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

  • 17 May — 19 July 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
  • Family friendly


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

Fort Talks

Fort Talk: Local Heroes of the Second World War

  • 28 June 2017 7-9pm

The first in a series of Wednesday evening talks at Fort Nelson.
Tickets cost £5 per person and include refreshments. Book your tickets below.


Wednesday 28 June 2017
Time: 7 pm – 9 pm

Guest Speaker: James Daly, D-Day Collections Researcher, Portsmouth City Council

Over 2,500 people from Portsmouth were killed serving in the armed forces during the Second World War. Many of their stories have never been told before: a naval bomb disposal Petty Officer awarded the George Cross; a 16-year-old Para; a Battle of Britain hero; men killed in battleships, submarines, bombers and tanks throughout Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Asia. In this talk author, James Daly will tell their stories.

Suitable for

  • Not suitable for children


Tickets cost £5 per person and include refreshments.


Artillery on Parade


  • 22 — 23 July 2017 11:30am-4:30pm

An action-packed weekend featuring firings of artillery from the First and Second World Wars, plus a live-action re-enactment of an air-attack by a Messerschmitt. Throughout the day demonstrations and re-enactments will show how Fort Nelson played its part in the defence of Portsmouth during wartime. See programme below.A great day out for all the family with lots of activities for the children.

Programme Highlights

• Messerschmitt air-attack, based on an actual raid on Portsmouth on 10 March 1941
• Air-raid re-enactment, featuring searchlights, air-raid sirens and 3.7-inch anti-aircraft guns
• Live firings of big guns on the ramparts by Portsdown Artillery Volunteers.
• Horse-drawn First World War 18-pounders in action around The Parade
• Military vehicles, fire engines and ambulances
• The Women’s Voluntary Service and Women’s Land Army
• Static firings of the First World War 18-pounders
• Junior Assault Course
• Monster Hunt museum trail & stickers
• Face Painting
• BBQ & Refreshments


Tickets can be pre-booked in advance from the Royal Armouries website:,
the Fort Nelson Visitor Centre and via telephone: 01329 233 734

The museum’s indoor galleries will be open from 10am – 5pm and admission is free as usual. Access to the Parade Ground and outdoor exhibits including the Artillery Hall will be by event ticket only.

Royal Armouries reserves the right to change the programme without prior notification. The flight of the Messerschmitt will be dependent upon operational conditions on the day.

Suitable for

  • Any age



Tickets can be pre-booked in advance from the Royal Armouries website:,
the Fort Nelson Visitor Centre and via telephone: 01329 233 734

Adults: £9 / Child: £6 / Family £25

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

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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.