Guests braved stormy weather for a VIP launch and exciting first look at the swanky new Spitbank Fort.
The Victorian structure in the Solent has been transformed from fortress to top-notch function suite and luxury retreat.
The great British summer couldn’t steal the venue’s thunder as visitors were escorted around plush rooms and mingled with staff from fort owner Clarenco.
Mark Watts, Solent Forts manager, said: ‘People have now seen it in awful weather and they still seem impressed, and you should be here when the sky is blue. Besides it’s really quite something looking at storm clouds from a unique setting like this, when you’re inside and cosy and dry.’
Work began in earnest on the building, one of the chain of 19th century forts around Portsmouth Harbour, last year.
Now rooms that once housed cannons have become five-star bedrooms and a washroom is now a Champagne bar.
The fort, built to fire at enemy ships, boasts a function room with views across the Solent, hot tub, sauna, fire pit for barbecues, bars, games rooms and a wine cellar.
Clarenco has worked closely with English Heritage and local history groups to preserve the historical character of Spitbank.
Owner Mike Clare, who bought the fort for £1m and spent £3m on the project, said: ‘We have endeavoured to do everything in a five-star way. We could have been far more commercial but wanted to make things really special. This is an ancient monument and we have worked hard to restore and improve this unique property.’
One of the most interesting features is an artesian well, which draws drinking water from the chalk bed. Bottled and supplied to guests, it has been labelled Spit water.
Staying at the fort, which sleeps 18 but can host many more for day functions, doesn’t come cheap.
One night exclusive use, based on 16 guests sharing is from £5,200.
But Clarenco staff say they have had plenty of bookings and enquiries.
The company has also snapped up the Solent’s other two sea forts – No Man’s Land and Horse Sands. One will be turned into a hotel and the other a museum.
Portsmouth Lord Mayor Councillor Frank Jonas was at the Spitbank launch.
He said: ‘As a child I used to look out from the beach at these forts and they always looked quite mystical, so it’s wonderful to be able to come over.
‘They’ve done an impressive job.’