTH that in 1789 he became the first reigning monarch to follow the craze. Sycophantic gentry rushed into the waves behind him, and soon the town, formerly a busy port, took on the elegant Georgian stamp that it bears today.
A lively family holiday destination in summer, Weymouth reverts to a more sedate rhythm out of season. The highlight, of course, is its long sandy beach, but there are also a number of “all-weather” attractions in town. A few buildings survive from pre-Georgian times: the restored Tudor House on Trinity Street and the ruins of Sandsfoot Castle, built by Henry VIII, overlooking Portland Harbour. But Weymouth’s most imposing architectural heritage stands along the Esplanade, a dignified range of bow-fronted and porticoed buildings gazing out across the graceful bay. The more intimate quayside of the Old Harbour is linked to the Esplanade by the pedestrianized St Mary’s Street. In Lodmoor Country Park, at the eastern end of the promenade, the excellent Sea Life Park is a splendid family attraction.
Just south of the town stretch the giant arms of Portland Harbour, and a long causeway links Weymouth to the Isle of Portland. The causeway stands on the easternmost section of the eighteen-mile bank of pebbles known as Chesil Beach, running northwest towards the fishing port of West Bay.