Picture Pur-beck! Exploring the Dorset coast

Picture Pur-beck! Exploring the Dorset coast

Francine Wolfisz takes a family break and discovers the beauty of the Dorset coast

Francine Wolfisz is the Features Editor for Jewish News.

Whoever thought of climbing a cliff with a buggy? Traversing my way down a gravel-filled path bordered by crumbling limestone rocks, I’m filled with a sense of exhilaration – but also downright anxiety – as our two young children nimbly bound their way down the coast.

But my goodness, if you can withstand a few heart-stopping moments of steep inclines and 88 steps in a downward spiral, the breathtaking beauty of Durdle Door, near Lulworth in Dorset, is really all worth it.

The quaintly-named Durdle Door, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a natural limestone arch formed around 140 million years ago that resembles the neck of a great dinosaur plunging into the chilly waters nearby – somewhat apt given that we are, after all, visiting a part of the Jurassic Coast, a 95-mile stretch of coast that begins in nearby Studland Bay and stretches all the way to Exmouth in East Devon.

As the name suggests, the Jurassic Coast attracts hordes of fossil hunters hoping to find remnants from our prehistoric past. Further along the coast, around nine miles from Lulworth, lies Kimmeridge Bay.

Francine and her family at Durdle Door
Francine and her family at Durdle Door

The children loved scrambling over the scenic rock pools and sifting through the fallen shale to spot a fossil or two. That day, we were in luck and found ammonites and other ancient marine life, much to my daughter’s delight.

Our amateur efforts pale in comparison, however, to the Etches Collection, comprising 2,000 fossils, which will go on display at the Museum of Jurassic Marine Life, due to open in Kimmeridge later this year.

We continued to make our way along the coast towards Swanage and the Isle of Purbeck, much of which is designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Standing aloft in the distance are the remains of Corfe Castle, originally built by William the Conquerer in the 11th century, attacked during the English Civil War in 1643 and was torn down on the orders of parliament three years later.

The magnificent Durdle Door limestone arch
The magnificent Durdle Door limestone arch

Our legs still aching from the epic climb of Durdle Door, we decided to tackle the 200 steps of Corfe Castle another day and leave it to the 200,000 or so visitors who come to this popular National Trust site every year.

The drive from here to Swanage is a short one, but you can also travel in style via the restored heritage steam railway, which operates throughout the year and has a stop close to Corfe Castle.

Swanage, lined with pretty cottages made from the local Purbeck stone and ornamental ironwork, has all the attractions of a traditional Victorian seaside town and, like other coastal destinations, really comes alive for families during the summer months, including the impressive annual Swanage Regatta and Carnival, which this year takes place from 30 July to 6 August.

There’s no shortage of places to stay in this picturesque town, and we opted for 10 Broadleys, a modern penthouse apartment available from Wyke Dorset Cottages. The company offers a wide range of holiday properties, from quaint cottages to larger family homes.

Our accommodation for our four-night stay was perfectly situated, just 15 minutes’ walk away from the beach and main town.

Inside the two bedroom apartment
Inside the penthouse apartment at 10 Broadleys, available from Wyke Dorset Cottages

Inside, the coastal decor around the two-bedroom apartment, which features a roof top terrace with panoramic views, gave a light and spacious feel and we were very impressed by just how thoughtful the owners had been – from the helpful manual on places to visit nearby to the much-appreciated shortbread biscuits, bread and milk left for our arrival.

The kitchen, lounge and dining area were also well-equipped with all the mod cons – including Wi-Fi and an Xbox, much to my children’s delight – and the owners had even left a selection of family-friendly DVDs, games and books for use during our stay.

10 Broadleys was a great base from which to explore the immediate area and, of course, further afield, including day trips to nearby Bournemouth and Poole, where there are modestly-sized Jewish communities and the larger supermarkets have dedicated kosher sections.

The best and quickest way to travel from the Isle of Purbeck to Bournemouth is via the chain ferry, which runs from Sandbanks to Studland. There is an alternative route via the winding, coastal road, but it can add miles onto your journey and can at times make for an uncomfortable ride.

Always a favourite with my children, Bournemouth boasts a seven-mile stretch of award-winning beaches and plenty of family-friendly activities.

For those looking to visit in the coming months, look out for live acoustic music, markets and art demonstrations in Bournemouth Square from the beginning of July, as well as the popular annual Air Festival in mid-August.

Useful contacts:

Francine stayed at 10 Broadleys, a penthouse apartment sleeping five, available from Wyke Dorset Cottages.

Weekly rental of 10 Broadleys starts at £610 in July, rising to £1,015 in August, and reducing to £465 in late September.

Short breaks are available outside peak season.

Details: 01929 422776 or www.dorsetcottages.com

Dorset Tourism Site: www.visit-dorset.com

Swanage Tourism: www.visitswanage.com

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