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

  • 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.


12 -pounder

Commemorating the Battle of Trafalgar

  • 23 October 2016 10am-5pm

To commemorate Trafalgar Day, uniformed detachments from Ubique Right of the Line will fire the 12-pounder muzzle-loading, sea service cannon which was commonly used on Royal Navy ships at Trafalgar, on the parade at 11:30 am, 2 pm and 3 pm. This is in addition to the daily firing of the 25-pounder Howitzer.

There will be the opportunity for visitors to inspect the guns following the firings and the uniformed detachment will be available to answer questions about the gun.
Visitors are invited to participate in two Trafalgar themed insight sessions which includes a guided tour of the monument which will highlight the role of Lord Nelson in the Battle of Trafalgar.

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 lots to see and explore including the ramparts, parade, tunnels, galleries and Cafe 1871. The Fort is open daily from 10am – 5 pm (April – October) and 10:30 am – 4:00 pm (November – March), Admission is free.

Suitable for

  • Family friendly


Admission and parking are FREE
The gun firings are free to watch


Spooky Fort

Spooky Fort

  • 24 — 30 October 2016

Fort Nelson is a great place to visit at any time of the year but around Halloween this historic Victorian fort, with its underground tunnels and secret chambers, is particularly atmospheric.

As well as a whole museum of national treasures to explore our spooky half term activities for families are sure to keep the kids out of mischief.

There are all sorts of mythical beasts and amazing animals hidden among the big guns. Come and explore the galleries with a fun ‘tame or terrifying’ trail and see who you can find. Then have a go at making a dragon mask or colouring a picture of your favourite creature. There’ll be frightening fish, scary snakes and lots of spooky things to make and take home (3-12 years, drop-in sessions, £2.50).

We also need junior detectives to piece together clues and solve The Curious Case of William Clifford, a navvy who mysteriously disappeared from Fort Nelson in October 1864. Based on a true Fort mystery this underground adventure led by costumed characters will keep the whole family enthralled. (Suitable for ages 5-12, £3.50, sessions at 11am, 12 noon, 2 pm, 3.30 pm).

Suitable for

  • 0-4
  • 7-10
  • 5-6
  • 11-13


Museum admission is free. Some activities carry a small charge.

Tame and terrifying trail and spooky crafts: £2.50 per child

The Curious Case of William Clifford: £3.50 per child


Mighty Mortars

Museums at Night: Might mortars

  • 28 October 2016 6:30-10pm

Those taking part in the tours will be able to experience Fort Nelson when the lights go down and see for themselves how the museum’s character changes dramatically during the twilight hours.

Visitors will be able to discover what Victorian garrison life would have been like on a tour of the Fort’s barracks room and kitchen where you can sample typical food and drink of the period.

A costumed guide will escort visitors through the atmospheric underground tunnel to the North Mortar Battery, where a uniformed detachment from Portsdown Artillery Volunteers will demonstrate a gun-drill and live fire the 13-inch mortar.

Join us at Fort Nelson for this Museums at Night event and experience history and explosions after dark as part of the nationwide Museums at Night festival.

Suitable for

  • Any age


Adults: £15 Children: £10 (book on-line
Royal Armouries Museum, Fort Nelson, Fareham
Fort Nelson is a scheduled ancient monument and contains areas of uneven ground. Please wear sensible footwear and warm clothing.


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.