Royal Armouries, Fort Nelson

Aerial view of Fort Nelson from the south
baby changing facilities icon Food icon Guided tours icon Shop icon Library icon Study area icon Visual disability facilities icon Wheelchair access icon

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

Exhibition details are listed below, you may need to scroll down to see them all.
Call up the Men - Exhinition

Call up the Men - exhibition

  • 8 May — 17 June 2016 *on now

Fort Nelson's latest 'Inspired By' exhibition, Call Up The Men, was created by Amie Slavin. The exhibition explores the way bugle calls have been used to give orders to soldiers, both in battle and in camp.

In this unique sound installation the call of the bugle is echoed by a sung version. The words represent the authentic vocabulary of the British soldier. Some lyrics simply reveal the meaning behind the calls, others such as 'sick parade', demonstrate the British squaddie's legendary sense of humour; dark, dry and full of warmth.

The instrument used in the presentation was donated by the British Army's Buglers' Association, and is a genuine veteran of the battlefield!

Suitable for

  • Family friendly


Admission to the museum is free

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

  • 19 June 2016
  • 26 June 2016
  • 21 August 2016
  • 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.


Protect the Port

Protect the Port

  • 30 May — 3 June 2016 *on now

Visitors can find out what it would have been like for soldiers stationed at the Royal Armouries’ Fort Nelson during World War II this half term in a packed programme of activities.

Fort Nelson’s World War II activities are designed to enthuse and entertain all ages. Children will have the opportunity to discover what a dangerous life it was for the soldiers as they examine anti-aircraft artillery, experience air raid sirens and the sound of bombing whilst working as a team to ‘load the ammunition wagon’.

Between 1938 and 1945 Fort Nelson was the southern store for anti-aircraft ammunition; it supplied all the gun sites in the area and remained active even during raids.

Visitors can experience the Royal Armouries’ powerful World War II artillery in action on Monday 30th May. Uniformed detachment Ubique are demonstrating and live firing the mighty self-propelled Sexton at 11:30am/ 2pm and 3pm, and the 25-pounder Howitzer will be fired at 1pm daily.

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 including the Ramparts, Parade, tunnels, galleries and Café 1871. The Fort is open from 10am – 5 pm daily, and admission is free.

Suitable for

  • Family friendly



Examine anti-aircraft artillery, practice air raid drills whilst loading the ammunition wagon.

• Sessions at 11am, 12 noon, 2pm and 3:30pm
• £3.50 per child
• Numbers are limited to 16 per session

Pay on the day or pre-book your tickets from 16th May 2016.
Tickets can be purchased via telephone 16th May 2016 to 29th May 2016. Telephone 01329 848 532 or visit Fort Nelson’s Visitor Centre.


Themed talk highlighting the role of Fort Nelson as an anti-ammunition store and the role of women during World War II. To complement the talk, there will be a World War II ammunition handling session.

• Daily, 12:30pm, FREE

A mechanical display, with commentary, highlighting the features of the self-propelled Sexton. Including a live firing of two rounds of ammunition.

• Daily, 3:00pm, FREE


Artillery on Parade

Artillery on Parade

  • 30 — 31 July 2016 11am-4pm

Experience the power and might of the big guns during this action-packed weekend of live firings of historic artillery from the Napoleonic period through to the Second World War and beyond.
As well as the excitement of live firings there will be talks, film shows and object-handling sessions plus static displays and military vehicles.
There will also be the opportunity to have a go at loading and firing a Victorian field gun.
Our younger visitors can join in the fun on our Junior Assault Course. Stay and play all day. (Admission to the assault course is included in your Artillery on Parade ticket).
Cafe 1871 will be serving freshly brewed teas and barista-style coffee, light meals and snacks, as well as ice creams and refreshments out on The Parade.

Programme of events:

11am - Parade ground opens to the public
11.30am – 12.15pm Big Guns 1: Napoleonic & Victorian
64-pounder fired from the ramparts
1pm – 13.45pm Big Guns 2: Edwardian & First World War
64-pounder fired from the ramparts
2.30pm – 3.15pm Big Guns 3: Second World War and 1950s
3.30pm Final Salute
4pm Parade ground closes

Drills and firings will be performed by the Garrison Artillery Volunteers (Royal Artillery Larkhill), Ubique Right of the Line and the Portsdown Artillery Volunteers.
Royal Armouries reserves the right to change the programme without prior notification.

The museum and the national collection of artillery and historic cannon will be open as usual to non-event visitors.

Suitable for

  • Family friendly


Adults: £8 / Under 16s: £5

Purchase your tickets in advance from the Fort Nelson Visitor Centre or via eventbrite (


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.