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Here's everything you need to know about the Isle of Purbeck  





Rugged coastline, imposing cliffs, dense grassland - the Isle of Purbeck is one of Dorset's best-loved attractions, and it’s not hard to see why. A peninsula surrounded by water on three sides, it borders the English Channel, Poole Harbour and the River Frome’s marshes. There’s plenty to see and do in some of the UK’s most diverse and inspiring landscapes. 

Start your morning with a brisk beachside walk, exploring white sands and hidden dunes. Stop off at one of the nearby cafes and tearooms for a hearty breakfast. Set about in search of one of the ruined buildings and bring stories to life at Corfe Castle. And don’t forget to keep your eyes peeled for some of the most unique fauna and that call the UK home. 

From wildflowers like vipers grass to insects like the emperor wasp, everywhere you look, there’s a feast for the eyes. The entire Isle is even an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and then there’s the Jurassic Coast and Purbeck Hills too. One thing’s for sure, as Dorset’s - and indeed one of the UK’s - most diverse regions, you’ll certainly be coming back for more. 

Discover the Isle of Purbeck




With so many stunning walks, sights, things to do, as well as places to eat and drink, you'll be spoilt for choice in this glorious isle. Keep scrolling for our in-depth guide. 

The best walks on the Isle of Purbeck 


Isle of Purbeck


South West Coast Path


The South West Coast Path actually covers 630 miles from Somerset all the way to Dorset’s Poole Harbour. But don’t worry, we’re not saying you should complete the whole thing. In fact, the main path is split up into different routes - some easy, others challenging, some suitable for prams and others dog-friendly. 


The Isle of Purbeck is actually one of the last bits of the path, offering a walk that takes you around the peninsula’s edge. Along the way, keep a look out for sea birds, dolphins, sharks and seals. Heather and gorse are also in abundance on this route. 


St Aldhelm’s Head Walk


The four-mile St Aldhelm’s Head Walk takes you along the peninsula’s most southern point. You follow the coastal path, along limestone cliffs and farm fields. Expect views of the bay of Chapman’s Pool and the incredible Purbeck Cliffs. Here, grasslands are dense in wildflowers that have a beautiful colour and scent and therefore attract lots of butterflies. 


With one of the most diverse landscapes in the UK, the Isle of Purbeck is a great place to spot various species of birds, mammals and reptiles - and this walk won’t disappoint. Keep your eyes peeled for heathland birds, grassland snakes and even sand lizards!


Corfe Castle Walk


Corfe Castle Walk is only two miles and is great for active families and those with young children. Starting at the Corfe Castle National Trust Car Park, you’ll follow the railway towards open fields, woodland and luscious meadows. This is home to a few different types of Purbeck mammals including the field mouse and European badger but they might be hiding away.


After visiting the ruins of the castle, and finding out about its history, it’s time to follow the woodland path and paved roads back to the village square. Even better, it’s a looped trail meaning you’ll end up where you started. 


The Wareham Two Rivers Walks


If you’re looking for a short walk, the Wareham Two Rivers Trail won’t disappoint. Following footpaths and quieter roads, these circular routes take you along the River Frome and River Piddle. 


Along the way, expect amazing views, a peaceful atmosphere and the chance to explore some of Purbeck’s best-kept secrets: the wetlands which remain relatively untouched. Over 20,000 birds flock here in the winter and there are otters, voles and a range of fish too. With various routes to choose from, the shortest is around two miles.


Corfe Castle to Swanage 


At over 12 miles, the Corfe Castle to Swanage route isn't for the faint-hearted but if you’re up for the challenge, it’s an impressive one. Making up part of the South West Coast Path, there’s a steep ascent and descent as well as some steps. But the view of the surrounding dramatic landscapes is a prize in itself. Dinosaur footprints have actually been found here and scientists say there’s proof of human habitation dating back to the Ice Age. It’s also a great route to look out for dolphins and porpoises.



