Royal Armouries, Fort Nelson

Aerial view of Fort Nelson from the south
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This imposing Victorian fort is home to the Royal Armouries national collection of artillery – The Big Guns.

Although a cliché, the phrase ‘must see’ truly applies to Fort Nelson’s astonishing collection of different artillery and guns from different time periods. Over 700 items of artillery from many countries and spanning 600 years are brought to life whilst sensitively telling the unique stories behind them.

Strategically positioned atop Portsdown Hill, with panoramic views across the Meon Valley and Portsmouth Harbour, Fort Nelson is an historic monument, restored to how it would have been in the 1890s. Visitors can access most areas of the fortifications and see how the Fort would have operated.

Daily gun firing every day at 1pm.

Admission and parking are free – offering a great day out for all the family during the school holidays, and all year round.

Venue Type:

Museum, Heritage site, Castle or defences

Opening hours

Open daily

Summer (Apr-Oct)
10am – 5pm
Last admission 4pm

Winter (Nov-Mar)
10.30am – 4pm
Last admission 3pm

Closed 24, 25 and 26 December

Admission charges

Free entry. A small charge may apply for special events and some activities.

Additional info

Our library is open for research purposes by appointment only.

Fort Nelson also houses the world-renowned Royal Armouries collection of historic big guns and cannon, part of the National Museum of Arms and Armour. See the infamous Iraqi Supergun and its ancestor the Great Turkish Bombard of 1464. From the smallest cannon to the giants of the age of the battleship, visitors can see them all at Fort Nelson

Collection details

Archaeology, Architecture, Decorative and Applied Art, Social History, Weapons and War

Events details are listed below. You may need to scroll down or click on headers to see them all. For events that don't have a specific date see the 'Resources' tab above.

Storytime sessions at Fort Nelson

  • 15 March — 21 June 2017 *on now

All ages are welcome at Fort Nelson, so why not join us, every third Wednesday of the month, with under 5s for our new free Storytime session in the galleries featuring popular children’s tales.

With a different theme each month, children are invited to gather around for a fun and interactive storytelling experience where they can look, listen, play and have fun with props.

Each session lasts approximately 20 minutes and includes an engaging story and mixture of toys designed to provide hands on fun for young children.

Café 1871 is open daily from 10:30am – 4pm for light bites and drinks and food warming and baby change facilities are available on site.

Sessions start at 11am on the third Wednesday of every month. Free, no need to book, just drop in.

Suitable for

  • 0-4


The Storytime sessions are free.
Admission and parking is free.

Roman Swords and Celtic Hordes

Roman Swords and Celtic Hordes

  • 10 — 21 April 2017

Discover the world of Romans and Celts this Easter holidays in a fun packed programme of activities at Fort Nelson and decide who you would rather have been.
Enlist as a Roman and have a go at shield drills, learn about mechanical artillery and build and shoot model catapults. Then take on the character of a Celtic warrior and have a go at painting Celtic symbols, test your skills at chariot building and engage in Celtic warfare.

Visitors can get up close with history at our Celtic and Roman special object handling sessions, then travel forward in time to experience our powerful artillery in action, the Second World War 25-pounder gun Howitzer being fired at 1 pm daily on the parade, then back again for a demonstration of the mechanical, pre-gunpowder Roman Ballista at 3 pm.

Roman swords and Celtic hordes
• Starts at: 10:30am Monday 10 April 2017
• Finishes at: 4:00pm Friday 21 April 2017
• Suitable for: Families
• Event type: Children's Activity
• Sessions at 11 am, 12 noon, 2 pm and 3:30 pm.
• Tickets: £3.50 per child (aged 3-12 years)
• Numbers are limited to 16 per session.

Pay on the day or pre-book your tickets from 20 March 2017. Telephone 01329 233 734 or visit the Fort Nelson Visitor Centre (subject to availability).
Please visit: for more information.

Suitable for

  • 5-6
  • 11-13
  • 7-10


Admission to the museum and parking are free.

Roman swords and Celtic hordes

Sessions at 11 am, 12 noon, 2 pm and 3:30 pm.
Tickets: £3.50 per child (aged 3-12 years)
Numbers are limited to 16 per session.


Sunday Gun Firings

Special Sunday Gun Firings at Fort Nelson

  • 30 April 2017 10:30am-4:30pm

Fort Nelson is one of the few places where you can experience live black-powder firings of historic artillery pieces.

On selected Sundays throughout the year there are special firings, featuring authentic gun drills by uniformed detachments from Portsdown Artillery Volunteers.

Fort Nelson is a historic monument, rescued from dereliction and carefully restored. It commands spectacular views over Portsmouth Harbour to the south and the picturesque Meon Valley to the north. The Royal Armouries museum was opened in 1984 for the first time, and today is one of the largest artillery museums in the UK.
The detachments will be available after the firings to talk about the guns and their history.

30 April:
16-pounder Rifled Muzzle Loader. Firings by uniformed detachments from PAV. Guns are fired at: 11:30am, 2pm and 3pm

Suitable for

  • Any age


Free admission and parking


The 32-pounder fired by PAV in the North Caponier

Museums at Night: Blasts from the past

  • 19 May 2017 6-9:15pm

When the lights go down, the themed event will showcase guns from the Royal Armouries’ national collection of artillery. Visitors will be given exclusive after-hours access to some of the unseen subterranean areas of Fort Nelson including the rarely opened and eerie underground West tunnel and experience the ground shake from the immense power of the 32-pounder in the North Caponier and witness the roar and agility of the World War II sexton on the parade. Costumed characters will provide insights throughout the evening.

Throughout the evening costumed characters will provide presentations and handling sessions in the fort’s Artillery Hall and kitchen where visitors will be able to find out what Victorian garrison life was like for soldiers stationed at the Royal Armouries’ Fort Nelson during World War II, plus in the hospital gallery visitors will have the opportunity to experience the sights and smells of traditional Victorian medicine, examine a replica medicine bag and its contents and discover the pioneering work of Florence Nightingale.

The retail shop and Café 1871 will be open throughout the evening for hot drinks and tasty treats.

The Royal Armouries’ museum at Fort Nelson is home to one of the largest collections of artillery in the UK. Set within 19 acres, there is so much to see and explore after hours including the Ramparts, Parade, tunnels, and galleries.

Suitable for

  • Any age


Adults: £5
Children: £3 (aged 3-15 years)
Family ticket: £12.50 (1 adult & 3 children or 2 adults & 2 children).

(Pre- booking is essential via telephone 01329 233 734 or visit the Fort Nelson Visitor Centre).


Royal Armouries, Fort Nelson
Fort Nelson
Portsdown Hill Road
PO17 6AN

logo: Museums at Night




General Enquiries


01329 233734

All information is drawn from or provided by the venues themselves and every effort is made to ensure it is correct. Please remember to double check opening hours with the venue concerned before making a special visit.