Around Swanage is the Isle of Purbeck which contains some of Dorset's most iconic landscapes. It is an excellent place for coastal and countryside walks, bird and wildlife watching. Durlston Country Park just a mile south of Swanage has miles of rolling downland to explore with coastal views where marine mammals are often spotted.
The Purbeck countryside is dotted with small villages and hamlets steeped in history and character. Focal points are at Kimmeridge and Kimmeridge Bay popular for its geology, rock pools, snorkelling and surfing.
The Isle of Purbeck has long been a popular destination if you want to get away from the crowds and enjoy Dorset's unspoilt countryside. The rolling chalk hills of the Purbeck Downs are criss-crossed with footpaths and bridleways taking you past beautiful flower rich meadows, ancient woodlands and heath. The Purbeck Way is a waymarked walking trail that takes you through the Isle of Purbeck from Wareham to the south Purbeck coast at Chapman's Pool which then follows the South West Coast Path to Ballard Down on the Studland peninsula. The Purbeck Way takes you through heathland, woodland and downland and then down to the dramatic coastal scenery of the Dorset Heritage Coast, the Jurassic Coast. The link right has a downloadable leaflet and map.
For stunning views take the road from Stoborough towards West Lulworth. This will take through beautiful wooded countryside up on the hills to a viewpoint (with parking) for panoramic views across Purbeck and the rest of Dorset to the north. Lulworth Ranges operate up here so the road further west to West Lulworth can sometimes be closed, but it's well worth the trip just for the views.
Wareham is effectively the capital of the Isle of Purbeck so it's the logical place for the Tourist Information Centre for Purbeck. Down near the River Frome on South Street in Wareham is where you'll find the informative Purbeck Information and Heritage Centre. It's well worth a visit if you're staying in the area as you'll find a whole host of information on Wareham and the surrounding Purbeck countryside as well as information on wildlife, history and places to visit.
Purbeck Information and Heritage Centre, South Street, Wareham, BH20 4LU. Tel: 01929 552740. Fax: 01929 554491. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Dorset coast around Studland is magnificent. The steeply cut chalk rocks have left bays and interesting stacks only accessible by coastal walks. The three mile long beach sweeps in an arc of fine white sand backed by sand dunes and heathland - nationally important wildlife sites. Along this stretch of coast is where you'll find Dorset's only designated naturist beach.
It's a quick ferry ride over to the Studland peninsula from Sanbanks in Poole or you can take the B-road from Swanage. All around Studland is magnificent unspoilt scenery and nature reserves, excellent for birdwatching and walking.
On the south eastern tip of Purbeck, just one mile south of Swanage is Durlston Country Park. As well as being a easily accessible park with Visitor Centre, cafe and historic attractions, Durlston is an important wildlife site.
The historic attractions include The Great Globe which was carved from 40 tons of Portland stone, Durlston Castle built in 1887 by George Burt as the focal point for his Durlston Estate - it was actually something of a folly only being used as a restaurant!
The combination of sea cliffs, downs, ancient meadows, hedgerows, woodland and dry-stone walls mean that abundant and often rare wildlife flourishes here. In Spring the meadows are dotted with cowslips and the downland that covers much of the Park is particularly special for its huge range of orchids including the rare early spider, early purple, green-winged, bee and pyramidal orchids as well as Autumn Lady's Tresses. Obviously wild flowers should not be picked at anytime. The downs are also home to a wide range of butterflies and migrant birds and the sea cliffs are excellent for razorbills, guillemotts, gannets, fulmars and shearwaters. Looking out to sea dolphins are often spotted here including common dolphins, bottlenose dolphins as well as harbour porpoises, common and grey seals.
There is ample car parking at Durlston Park which is pay and display. Proceeds go towards the upkeep of the park as well as towards the Durlston Project which is working towards establishing a "world class Gateway Centre at Durlston Castle for visitors to Durlston and the Jurassic Coast". Durlston Country Park, Lighthouse Road, Swanage, Dorset BH19 2JL. Tel/fax: 01929 424443 Email: email@example.com
Langton Matravers is a large village to the west of Swanage surrounded by the Purbeck countryside. It has been a settlement since before Saxon times.
The village is home to the Coach House Museum which tells the history of the local Purbeck stone quarrying industry. Exhibitions of the local history society's large collection are also shown here periodically. For a family day out try Putlake Adventure Farm where the kids can play in the indoor and outdoor play areas, have a tractor ride or see all sorts of rare breeds.
Kimmeridge lies between Lulworth in the west and Langton Matravers to the east. It is in the heart of the Purbeck countryside and is famously associated with Kimmeridge Bay.
Kimmeridge is a key point along the Jurassic Coast giving access to Kimmeridge Bay which is renowned for its shallow shale beds that provide excellent access to rock pools and marine wildlife. The road down to Kimmeridge Bay is a privately run toll road. Kimmeridge Bay is a popular stop along the Jurassic Coast. It's geology makes the shallow waters and rocky shore popular for rock-pooling, snorkelling, diving and surfing.