We went to Dorset, in Southern England, over a long weekend. It was the first “staycation” I’d had in years so I was a tad apprehensive – particularly as we were camping! If the weather was rubbish (and being England that is a distinct possibility) then it would make the holiday a lot more difficult!
Being English and this being an English holiday, I feel it is only right to do a weather analysis at this point 😉 We did get rain when we arrived and when we were leaving – ie. when we were putting the tent up and down – the worst time to rain! But the rest of the holiday was hot and sunny and we even got sunburnt!
Taking advantage of said sunshine, we went to Swanage for the morning. This was a pleasant little seaside town, with plenty of fish and chips and ice cream to enjoy. The beach was pretty full so we had lunch in a café and then strolled around the town. We walked down to Swanage Pier, but were disappointed that you had to pay to walk down the pier. We bypassed that and continued to walk around the coast until we reached the fishing area. We sat on a small (free) pier and watched the fishermen and day-trippers unloading their boats and jetskis into the water.
In the afternoon we headed for a quieter beach. We went to Studland Bay, where there are three separate beaches, all looked after by the National Trust. The beach is free, but the parking is pay and display. However if you’re a National Trust (or National Trust for Scotland) member then you park free.
We first stopped briefly at South Beach, Studland, however I found this beach very narrow and overcrowded, with lots of seaweed lurking by the shore. There is however a pub with a big beer garden which overlooks the sea. This was a lovely spot to have a drink, but unsurprisingly was very popular.
We moved along to Knoll Beach which I preferred. We walked down the beach and as we got further from the car park the crowds thinned, until we had the place almost to ourselves. We were able to watch the ferries going in and out from Poole to France which was fab – I find ferries very exciting as they remind me of holidays! However I did spot some black oil underneath the top layer of sand on the beach, so you’d need to watch out if you have kids. On this beach there was a slackline which was cool to try (and very difficult!!) 🙂
We took the little car ferry over to Poole and drove through the exclusive neighbourhood of Sandbanks. This is reportedly the fourth most expensive place to live in the world! So we had a nosy at the big houses on our way through, naturally! We ate fish and chips in the car overlooking Poole harbour and watched the kitesurfers. In the evening we found an out-of-town entertainment complex with a cinema, bowling, restaurants and bars and a massive Tesco, and entertained ourselves there.
The next day we explored Corfe Castle. There are only ruins left of this castle and we explored this and enjoyed the views. We saw a steam train from here, going over a viaduct, which looks like something from Harry Potter! 🙂 I was excited to learn that Corfe Castle was the inspiration for Kirren Castle in Enid Blyton’s “Famous Five” books, which I loved as a kid! There were even ravens circling around the castle which gave it that extra authenticity.
The village of Corfe was very nice itself. It is tiny, with a couple of pubs, some gift shops and a bakery. All of Corfe is extremely picturesque, and one pub claims to be the most photographed pub in the country.
In the evening we headed into the nearby small town of Wareham. This was also really picturesque and we happened to be there when a music festival was going on so after consuming a disappointing and overpriced pizza we stuck around to enjoy the music and had a really good evening. There isn’t a vast array of restaurants but there are certainly enough to find a square meal – including pubs, curry houses, an Italian, and a chip shop. There is also a Sainsburys supermarket which is handy for groceries. It was very quaint and we enjoyed looking around, however be warned that you can see Wareham in about an hour. The surrounding countryside is very pretty however and there is plenty to explore.
So what of the camping? The less said the better I think! It was Ok – you have to get used to tramping across a field in your PJs every time you need a wee. A family of spiders decided that the porch of our tent would make a good home, so every evening when we came back to the tent to go to bed, we’d shine a torch in the porch and see spiders running across the floor, spiders abseiling down from the ceiling, etc. I am terrified of spiders so it was a nightmare scenario! Even worse, the shower block was a converted cow shed, so while I showered I had to always keep one eye on a spider the size of a tarantula which was chillin’ on the wall. Hotels are definitely easier, but looking on the brightside, due to the discomfort and the sun coming up early I awoke and was ready to go at about 7.30am which is unprecedented and allowed more time on the beach! 😉
Overall, despite my early hesitation about a staycation, I was very impressed by what Dorset had to offer – and we only explored a small area of the county! It was very quaint and there was a real diversity of things on offer, from beaches to bowling alleys, and castles to quaint villages. I would certainly recommend it.
Next blog: Barcelona, Spain