The best sights to see on the Isle of Purbeck  



Corfe Castle


Possibly one of the area’s most popular attractions, Corfe Castle is nestled in the gorgeous Purbeck Hills. It was built more than 1,000 years ago and then destroyed in 1646 in the English Civil War. Today, its ruins remain and make for a great day of family-friendly exploration. There’s also a village nearby - home to cafes, tearooms and a pub so you can stop for refreshments on the way back. Plus, the Model Village is also another way to spend a few hours!


Old Harry Rocks


You’ll probably recognise this from pictures - Old Harry Rocks is a row of chalk rocks stretching out to sea from the Jurassic Coast. It’s not just a great attraction to look at though as legend has it the rocks are named after a Poole pirate and his wife! It’s believed his wife fell into the sea in the 1800s after the rocks eroded below her. Today, the rocks are still eroding and you won’t want to forget your camera for this one. 




An abandoned village with tales that go back to war times, Tyneham is an interesting attraction for all. In the Second World War, the army bought the land for training, promising the residents that they’d get their homes back. This, unfortunately, didn’t happen. While some buildings have been restored, others fell into disrepair and remain the same way today. If you’re wanting a glimpse into 1940s life, this is a great way to capture it.


The Blue Pool


The Blue Pool might not be as famous as some of Dorset’s other attractions but it’s definitely still worth visiting. It’s a clay pit that has been filled with water to form a gorgeous lake. However, the water is said to change colours - as a result of magic! Sometimes it’s blue, other times it’s green - all thanks to fine clay and light. It’s a peaceful spot for a picnic. You can also pack your walking boots and set off on a tranquil hike. 


Chapman’s Pool


A small cove on the southern point of the Isle, Chapman’s Pool might require you to climb - but it’s worth it. In fact, it’s often described as one of the best coastal walks in Dorset. Once here, head inside the cove to discover an incredible beach with dramatic limestone cliffs. The mile-long walk down from the car park usually puts most people off so the result is a secluded spot that’s never that busy. 



The best things to do on the Isle of Purbeck  



Swanage Railway


Running across the Isle, Swanage Railway is open for visitors and allows you to climb onboard a heritage steam train. Choose to stop at a few different stations or head all the way to Corfe Castle for a family day out. There’s also the opportunity to travel to the coast - enjoying incredible views of the castle and neighbouring fields. Throughout the year, the railway centre also puts on events and offers dining experiences for some special journeys. 


The Barrows


The Isle of Purbeck has a history that dates back many years - in fact, thousands of them. With this in mind, there are plenty of archaeological sites belonging to the Iron Age, Saxon and Roman times and you’ll also find barrows, which are stone-age burial grounds. This includes Flowers Barrow which was built more than 2,500 years ago and Nine Barrow Down in the Purbeck Hills which houses nine stone age burial mounds. 




With some dramatic clifftops, it probably won’t surprise you that the Isle of Purbeck has some amazing climbing opportunities. They’re often voted as some of the best in Europe. This includes Dancing Ledge, Subluminal and Winspit - but whatever your age and climbing ability, you’re sure to find a route to suit. If you’re new to climbing but still want to give it a go, why not enrol in some climbing classes or take part in one of the guided climbing trips?


Water sports


You can’t visit one of the UK’s best coastlines and not partake in some water sports! In the Isle of Purbeck, there’s plenty to choose from too. Swanage and Studland are the most popular places with visitors enjoying the likes of kayaking, stand up paddleboarding, windsurfing and even snorkelling. Divers Down, Britain’s oldest dive school, offers guided tours and sea fishing boat trips are available from the bay too. 


Arne RSPB Nature Reserve 


Animal lovers and wildlife enthusiasts are sure to love the Arne RSPB Nature Reserve that overlooks the beautiful Poole Harbour. Expect traditional Dorset landscape - countryside and coastal delights - filled with an abundance of protected nature, birds and wildlife. This is one of the few places that visitors can spot sika deer in the wild and often they come right up to you. While you might not need your binoculars, you will want your camera!



