How to Spend a Weekend in Dorset
Sometimes I feel as though I could spend a lifetime exploring the United Kingdom. My recent weekend in the county of Dorset went even further towards proving this fact.
It was a whirlwind visit, filled to the brim with activities. A solid introduction to this corner of England.
Spending a weekend in Dorset? The following activities are a good overview of what the county has to offer visitors.
Take a Ferry From Poole to Swanage
After acquiring ice cream, as it was over 18 degrees for once, we boarded a ferry, set for Swanage.
City Cruise run boats across the harbour every few hours. If you hop on one early enough in the morning, you can ride your way over to Swanage. There, you can spend a few hours poking around the town. You can also walk along the beach while checking out the colourful huts that align it.
Unfortunately, we were on the last ferry of the day. As we didn’t fancy being stranded for the night, we stayed on-board the ship.
So this meant that the boat was near empty on the leg that took us from Poole Quay to Swanage. We were able to claim what was the best vantage point of all – a place right up the front of the boat.
Here are a few more options for activities based around the Jurassic Coast in particular.
Highlights of the City Cruise Ferry
The trip to Swanage took us passed some of the icons within the Purbeck District of Dorset.
Brownsea Island is the biggest island in Poole Harbour, owned by the National Trust. The island a popular destination for day trips and is home to a colony of red squirrels. They have been under threat since the introduction of the American grey squirrel to the UK. This is alongside loss of habitat.
The island is also famous for being the place where the Scout movement was born!
We then passed a row of houses that are the most expensive within the UK. You have to have a few million quid up your sleeve to buy property here. New owners tend to demolish the houses to rebuild on the expensive blocks of land. Might I daresay some people have more money than sense? Well, I have said it now, so that’s that.
We cruised passed three chalk formations at the most eastern part of the Jurassic Coast. These are the Old Harry Rocks. The coastline here is made out of millions of fossils, which compressed to form rock over thousands of years. Rumour has it that Old Harry was named after Poole pirate Harry Paye. He often hid behind the rocks before sacking passing merchants.
A fun fact – Poole Harbour is one of the largest natural harbours in the world. Its “rivals” include the likes of San Francisco Bay, Cork Harbour and Sydney Harbour. Poole – you’re in good company.
Order Seafood at the Poole Arms Pub
Upon our return to Poole Quay, I ordered yet another ice cream (don’t judge me – I skipped lunch that day!) before settling down to eat at the Poole Arms Pub.
We ordered a series of seafood hors d’oeuvre, followed by local fish for mains. And oh goodness. This had to be one of the most satisfying meals I’ve had in England. Their chef knows what he’s doing, particularly with mussels and scallops, which are not easy to cook. I know this from personal experience!
The place itself was intimate and cosy; an English pub as you’ve imagined it. Good food, good atmosphere and good service – a ten out of ten in my book, for sure.
Check out the Durdle Door
Durdle Door is a beach in Dorset named for the natural limestone arch that frames the most eastern side of that particular stretch of coast.
The beach is highly photogenic and serves as a popular destination for hiking, swimming (I presume in warmer weather) and kayaking.
Are you a fan of 80s music and wondering why the Durdle Door looks strangely familiar? This might be because it served as the setting for the music video of Tears for Fears 1984 hit Shout!
Wander the Streets of West Lulworth
West Lulworth has the vibe of a place that may have been an interesting place in its own right back in the day. Now it seems to exist as a popular tourist destination, a sleepy village full of BnBs.
The town remains delightful to look at. Particularly if you’re a fan of colourful front doors (guilty as charged).
It’s worth wandering along the streets of the village to the local pub, the Castle Inn. It’s one of the oldest surviving pubs in Dorset and has a rocking beer garden, when it is actually open to the public. Which it wasn’t while we were there.
Check Out the Crumbling Ruins of Corfe Castle
The village of Corfe and its crumbling castle are worth a proper poke around. Time was working against us, so we had to make do with a walk around the castle and a cup of tea in a nearby pub.
The Castle has been around since the 900s. First constructed in wood, it was rebuilt in stone by William the Conqueror in the 11th Century. A royal fortress for six hundred years, it passed into the possession of the aristocracy in the 1500s. These days, it’s managed by none other than the National Trust.
I’d tour the castle during an afternoon before heading to the nearby tearoom, to partake in a spot of cream tea.
Take the Chain Ferry Across the Harbour
We ended our scenic drive around Dorset by crossing the Harbour via the chain ferry! It costs £4 for cars to cross, but is free if you’re walking.
The crossing takes around three minutes. This is enough time to climb to the top deck and feel the wind whip through your hair. You’ll then rush down to your car as the ferry docks on the other side.
Poke Around Poole
We spent more time touring Poole’s nightclubs (nightpubs?) than the town itself, but it’s worth scoping out. Be aware that paying 3 quid for a palmful of cockles that COME FROM LONDON, is highway robbery.
There’s so much more I want to do – paddle in the ocean at Sandbanks Beach, stop off at Brownsea Island, hunt for fossils in Lulworth Cove, admire the horses within the New Forest and check out the Cerne Abbas Giant.
More reason to make a return visit. Until next time, Dorset!