I relish being a tourist in my own backyard and showing off some of my favourite hangouts to visitors. With my sister and brother-in-law visiting from Brazil, I got a chance to give the newly-wed couple a little dose of Dorset and a quick dash across the border into Wiltshire to visit neolithic Stonehenge.
If you have been following this blog, you know that my sister Angelita and her husband Juliano chose Europe as their honeymoon getaway. On my previous posts I wrote about how my other sister Virginia and I gatecrashed their honeymoon and accompanied them to Paris and Amsterdam. On our return from Continental Europe to England we did not lose anytime to get in my car and drive South from London, minus our sister Virginia who had to go back to work the very next day. We arrived at my home in Dorset in the early evening where my husband Brian had cooked us a nice dinner.
Dorset is a County of great beauty. Situated on the South coast of England, it has a breathtaking coastline, golden beaches with sea carved bays and towering chalk white cliffs, and numerous unspoiled little rural villages set against rolling countryside hills. The difficulty is to decide were to start exploring? With a huge checklist of charming places on offer we decided to start at the medieval village of Corfe Castle.
Corfe Castle, Corfe Castle Village – Dorset
A medieval village, with a thousand years old Castle of the same name dominating the landscape. The Castle, in its thousand year history has been a Saxon stronghold, a Norman Fortress, a Royal palace and lastly just a home owned by the Bankes family. Now only the ruins remain after it was besieged by Cromwellian forces during the civil war. I have always loved taking my visitors to explore this little village that looks like it is lost in a medieval time-warp. Everyone enjoys hearing about the many tales of treachery and treason that unfolded here in this little corner of Dorset. We also stopped for an obligatory cream tea with lovely views of the Castle ruins…of course.
Swanage – Durlston Country Park in Dorset
Situated up on a hill above the sea town of Swanage, this 280 acre park and nature reserve is home to some impressive limestone clifftop trails, surrounded by ancient meadows, a diverse wildlife combined with a fascinating geology and history. We walked the clifftop trail towards the “Great Globe”, one of the largest stone spheres in the world it was built in 1886/87 entirely of local stone it weighs about 40 tonnes and is 3 metres (10 ft) in diameter.
There are various trails to choose from with a variety of landscapes, but we decided for the clifftop trail, which although a little fresh with a gentle sea breeze reminding us that Autumn is here, it was actually very pleasantly sunny. We followed the well marked path that takes you to the edge of a very rugged coast with some scary drops down into the cold waters of the English Channel. We stopped for a rest and sat on the grass to admire the views from the cliff top. In the distance we could see the Isle of Wight to one side and the Swanage Lighthouse which was built in 1880, on the clifftop at Anvil Point just in front of where we were sitting. A perfect place for a break and a drink of chimarrão (also known as mate) which we brought with us, plus a flask of boiling water. It is served hot and it tastes a bit like green tea, very traditional of our State of RS in the South of Brazil.
The cliff top walk is not particularly hard, although there is one steepish climb towards the Light House.
We ended our walk with a wholesome lunch at “Durlston Castle”. This Victorian building is not a real castle, but rather intended as a restaurant built by George Burt in 1887 in the grounds of Durlston Country Park for the visitors of his estate, it has sweeping views of the eroding cliffs of Swanage bay. The castle has been extensively restored and the work completed in 2011, it is now also a visitor centre and a hub of all the activities going on in this area. The visitor centre always holds interesting exhibitions including some from local artists.
Square and Compass at Worth Matravers
A short car ride from Swanage, the Square and Compass is a charming old pub situated in a beautiful location overlooking a valley. There are sea views from the terrace tables and that runs down to join the South West Coastal Path at the popular ledges of Winspit. This charming pub is a gem of a place. It has been in the same family for more than a hundred years, but the building itself began life many centuries ago as a pair of cottages. In 1776 it became an alehouse owned by a Wareham brewer. These days it sells simple local food, pasties, pies, locally produced ales and cider, it is a no frills place and the food is served on paper plates via a hatch on the wall in the same way that it has been for many generation’s. Quirky and full of character it is the stomping grounds of local artists and musicians as well its faithful regulars like us who have been coming here for years. After a delicious, warm pastie we walked down the valley towards the Winspit quarry. The old quarry in its hey days has produced stones for many of the London buildings, but it is no longer in use as it was closed down in 1940 during World War II was used as a site for naval and air defences. In more recent years it has been used as film location for British TV program ” Doctor Who” in the episode ” The Underwater Menace”, also as the planet “Skaro” in the serial “Destiny of the Daleks” and in 2012 the Disney film ” John Carter” for the scene location of the “Orkney Dig”.