The best restaurants on the Isle of Purbeck 



Isle of Purbeck Golf Club Restaurant


Just picture it now: you’re taking in the sunset, live music is playing and an award-winning chef is cooking up a storm. That’s exactly what you’ll get at this renowned restaurant. Plus, as well as the food, the panoramic dining room with stunning views is another guaranteed talking point. Choose from breakfast, afternoon tea or evening dinner as well as a bar menu for snacks in the day.


Address: Isle of Purbeck Golf Club, Corfe Road, Studland, Swanage, Dorset, BH19 3AB 




Coast Restaurant


Boasting views across Swanage Bay and a menu that consists of fine dining dishes and innovative touches, Coast will be remembered for all the right reasons. The chefs describe the menu as a Conservatory and Bar menu, with al fresco dining an option in the summer. It’s light, refreshing and uses local produce where possible with local draft beer and other drinks to wash everything down. Cream Tea and High Tea are also available. 


Address: Burlington Road, Swanage, Dorset BH19 




Mortons Manor Restaurant


Award-winning, local produce and Two Rosettes - could it get any better?! Mortons is a great choice for those special occasions or holidaymakers who like the finer things. With various rooms to choose from, including the Castle Room, which offers private dining, and the dog-friendly Terrace Bar, there really is something for everyone. A children’s menu is also served and the head chef will not just deliver top-notch food but take you on a dining journey. 


Address: 45 East Street, Corfe Castle, Dorset BH20 5EE




Clavells Restaurant


Founded in 2008, this restaurant is only a mile from the Jurassic Coast - so you can probably guess that it gets booked up. It’s been part of the family farm since the 50s and its ethos is all about farm to fork. Meat is locally reared, fish is locally caught and many vegetables are grown on the farm too. With a seasonal menu and regular events, there’s also the option to enjoy afternoon tea and outside dining for a more laid back feel. 


Address: Kimmeridge, Wareham, Dorset BH20 5PE




The Pig On The Beach 


Situated in a country house hotel on Studland Bay, this kitchen garden restaurant boasts a wood-fired oven and an indoor and outdoor bar. Put your order in, and head for a wander around the garden as your meal cooks. Or, nip down to the sands and get your feet wet while you wait. The menu has a 25-mile commitment so everything used hails from the nearby area. Of course, as it’s a seasonal menu however don't expect to see the same dishes crop up too often!


Address: Manor Road, Studland, Dorset, BH19 3AU





The best cafes on the Isle of Purbeck 



The Cake House Tea Room


Located on a family farm, this relaxing tea room serves up a selection of cakes, scones and sandwiches. It’s close to the market town of Wareham and the attraction, Corfe Castle. When you’re not enjoying a sweet treat, there’s plenty of outdoor area to explore and the resident sheep, chickens, horses and goats are sure to impress little ones. 


Address: East Creech Farm, East Creech, Wareham, Dorset BH20 5AP




Blue Pool Tea Rooms


After an hour of exploring one of the area’s most memorable attractions, why not sit back with a freshly baked scone or a light lunch on the terrace? If that doesn’t tempt you then the selection of Purbeck ice creams sure will. Dietary requirements can be catered to and most produce is locally sourced. Well-behaved dogs are invited too - just be sure to keep them on the lead. 


Address: Furzebrook Road, Nr Wareham, Dorset BH20 5AR




Corfe Castle Model Village Tearooms


Enjoy Dorset Cream Tea, healthy breakfasts, light lunches and cakes. With most ingredients sourced locally, and vegetables grown in the garden, this is a fantastic place to refuel after a few hours at Corfe Castle. The tearoom also has a licence for alcohol and a beautiful courtyard setting which makes for a lovely location for a glass of wine or cider. 


