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A curious folly
Durlston Castle (Swanage)
Member Name: Bryn Pearson
Durlston Castle (Swanage)
Date: 23/04/02, updated on 23/04/02 (120 review reads)
Advantages: relatively cheap, wildlife and coast
Disadvantages: toilets, not a real castle
Durlston castle stands on a headland above Swanage, in Dorset. If you are thinking proper castle with keep, walls, dungeon etc, think again. This is an amazingly foolish folly - I don't think anyone could realistically live in it, and it doesn't have much history. However, it does have a fair few other things going for it.
If you arrive by car, you have to pay to park - last summer it was four pounds for the day, expect this to go up. After that you don't actually have to pay for anything. You can have a look at the castle, and the various attractions in its area of park for free.
The Castle: Largely consists of a restaurant, a pub, and a cafe which was closed and appared to have been closed since I last went there about ten years previously. The cafe garden has a huge globe in it, which is vaguly entertaining, and has superb views out across Swanage. There are some fossils, I would not go so far as to call it a museum. Food and drinks are reasonably priced as these things go. The loos are a nightmare - you have to go down a steep flight of stairs, I saw no sign of a disabled alternative and for very young, very old or not very mobile people, the loos would be a real problem.
The grounds: No formal gardens here, just glorious purbeck coastline. How much you see depends on how far you want to walk.
Tilly Whim caves - not very exciting, these are old mines that are now closed to the public due to rock falls, so you can see the opening and the big iron gate. There is some information about what used to go on there, but on the whole a bit of a let down.
The Lighthouse - a white lighthouse perched on the edge of the cliffs - worth seeing, again not astounding.
The real attracttion is the landscape and the coast. I think at low tide you can get down to the sea - although its one of those areas you want to be careful in to avoid getting cut off. The headland affords superb views, you can watch the ferries
going in and out of Pool harbour, you can watch the sea birds, and if you are very lucky, you might get to see dolphins. For the early part of the coastal walk, there is a small wall between you and the cliff edge, which makes this a safe place to take kids. There are places to sit if you want to look for dolphins, and boards telling you what you might see and where.
Basically, this is an easy walk, ideal for those who like dramatic coastline, wildflowers, and sea birds. If sitting out with binoculars and a chance to see dolphins fills you with a feeling of rapture, this is the place to go. If you were looking for armour, big walls, torture chambers and the like, then Durlston will bore you silly.
Incidentally, if you don't want to pay, and you are staying in Swanage, you can walk out to the castle - takes about half an hour, affords excellent views. If you want a longer walk, you can either walk from the castle round towards Studland (which is a nudist beach in the height of summer) or walk across Swanage beach and out to Old Harry rocks on the far side - either is well worth doing and you will see some wonderful coast. On a hot summer's day, both routes are really exposed to both sun and wind, so take sunblock and plenty to drink.
If you just want to wander around the site, you won't need more than an afternoon, evening allowing time for some food. (Unless you mean to sit out and watch for dolphins.) It is pleasant and if you like more sedate holiday activities, well worth doing.
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