Durlston Head, Durston Castle and Durlston Country Park are just around the corner from Swanage.
Durlston Head is a rugged and rocky promontory that more or less makes up the bottom right-hand corner of Dorset. It isn’t the most easterly corner of the County, but it is probably the most south-easterly bit.
The land all around Durlston Head was once owned by George Burt, a local-boy-made-good. He started out as a stonemason and ended up at the head of one of the nation’s biggest construction companies, which was established by an Uncle of his, John Mowlem.
The pair put lots of effort and funds back into Swanage and the surrounding area, with Burt helping to ensure that Swanage was connected to the rail network, among other good works.
He also bought the land which now makes up the Durlston Country Park and, in the late 19th Century, built Durlston Castle. He also commissioned the massive stone globe that still sits overlooking the sea and overlooked by the castle. It is an oddly beautiful piece for a spherical lump of rock. You will wonder how it stays up, but it does - or at least it has done so far! Perhaps, like Arthur Dent and the Nutrimatic Cup, it is art alone that keeps it there!
Dorset County Council (DCC) now owns Durlston, which operates as a nature reserve and educational centre. But it’s also a beautiful place to visit and one of the few places in Dorset that openly boasts dolphin watching as one of its attractions.
The Castle, for which read big dwelling rather than defensive construction, now houses a pretty good café with an excellent view.
There are bracing and beautiful walks to be had along the cliff tops, which here make-up the South West Coast Path.
Head east, and you’ll end up in Swanage.
Head west, and there’s a good short walk to the Anvil Point Lighthouse or, for the more adventurous, a trek along the coast to Dancing Ledge, Worth Matravers and St Aldhelm’s Head...and the rest of the Dorset Coast, of course.
This part of the coast definitely falls into the category of cliffs for walking rather than beaches for swimming, but it is good walking and good looking. And you can learn a lot about its natural history, Jurassic and modern, thanks to George Burt’s legacy and what the DCC have done with it.
This part of the coast definitely falls into the category of cliffs for walking rather than beaches for swimming, but it is good walking and good looking."