isle of purbeck

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The Pink House is close to Lulworth Castle and Country Park which the Weld Family Estate have owned since the 17th Century. Today they still manage and maintain it as open to the public and every August it hosts the family music festival that is Camp Bestival.

Just a few kilometres from the sea at Lulworth Cove and the beautiful beaches of Purbeck there is much to discover, explore and enjoy on your holiday here.

Lulworth Cove is the jewel in the crown of the Jurassic Coast and an absolute must for visitors to Dorset. Granted World Heritage Site status by UNESCO in 2001 this unique chalk and limestone cove is one of the finest examples in the world of such a landform and is framed by the Purbeck hills of Hambury Tout and the magnificent natural arch at Durdle Door. The area is a magnet for geologists and geographers including the dramatic Fossil Forest where petrified tree remains, dating back to the Dinosaur Age, can still be seen.

Lulworth Cove has a fresh fish shop selling the local catch every day in summer and all weekends throughout the year. The blue flag beaches and superb coastal walking along the Purbecks are linked to footpaths leading directly from The Pink House and take you east to Lulworth, Osmington, Ringstead and Weymouth or west to Kimmeridge, Dancing Ledge and Swanage.

Kimmeridge Bay is a popular surfing and walking destination. A Ramblers’ poll voted the Jurassic journey along the clifftops from Kimmeridge to Durdle Door as the best walk in Britain! It has also provided the majority of Kimmeridge Clay fossils, including a very impressive marine crocodile, on display in the Heritage Centre at Lulworth Cove.

For shopping and supplies Wool has a traditional family bakery, butchers, local shops and weekly W.I. market on Thursdays though you have to be first and fast to get the best of the local produce.

Nearby Wareham is an old walled Saxon town, built by on the banks of the River Frome by Alfred the Great in the 9th century and bordered by Wareham Forest and the Dorset Downs. There is a traditional farmers market every Thursday and Saturday and a number of cafes and eateries in the town and quayside. There is a train station, a County Library, a good selection of delicatessens, health food shops, greengrocers , bakeries and a couple of supermarkets.

In the summer there is a music festival and an annual carnival which take place down by the quay complete with parades and fireworks.

For film buffs you can step back in time at The Rex Cinema, still lit with original gas lamps, and one of the few cinemas in the country where you can buy a drink from the bar and take it in with you to watch the film.

Kept going by enthusiastic volunteers, the Rex is the flagship of the Purbeck Film Festival which is the longest running rural film festival in the UK.

The charming coastal village of Studland, situated roughly halfway between Sandbanks and Swanage, is famous for its beaches, pretty thatched cottages and nature reserve. There are 4 km of golden beaches along Studland Bay, backed by sand dunes and heathland. The Studland and Godlingston Heath National Nature Reserve has been a haven for birds and other wildlife since 1946, home to all six native species of reptile and is also one of the best places in the UK to see the Dartford Warbler. In the bay itself two species of seahorse have been discovered in the seagrass beds at the southern end of the beach. Chalk grasslands leading from the village along the coastal path to Old Harry Rocks are studded with rare orchids and abound in insects such as the delicate chalk blue butterfly and the elusive and endangered Lulworth Skipper. There is a delightful little church dating back to Norman times which is still in use today. Studland is the ideal choice for a family day excursion, walking, horse riding or simply enjoying the seaside.

From Studland you can also take the chain ferry across Poole Harbour to Sandbanks, affectionately known as ‘Britain’s Palm Beach’, or onto Poole and Bournemouth.

Accessible by ferry or private boat Brownsea Island is owned and managed by the National Trust and in 1907 played host to the very first Boy Scout movement camp. In 2007 boy scouts and girl guides from over 160 countries gathered here as the focus of worldwide celebrations marking the centenary of the movement. The island has a visitor centre and museum in addition to an outdoor centre and trading post shop at the Scout Camp. It is one of the few places in Southern England with a thriving population of red squirrels because grey squirrels have never been introduced and Sika deer are present in large numbers. You can also see avocets, terns, herons, egrets and even peacocks which wander freely around the grounds.

