Purbeck is an excellent place for coastal and countryside walks, bird and wildlife watching. A vast area of land on Purbeck is covered by National Nature Reserves containing the country’s most extensive areas of heathland, home to rare native wildlife. 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 running through the Isle of Purbeck from Wareham to the south Purbeck coast at Chapman’s Pool where you can then join the South West Coast Path to Ballard Down on the Studland peninsula. En-route you’ll see spectacular heathland, woodland, downland and breath-taking coastal scenery on Dorset’s World Heritage Jurassic Coast. For more magnificent views take the road from Stoborough towards West Lulworth through beautiful wooded countryside up on the hills to a viewpoint (with parking) for panoramic views across Purbeck. Pick up maps and guides at the Purbeck Information Centre near the quayside in Wareham.
Wareham, Isle of Purbeck Capital
A beautiful riverside market town, historic Wareham makes a great base from which to explore coast and countryside on the Isle of Purbeck. Hire rowing boats or canoes from the town’s stunning quayside or simply relax and enjoy fine food and ales in an old waterfront inn. Purbeck’s main heritage centre sits on the pretty quayside at Wareham and the town has a choice of activities and walks in the surrounding area, including in nearby Wareham Forest.
Lulworth & Durdle Door
The Lulworth area on the Purbeck coast features some of Dorset’s most famous naturally formed landmarks along the most dramatic stretch of the Jurassic Coast including the great Portland limestone rock arch of Durdle Door jutting out into the sea. The South West Coast Path hugs the high chalk cliff around Durdle Door, Bat’s Head and Lulworth Cove. This is one of Britain’s most popular destinations for coastal walking holidays.
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. 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.
Swanage & Corfe Castle
A seaside centre on the Isle of Purbeck, Swanage has a beautiful sandy beach with views across to Old Harry Rocks. Popular with families, the resort has a historic flavour with its beautiful Victorian Pier and heritage town trails. Pick up the classic Swanage Steam Railway running for six miles to Corfe Castle or head off on a boat trip from Swanage Pier around Purbeck’s World Heritage Coast. Swanage and Purbeck are Enid Blyton Country with many features in the area making appearances under another guise in her children’s books.
Durlston Country Park
On the south eastern tip of Purbeck, just one mile south of Swanage is Durlston Country Park. As well as being an easily accessible park with Visitor Centre, cafe and historic attractions, Durlston is an important wildlife site. Historic attractions include The Great Globe which was carved from 40 tons of Portland stone and 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. 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 and bottlenose dolphins, as well as harbour porpoises, common and grey seals. Ample pay and display parking is available at Durlston Park.
Langton Matravers Village
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 Bay between Lulworth and Langton Matravers 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. The geology here makes the shallow waters and rocky shore popular for rock-pooling, snorkelling, diving and surfing.
Purbeck Heaths, East Dorset
The Dorset Heaths National Nature Reserve which contains Stoborough Heath and Hartland Moor to the south of Wareham along with the Studland and Godlingston Heath all around Studland are some of the most extensive heathlands in the country. The Dorset Heaths are internationally important and are home to some of Britain’s rarest wildlife including sand lizards, adders, grass snakes, common lizards, slow worms, smooth snakes, Dartford warblers and nightjars, as well as all the specialist plant species of heathlands. Further north west of Studland is Arne Reedbeds National Nature Reserve. This is an excellent birdwatching reserve, largely managed by the RSPB. Here you’re likely to spot nightjars, Dartford warblers, avocets and hen harriers. The local Natural England office and the RSPB run regular guided walks in these areas.
Isle of Purbeck Golf Club
In 1950 Enid Blyton’s husband, Kenneth Waters, bought the Isle of Purbeck Golf Club. While holidaying here they were both known to play almost every day. Under their management it was extended to 27 holes, including a 9 hole course, Dene, and an 18 hole championship course, Purbeck. Today the course is a beautiful heathland course frequently ranked among the top 100 courses in the UK. From the road leading down to the club are some fantastic views across the heathland to Poole Harbour. Visitors are welcomed to the Golf Club and either course will suit golfers of all abilities.