Wrought iron hooks for Spitbank Fort
Spitbank Fort is a plush stronghold in the Solent worth retreating to
Forget exclusive resorts on tropical South Sea islands, this season it’s all about Spitbank Fort, an island off Southsea.
Spitbank Fort is one of four Napoleonic fortresses in the Solent known as Palmerston’s Follies. Decommissioned in the 1960s and once famous for its midnight raves, it has recently undergone a multimillion-pound refurbishment and opens this week as an exclusive retreat that can sleep 18 and has function space for 60 people.
We take the private catamaran a short hop across the waves. From the water the ominous concrete fortress looks more like a Croydon car park than a five-star residence. Inside, though, it’s spectacular.
With the guidance of English Heritage, Spitbank has retained many of its original features, from the wrought-iron hooks that jut from stone walls to the jaunty red-and-white-striped lighthouse perched above the crow’s nest. With no expense spared, the original stone and iron layout has been brought bang up to date with natural wood features, stylish antiques and chi-chi furnishings creating a kind of Ralph Lauren meets Admiral Nelson effect.
Eight beautifully decorated suites, each named after famous naval officers, surround the main deck. I’m in the Vice Admiral Drake, which formerly housed a huge seven-tonne cannon; now, its most powerful weapon is the rainfall shower.
Iron spiral staircases take you up to the sun decks where a large hot tub, sauna and a firepit give vantage points to the coastlines of the Isle of Wight and Portsmouth. On the lower deck, meanwhile, you’ll find the wine cellar, poker room and a warren of snugs, nooks and hidey-holes filled with books, leather chairs and patriotic soft furnishings. Should the Olympics ever hold a hide-and-seek event, Spitbank Fort would make the ideal venue.