Welcome to our new ’24 hours in…’ blog series, in which we are going to show you how to get a real feel for an area, even when travelling with limited time.
In this first post, we take a look at the beautiful county of Dorset, famous for its wonderful coastline, picture perfect villages and medieval castle ruins.
Arrive early afternoon and start off with a true taste of Dorset by heading to the Square and Compass pub for a quick lunch (the pub can also be reached by foot from the coast path – although it’s a steep 30 minute slog!).
They only serve their homemade pies and pasties but, when they taste this good (they are something of a local institution), what more could you want?! Excellent sea views, a lively atmosphere and homemade cider served alongside some superb local ales complete the experience. To give you an idea about the local geology, the walls are decorated with the owners’ fossil collection obtained along the nearby coastline and there is a small fossil museum on-site.
Suitably refreshed it’s time to head onto one of Dorset’s key sights, Corfe Castle. Enjoy spending an hour or so exploring Britain's most iconic and evocative survivor of the English Civil War where you can wander around the ruined walls and turrets. The castle sits majestically on a hilltop overlooking the village and there are fantastic countryside views in all directions.
It is thought that there has been a fortress of some kind on this site since Roman times and the sense of history is palpable – the fairytale ruins you see today mostly date back to the 13th century. The Castle is now well-maintained and managed by the National Trust. For families, look out for the child-friendly exhibits, trails and medieval re-enactments.
Once you’ve finished with the castle, the village of the same name makes a wonderful place to take afternoon tea and sit-back, relax and enjoy the scenery. Corfe Castle is widely acknowledged as the inspiration for Kirren Castle in Enid Blyton’s Famous Five books and it’s easy to see why it makes the perfect setting for an adventure with its winding lanes, higgledy-piggledy houses and pretty surrounding countryside. There are plenty of good cafes and tea rooms dotted around. Try the National Trust café for traditional cream teams (with proper Dorset clotted cream of course!) and for unbeatable views up to the castle.
You can make a trip down to the railway station just outside the village where vintage steam trains pass through every hour (run by Swanage Steam Trains). There’s a great photo opportunity to be had at the very least!
Stay overnight in the village, perhaps at one of the earliest, and arguably finest, houses in Corfe. This romantic bolt-hole, Mortons House, dates back to around 1590. The bedrooms all have their own charm and appeal, some with views over the Castle and others over the Steam railway and Purbeck Hills. It’s also believed that the House was once (or maybe still is?) linked by underground tunnels to the castle itself! You won’t have to venture far for dinner as the restaurant at Mortons’ house serves up all manner of gastronomic delights. There are plenty of other options in the village as well.
After a good night’s rest and hearty breakfast, it’s time to head to Dorset’s famous Jurassic coast, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which stretches most of the length of Dorset’s coastline. To work off some of that breakfast, a good option is to stretch your legs along the South West Coast Path National Trail. The trail runs along the entire length of the Jurassic Coast and offers stunning views, sheer, white cliff faces, and glimpses of fascinating rock formations and ancient fossils. The Path is easy to follow - just look out for the acorn symbols as you make your way down the coast.
For a taste of the route, we recommend starting at Lulworth Cove and heading down the coast to the area around ‘Durdle Door’ and ‘Man ‘O’ War’ beaches. The beaches are only accessible via the steep path and steps over the hill from Lulworth Cove (or down from Durdle Door Car Park which is on the cliff top at the end of Durdle Door Holiday Park). Don’t forget to take your swimsuit and take a dip into the water if the sun is shining!
After spending some time exploring the beaches, it’s time to head back to Lulworth Cove for lunch. Dorset is able to serve up some fantastic local seafood, which is often available at seafront cafes and restaurants who have bought their ingredients straight from the boats that morning. Make sure you try some of this fantastic produce and then it’s onto your next destination!
We hope you enjoyed these recommendations and look out for our next ’24 hours in…’ guide. Please just get in touch if you would like any help in planning your next trip in Britain!