Stonehenge – Wiltshire
Tearing ourselves away from beautiful Dorset just for one day, our exploring took us across the border into Wiltshire for a quick road trip to Stonehenge and a walk in the footsteps of our Neolithic ancestors. Perhaps the most famous prehistoric monument in the UK, it is also one of the Wonders of the World. There are many theories and stories about the significance of Stonehenge, the most generally accepted interpretation is that this intriguing stone circle is that of a prehistoric temple aligned with the movements of the sun. The very large standing stones are local sandstone but the smaller ones, known as “bluestones”, come from the Preseli hills in Wales Pembrokeshire Coast National Park. I first visited this monument in 1988 on a motorbike road trip with my boyfriend Brian (now my husband) and we parked the bike nearby and walked around getting very close to the stones. Today visitors are not allowed to get so close and certainly not allowed to touch the stones. But you are able to walk around the monument from a short distance away and take as many photos as you wish…we certainly did.
The celebrations of the Summer and Winter Solstice here can also be great fun, my daughter Chloe has been here with friends during the Summer Solstice and loved it.
Salisbury Cathedral – Wiltshire
Just about 8 miles from Stonehenge one of Britain’s finest 13th Century Gothic Cathedral, stands proudly with its tall tower and spire in the city of Salisbury, one of Britain’s quintessential Medieval cities. Inside the Cathedral visitors can also see the best preserved Magna Carta (1215) and thought to be the oldest working Medieval Clock. We stopped by for a visit before heading home to Dorset.
Lulworth Cove And Durdle Door – Dorset
We are not quite done with exploring Dorset yet, another day and lots more to see, and it was great that my daughter Chloe joined us for a coastal walking trail from the charming fishing village of Lulworth Cove to beautiful Durdle Door. Chloe is currently living at home with us and doing her Pharmacy Pre- Registration year here in Dorset, it has been a very tough year for her with very little free time to have fun.
Poole Harbour and Sandbanks
We can catch glimpses of Poole Habour from our home and it is only a short drive away to the shores one of the largest natural harbours in the world. The harbour is the estuary of several rivers, and is extremely shallow with an average depth of 48 cm, therefore larger boats tend to sail down its main dredged channel that cuts through it. Sandbanks is a small peninsula crossing the mouth of Poole Harbour. Real estate here comes at a premium, being the 4th highest land value in the world it is home to some of the UK rich and famous. It has the highest concentration of expensive properties outside London. The shallow waters of the harbour is a mecca for water sports enthusiasts, in particular windsurfing, kite surfing, kayaking and paddle-boarding. We spent some time here enjoying the white sandy beach and walking along the harbour side promenade. Afterwards we took the short ferry ride across to Studland beach and towards the Purbeck hills.
Poole harbour has many small islands dotted around, the largest of which is Brownsea Island which was the location of an experimental camp in 1907 by Robert Badden-Powell to test out his scouting ideas which then led to the formation of the Scout movement in 1908. The Island hosts every Summer a William Shakespeare play in its open air theatre and people gather with a pre- show picnic on the grounds of a protected nature reserve where peacocks and red squirrels are often spotted frolicking around. We have been a few times with friends and have thoroughly enjoyed it.
The week of exploring was nearly over when Virginia arrived to take the newly weds back to London and to enjoy their final honeymoon days in the English capital. We had spent two wonderful weeks together travelling to Paris, Amsterdam and finishing off in the South of England.
Goodbyes are never easy…better start planing our next get together.