After being back in London for a few weeks and then Manchester we were lucky enough to be able to join our friends who live in Swanage. Swanage was an old quarry town with train routes to London that served to ship the limestone from the coast to Southampton and the capital.
Situated on the tip of the Isle of Purbeck time seems to have stood still. It is a real local English town built of the local light grey stone. To reach Swanage you must either travel around Poole harbour by car, but more preferrably take the chain ferry from Sandbanks to shell bay. Glassy white sands complete with long grass covered small dunes situated in the nature reserve of gorse and heather.
This is guaranteed to make you feel like you are on holiday and really in rural English countryside. The fact that the bus driver may get off the bus to have a smoke, while waiting for the boat (as I am now), puts you in the country’s pace of life. This is as authentic as you can get. As we drove down the sand-lined road, Brownsea island castle fading into the distance the sun sparkled across the bay. The bus winds over the central rolling hills of Isle of Purbeck and at the top you can see arable land for miles as you curve through roads that are governed by the land. Emerging at the top of Swanage you can see the network of terraced stone buildings, built in the mid 1800, sat in the valley that stretches out to Swanage bay to the East.
Having stayed for a few weeks we were lucky enough to be able to find the local gems; places to see and drink. As a summer tourist town it is particularly good to see a country town in the low season, when it is devoid of coaches of people and traffic. Instead it was bitterly cold and there was no better place than sitting in a pub drinking the locally brewed ale or traditionl cider around a crackling wood fire. Indeed it is the smell of pine burning and lazily puffing out of numerous chimneys that fit so well here. In particular head to the Globe pub on the high street away from the town center for a proper English pub, with fantasticly fresh Timothy Tailor ale on tap.
We spent a few weekends heading off for a walk around this jurassic coastline, taking in the views of the ocean and lush green hills that stretch as far as the eye can see. Harry’s rock is a particularly popular walk to take in as you are around 50 meters on top of the cliff with no barrier between you and certain death. Temptation gave in and I couldn’t resist lying down to peer over the edge to look down the vertical white cliff face, seagulls soaring in the onshore breeze that burnt the face with cold. There are heaps of public accessways that can be explored in the area, so you have to stay a while before it is possible to explore the Victorian walks on offer.
If golf is your thing then try the Purbeck golf course. Both a 9 and 18 hole is available. The 9 hole is £12.50 if you go with a member or around £20 without. It is worth investing in the extra for the 18 holes as the panoramic view over pool on the top of the Isle are spectacular, in addition to beng a good course to play.
Further out of town there is the famous Corfe castle, which is certainly worth a visit as it is purched on a small hill between a natural cut through in the land as a medieval strategic stronghold that is now in ruins. Catching Corfe on a hazy summer day during sunset is a sight to be remembered… and photographed! Yet across this idyllic region there are loads of gems to be found and explored; interesting churches, cobbled streets and plenty of geographical points of interest.
Further afield you can head South to visit the village of Langton Matravers and further still Worth Matravers to visit my version of a perfect pub- The Square and Compass. Sat overlooking the village proudly, the sausage and potato pie with a glass of their home brewed cider is well worth a day out on its own- just beware of the cider’s high alcohol content! After you have explored the area you may want to have a cheeky cocktail in the “Snack Bar”, possibly the worlds smallest that can hold maximum 15 people. As a country retreat goes Swanage is right up there with the best. We heard about the infamous Swanage festival during June, when revellers come from London and the Midlands to the country for a summer break. The real time to go though and eat fish and chips for lunch with the permanent residents is January till March when the place is at its quietest.