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.
Sunday Gun Firings

Sunday Gun Firings

  • 11 September 2016
  • 23 October 2016
  • 13 November 2016

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.
Guns are fired at:
11:30am, 2pm and 3pm.
These events are FREE and everyone is welcome.

Suitable for

  • Family friendly


Guns are fired at 11:30am, 2pm and 3pm. These events are free and everyone is welcome.


Junior Assault Course

Junior Assault Course

  • 21 July — 4 September 2016 *on now

Back by popular demand, youngsters can come and burn off some energy on the assault course with balance beams, rope bridge and crawl nets and test their skills on the tyre walks.
During August visitors can experience the power of artillery through the ages at Fort Nelson. Three different weapons from over 1000 years of history will be fired daily at 1 pm. Demonstrations will include a replica Scorpion, a heavy crossbow of the type used from the Greek and Roman times through to the Middle Ages; a late medieval wrought iron breech loader gun; and a British 25-pounder Howitzer used during the Second World War and by the Honorable Artillery Company to fire royal salutes at the Tower of London.
As well as the gun firings and assault course there are galleries, tunnels and ramparts to explore, as well as a cafe for tasty treats and refreshments.

Suitable for

  • Family friendly
  • Especially for children


Kids will get lots of fresh air and fun on the outdoor adventure course. No need to book, just drop in. Pay once and stay and play all day for £3.50 per child.


Defend the Fort

Defend the Fort

  • 10 — 11 September 2016 10am-5pm

After donning their uniforms in the guard room, children are invited to have-a-go at authentic marching drills, then work in teams to charge, ram, load and simulate firing the bronze 3-pounder Mountain Gun.

Throughout the weekend visitors will have the opportunity to participate in free insight sessions, where they can learn about the pioneering work of Florence Nightingale and the importance of the 16-pounder gun during the Volunteer Movement.

Visitors can experience uniformed detachment firing the powerful 16-pounder Rifled Muzzle Loading gun in action on Sunday 11 September.

Suitable for

  • Family friendly


Admission to the museum and parking is free.
GUN FIRINGS: Free to watch
INSIGHT SESSIONS: Free to participate

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.