Address: The Square, Corfe Castle, Dorset BH20 5EZ




Middle Beach Cafe 


Having sat in its place for more than 100 years, Middle Beach Cafe is a firm favourite with locals and tourists. It faces Old Harry Rocks and Studland Bay - whether you choose to sit inside or out, and the five-mile beach below is great for walking off whatever you feast on. Choose from breakfast, crab sandwiches, ice cream and more - as well as a delicious range of cold and hot drinks. 


Address: Marine Terrace, Beach Rd, Studland, Swanage BH19 3AX



The Orchard


With food and jazz events throughout the year, and views of the Purbeck Hills, The Orchard should definitely be on your list if you’re in the area. Choose from breakfast, lunch, and afternoon tea and enjoy locally sourced ingredients and some that are even grown on-site. In a natural and relaxed setting, it’s the perfect space to sit back and sip a drink of Dorset beer or cider, and enjoy a sweet treat or two!


Address: Holme for Gardens, West Holme, Wareham, BH20 6AQ 




The best pubs on the Isle of Purbeck  



Kings Arms


This historic pub has allegedly been around for more than 400 years - just imagine how many pints have been poured! Nestled at the gateway of the Isle of Purbeck, it serves up delicious pub grub, real ales and incredible wines. Having won a number of awards, it boasts an excellent team of chefs. Well-behaved dogs are allowed and there’s a large garden for kids to run around. 


Address: 3 Corfe Road, Stoborough, Wareham, Dorset BH20 5AB




New Inn


Built from 16th century stone and boasting a thatched roof, this picture-perfect pub is a great pitstop for those visiting Corfe Castle. It’s just 1.5 miles from the attraction and is featured in many good food guides having won an AA Fish Award. On the menu, expect fine fish dishes and a refreshing selection of drinks. The staff certainly know their stuff and would be delighted to recommend a few meals and drink pairings too. 


Address: Church Knowle, Corfe Castle, Dorset BH20 5NQ




Bankes Arms


Sitting pretty in the Purbeck Hills, with amazing views of the sea, this pub is just minutes from the beach, Old Harry Rocks and its coastal walks. Next door, you’ll find The Isle of Purbeck Brewery which is where many of the drinks served in the pub come from. Homemade cider is even on the menu! In terms of food, expect freshly-prepared and seasonal dishes that change frequently, bar snacks to get your taste buds going and a children’s menu to impress even the fussiest of guests. 


Address: Manor Road, Studland, Dorset BH19 3AU




Greyhound Inn


Nestled under Corfe Castle and looking over the famous Swanage Railway, The Greyhound Inn is popular with foodies of all ages. A trained rosette chef serves up seasonal dishes and locally sourced produce including lobster, game, chicken and lamb. There’s also a children’s menu and Sunday roast menu, which attracts visitors for miles. When the weather’s not on your side, you may even find a pan of mulled wine on offer - the perfect way to warm up!


Address: The Square, Corfe Castle, Wareham BH20 5EZ




Halfway Inn


Head to the gateway of Studland Beach and Swanage, and you’ll find this popular and historic pub. Ideal for drinks, dinner or even lunch, it’s convenient for those travellers visiting Corfe Castle and Wareham. Dogs and children are welcome and a large beer garden and play area are firm favourites in the summer - when the UK’s sunshine chooses to make an appearance. 


Address: Norden, Corfe Castle, Wareham, Dorset, BH20 5DU





Wildlife you can spot


While the UK might be home to more than 70,000 known species of animals (as well as plants, fungi and microorganisms), here on the Isle of Purbeck, you’ve got a good chance at spotting some of the more unusual types of wildlife. In fact, Natural England has revealed that the peninsula has 44 out of the 58 types of mammals. This includes: 


  • Bottlenose dolphins 
  • Emperor moths
  • Grey longed-eared bats
  • Grey seals
  • Nightjar birds
  • Sika deers
  • Silver-studded blues
  • Smooth snakes
  • Sunfishes
  • Willow warblers


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