There is no perfect time to visit this park. Every day offers some spectacular views and landscapes and every season nature shows off its diversity. Let us share some numbers with you: 33 different butterfly species, over 250 species of birds, over 500 moths and over a thousand other invertebrates. No wonder this area is so popular among bird watchers. In winter, you can see Ducks and Divers. And, in late autumn Swallows come in huge flocks. With waves crushing the cliff sides and sea foaming around the rocks, the landscape here, in the cold season seems like a scene from Brontë sister’s novels. In summer and spring, you daydream while smelling wildflowers and woodlands. If they decide to swim nearby, there is a chance for you to see the Bottleneck Dolphins. And, occasionally, you could spot some seals, as well. Just look at the sea, you might get lucky.
The park is located along the coast of Isle of Purbeck, Durlston, near Swanage, in Dorset County, England. It is a nature reserve and a part of the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site and it is owned by Dorset County Council. The area is around 320 acres (approx. 1,3 km^2)huge. There is a castle, a very fine café, a visitor’s center, shop and lots and lots of space to walk around. It’s an amazing place to bring your kids and let them learn about the environment and wildlife. Maybe you let them be educated by someone else, while you have a piece of mind. There are excellent educational programs for children. If you want to spend time with your family or just walk on your own, Durlston Park is a place where everyone finds something interesting.
Mainly two spots here are men – made and accessible to the visitors: the Durlston Castle and The Globe. While walking, you can stumble upon the charming Anvil Point Lighthouse. It is managed by Trinity House.
The Durlston Castle was built in 1886, by George Burt. Or let’s say – he paid someone else to build it. Its original purpose was to be used for dining at the Durlston estate. Back then, it was kind of a monument for the town. In the 19 and 20 centuries, the Purbeck district was famous for its limestone. The area was used for open-cast quarries and mine shafts. The Castle was later restored, in 2011. And now, it’s a restaurant. It can be used as an event location, for weddings, congress venues, or other occasions. It is surrounded by stone tablets, inscribed with some facts about nature, statistics, and poetry. The Castle offers gallery exhibitions, all throughout the year.
The café is managed by Seventhwave. Run by the locals, the concept of the café is to serve dishes, made from local ingredients. They try to stay plastic-free and produce as minimum waste, as possible. The Visitor’s Center includes a Fossil Room, Audio-Visual Room, live wildlife cameras, etc. There is also a shop with interesting books and handcrafted local presents and jewelry.
The other famous attraction is The Globe. Together with the Castle, the Globe was built and engraved with the world map from 1880. Well, as you may have guessed, it is the planet Earth. But, what a beautiful way to show it – in 10 feet (3 meters) diameter and 40 tones heavy. It was built by John Mowlem’s Greenwich works and was brought here in sections and perfectly placed. Above the sea, on a cliff. This is one huge rock, actually made by humans. The other rocks in this area are mostly a spectacular result of erosion.
The park is managed sustainably. Something they seem to be proud of, in this area. The herbicides are reduced to a minimum, photovoltaic panels are installed, an air source heat pump is used for heating the Learning Center. There is excellent car-free access (see: how to get here, at the bottom). Educational programs are created to raise environmental awareness. The park is managed so that it does not harm the biodiversity, but rather to support it.
The Park plays an important role in England’s conservation of nature. Most of the Park’s surface is classified as Site of Special Scientific Interest and since 1997, a Special Area of Conservation. The park sections are also designated as a Site of Nature Conservation Importance. In 2008 Durlston was awarded the Green Flag Award – the United Kingdom’s benchmark for publicly accessible parks and green spaces. And in 1997, the Dorset and East Devon Coast was awarded World Heritage Site status, because of its geological importance. And if you think there are too many awards, well just see for yourself.
Durlston Country Park Information
The park is open for visit, almost every day of the year, all throughout the year (just don’t come on Christmas Day and Boxing Day)
Opening hours are Nov-March 10-16
April 1st-Oct 31st 10-17
Dogs are allowed. If you put them on a lead or keep them close.
The access is very well organized, for all types of travelers. Here is how you can get here: https://www.durlston.co.uk/visit-how-to-get-here.aspx.
The staff apologizes for charging the parking. In their defense – this is the only thing that is charged. Access to the park is otherwise for free. If you want to dine and shop, well that will be charged, as well. Overall, the park has a 4,5-star rating on Trip Advisor.
There are guided walks, marked trails, and paths. You won’t get lost in the park. Not physically. But you may get lost in its beauty.