9 of the best things to do and see in Swanage
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Steam trains, seaside adventures and castles. Swanage is at the very heart of Famous Five country and you can have a smashing day out here
1. Swanage food and drink
Check out Swanage's first café-deli-cake emporium Love Cake etc at 42 High Street. Its eye-catching displays feature home cooked food, cakes and pastries which can be served with staggering range of local teas and coffees (facebook.com/lovecakeetcswanage).
Sunday lunch is a big hit at The Square & Compass in nearby Worth Matravers. This popular pub is renowned for its local ciders and pies.
If you are a fan of afternoon tea then we can highly recommend the Worth Matravers Tearooms for legendary teas with freshly baked scones.
2. Swanage shopping scene
Swanage town centre has plenty of independent shops waiting to be discovered. Those with a sweet tooth will definitely want to check out Chococo (chococo.co.uk) on Commercial Road, which is home to a shop, café and chocolate kitchen. Their 'Dorset Specialities' are inspired by the Jurassic Coast and include a chocolate ammonite, fossil slab and fish, chips and peas in confectionary form!
The Mulberry Tree Art Gallery, at 57 High Street, is one of the South Coast's leading independent galleries. Set up over 10 years ago by four friends with a passion for all things beautiful and creative, the gallery prides itself on showcasing new and established names at regular exhibitions. Inside you will find original paintings, limited edition prints, ceramics, glassware and textiles, as well as custom-made jewellery, stationary.
3. Corfe Castle
The National Trust owns both the land and coastline within the Isle of Purbeck, which includes the iconic ruin of Corfe Castle and the spectacular beach at Studland.
Corfe Castle was a royal stronghold and home of the Bankes family for centuries before being partially demolished in the English Civil War by the parliamentarians. The Bankes then built a new family home at Kingston Lacy, a grand country house near Wimborne, now owned by the National Trust. Each year, from Easter to September, Corfe Castle has a packed programme of events bringing its turbulent past to life. Corfe Castle, Castle View Visitor Centre, the National Trust tearooms and shop are open from 10am, seven days a week. More information can be found at nationaltrust.org.uk/corfe-castle.
Corfe Castle is believed to be the inspiration for the mysterious Kirrin Castle in Enid Blyton's Famous Five stories. The renowned children's author was a regular visitor to the area, and she and her husband Kenneth enjoyed swimming in Swanage Bay. Many of her stories have a Dorset connection and the Famous Five books in particular are infused with all sorts of Purbeck references.
You can certainly imagine the Famous Five relishing a day at Studland with its four miles of golden sand and gently shelving bathing waters. A vast area of dunes and heathland inland begs to be explored and there are popular walks along the South West Coast Path to Old Harry Rocks and beyond.
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Naturism has been welcomed at Studland since the 1920s and there is a clearly marked naturist area extending 900 metres from Knoll Beach. You'll also find the National Trust café and shop at Knoll Beach and ample parking at four main locations.
Find out more at: nationaltrust.org.uk/studland-beach.
4. Swanage Railway
One of Swanage's best known tourist attractions is the award-winning Swanage Railway. The standard gauge preserved steam railway operates between Norden Park and Ride, Corfe Castle, Harmans Cross and Swanage. Steam trains run every day between April and October and there are services operating most weekends during the remainder of the year. The railway holds a number of special events throughout the year including Steam and Diesel Galas, a Classic Transport Rally and the traditional Santa Specials during December. Look out for special dining trains which run on a number of different days throughout the year.
5. Durlston Castle
Situated just outside Swanage town centre, Durlston Country Park and National Nature Reserve is an ideal place to start exploring Dorset's internationally acclaimed coast and countryside. The park boasts stunning sea views, superb coastal walking, art exhibitions and events. The amazing flora and fauna here is carefully managed for conservation and public enjoyment by Dorset County Council.
Within the park is Durlston Castle, a Victorian folly built in 1886 and restored in 2011. The castle, which was built by George Burt a wealthy local business man, offers rooftop views, exhibitions and interactive displays. It is also home to Seventhwave café and restaurant. Find our more durlston.co.uk.
6. Swanage Sailing Club
In the corner of the bay beside the town's Victorian pier, Swanage Sailing Club is a friendly dinghy sailing club open to everyone tempted to sail. New members are welcomed and experience is not important. You don't even need your own boat and beginners of all ages are welcome.
The club runs training for adults and children and positively encourages members to get out on the water for fun, and there is social sailing as well as regular racing for every level of sailor. The modern clubhouse offers excellent facilities and the bar has spectacular views across the bay.
For more information visit swanagesailingclub.org.uk
7. Swanage Folk Festival
Swanage Folk Festival is an annual family centred celebration of all things folky - from traditional dancing and music to crafts and workshops. This year it is held over the weekend of 6-8 September. The whole town gets involved with this popular festival and there are Morris Dance displays and jamming sessions on the streets as well as a packed programme of concerts from some of the top names in the folk music world. Visit swanagefolkfestival.com for more details.
8. Swanage landmarks
No trip to Swanage and the Isle of Purbeck is complete without viewing some of the area's famous landmarks. Old Harry Rocks, three chalk stacks owned by the National Trust, are visible from both Studland and Swanage. The 'rocks' lie at the bottom end of Ballard Down, which is a stunning chalk downland on the Purbeck Hills. An impressive obelisk on top of Ballard Down commemorates the provision of a new supply of drinking water for Swanage in 1883.
The 'Great Globe', a three metre wide diameter sphere built out of Purbeck stone, can be found within Durlston Country Park. The globe, built by local men John Mowlem - founder of the quarrying and construction firm Mowlem - and George Burt, recently featured on the ITV series Richard Wilson On The Road.
More information on Swanage and the surrounding Isle of Purbeck can be found by visiting the Discover Purbeck Information Centre in nearby Wareham (in the library building on South Street). Swanage has a Tourist Information Centre itself on Shore Road in the town centre. Visit swanageandpurbeck.co.uk.
Meeting the first Tuesday of every month at 7.30pm at the Allendale Community Centre in nearby Wimborne, the Wessex Astronomical Society also host regular events at the Durlston Astronomy Centre in Swanage throughout the year. The park's dark skies offer great stargazing opportunities and the society welcomes visitors and new members at all events. More details can be found at wessex-astro.org.uk.