Far from The Madding Crowd, and easily recognisable from the Wessex depicted in his books, the Isle of Purbeck and surrounding Dorset is historically known as ‘Hardy Country’. Thomas Hardy’s birthplace is now a National Trust property in Higher Bockhampton, near Dorchester, and is a good place to combine a step back in time with a picturesque woodland walk through Puddletown Forest and Egdon Heath, which inspired Hardy to write The Return of the Native. A short walk from ‘Casterbridge’ or Dorchester town centre, and Hardy’s Study at the Dorset County Museum, is Max Gate, the atmospheric Victorian house designed and built by the author and where he lived from the age of 34 until his death in 1928. If you are spending the day in Dorchester the original mosaics and other artefacts on show at the Roman Town House, the 4000 year old hill fort at Maiden Castle or the ancient site of gladiatorial games at Maumbury Rings are all well worth a visit. Other Hardy memorabilia are on permanent display at the church at East Lulworth. At the Norman church in Bere Regis you can view the Tuberville Chapel and family vault that started the tragic chain of events in Tess of the D’Ubervilles.

Other areas of interest include

Tyneham Village. Owned by the Ministry of Defence this ‘ghost’ village is only accessible when the Lulworth Ranges are open to the public. The village and surrounding heathland was commandeered by the War Office just before Christmas 1943 for use as military firing ranges in preparation for the D-Day landings. The 225 inhabitants were given a month to evacuate their homes in the ‘National Interest’ and the last person to leave pinned the following notice on the church door.

‘Please treat the church and houses with care; we have given up our homes where many of us lived for generations to help win the war to keep men free. We shall return one day and thank you for treating the village kindly’.

The displaced villagers intended to return after the war but it was not to be. The houses in the village are in ruins but the church and school house have been under preservation since the 1970s. The school house now appears ‘frozen in time’ as if the children had just left with the final lesson taught still on their desks. The church is a living museum and has a very interesting information area all about the people who lived at Tyneham. The good news is it is free to visit and well worth it!

When the ranges are open you can explore Worbarrow Bay a broad shallow inlet just east of Lulworth Cove. The walk is one of the most stunning routes along the South West Coast Path crossing the Arish Mell Gap, and over to Mupe Bay, a shingle beach mirror image of Worbarrow. The inhabitants of Worbarrow were relocated in 1943 due to War Office land requisition, in the same manner as Tyneham, but little remains today of the eight cottages and coastguard station where the families once lived. The cliffs at the eastern end of the bay form a promontory known as Worbarrow Tout where you can often find exposed shale and limestone containing dinosaur footprints and small fossils.

Less than 10 kilometres north of the Pink House you’ll find Monkey World – home to over 230 individuals including the largest group of chimps outside Africa. Prior to their rescue many of the primates were neglected, kept in unnatural conditions, or experienced unbelievable cruelty. Now you can observe them living and breeding in 65 acres of beautiful Dorset woodland – which is also well laid out to the public with food and drink outlets, picnic areas and forest walks.

At the Bovington Tank Museum is the world’s broadest and best collection of tanks. Follow the Tank Story, take a look at almost 150 tanks in the Discovery Centre, and check out the Tank Displays. There is also an impressive interactive exhibition featuring World War One Allied and German dugouts and trenches in addition to World War Two air-raid shelters, complete with recordings of an actual bombing, and even an Air Raid Warden’s kitchen full of original personal items. Check listings for special events and open days when you can watch displays and even get on board a real working tank!

And at the village of Moreton, about 15 minutes drive from Lulworth, you’ll find Lawrence of Arabia’s cottage at Clouds Hill. The property is managed by the National Trust and open to the public. The Tea Rooms at Moreton are great for a traditional Dorset cream tea and are also open for Sunday lunch