Not strictly an isle, but a peninsula, the Isle of Purbeck is home to a diverse array of wildlife, intriguing historical sites and areas of global geological importance.
It has inspired famous writers, attracted historians and drawn holidaymakers for generations. But what is it that makes this corner of Dorset so special?
With its stunning sandy beaches; huge variety of walks; and fantastic places to eat, shop and explore, anywhere in Purbeck is a unique experience waiting to be discovered.
Purbeck’s most famous landmarks & attractions
The Isle of Purbeck has many well-known, iconic landmarks and special places to visit that draw thousands of visitors every year.
From castle ruins and abandoned villages to stunning natural features of the Jurassic Coast, Purbeck – as it generally and locally referred to – offers endless days of exploration for the whole family.
- Agglestone – Legend surrounds this unique landmark in the heathlands around Studland
- Corfe Castle – Combine a visit to Corfe Castle with an amble around the picturesque Corfe Castle village
- Clavell Tower – Check out this stunning Tuscan tower when you visit Kimmeridge Bay
- Durdle Door – This special, world-renowned beauty spot also has fantastic walking trails nearby
- Jurassic Coast – With so many different aspects to explore you’ll be spoilt for choice
- Lulworth Cove – A beautiful backdrop for walks and picnics, this romantic cove is found at the foot of the pretty village of West Lulworth
- Old Harry Rocks – The commanding views of the chalk stacks of Old Harry Rocks and nearby Pinnacles are one of the most photographed areas of the Dorset coastline
- Studland Bay – With four miles of beaches, bays, heathland and cliff walks, and an active watersports scene, there is plenty to do in Studland Bay
- Swanage Bay – Swanage Bay and town make for a delightful visit, with plenty for the whole family to do at different times of the year
- Swyre Head – The views from the highest point on the Isle of Purbeck are as breathtaking as they are far-reaching
Other places to visit in Purbeck
Some of the lesser-known landmarks in the Isle of Purbeck make for equally intriguing visits and breathtaking scenery.
Here are a few pockets of Purbeck that promise memorable experiences for the whole family:
- Arne Nature Reserve – Over 565 hectares of woodland and heathland flanking Poole Harbour
- Brownsea Island – Situated in Poole Harbour, Brownsea Island makes for a unique day out via the Sandbanks Ferry
- Durlston Country Park – Stunning coastal walks hug this country park, complete with a lighthouse, castle, restaurant and exhibition space
- Kimmeridge Bay – A special spot on the Jurassic Coast rich with fossils and geological interest
- Peveril Point – A lovely spot to watch the sunset at the edge of Swanage
- Tyneham – What remains of a village abandoned in WWII lies in this very special spot in Purbeck
- Winspit – Caves forged through quarrying stand overlooking the sea at this unique area beneath the village of Worth Matravers
Towns and villages
Swanage is the only town in Purbeck, and as such is an important hub for both locals and visitors to the area. However, the town of Wareham, which is just outside the official boundary of the Isle of Purbeck, is also very much a part of Purbeck as a whole – the Saxon town has been strongly connected to its neighbouring villages for many centuries.
Swanage and Wareham’s surrounding villages, hamlets, localities and communities all have special aspects waiting to be discovered – for example the fossil museum in Kimmeridge, the cafés beside duck ponds in both Worth Matravers and East Creech and the smallest town hall building in England in the village of Corfe Castle.
Many villages are connected to important pieces of Purbeck’s history, such as East Lulworth, which is home to Lulworth Castle, and Studland, which has many connections to the Second World War, as well as ongoing important wildlife conservation projects in and around its surrounding bay.
Take some time, whether you live here or are just visiting, to explore these smaller places and help the many enterprising companies, shops, café and services there continue to thrive.
- Acton –
- Arne –
- Church Knowle –
- Corfe Castle –
- Creech –
- Durlston –
- Furzebrook –
- Godlingston –
- Harman’s Cross –
- Herston –
- West Holme –
- Kimmeridge –
- Kingston –
- Knitson –
- Langton Matravers –
- West Lulworth –
- East Lulworth –
- Ridge –
- Steeple –
- Stoborough –
- Studland –
- Wareham – Although not strictly in Purbeck (you’ll see the Welcome to the Isle of Purbeck as you leave Wareham or go around it toward Swanage), this Saxon-walled market town very much feels like a part of, and is intertwined with, the Purbeck landscape, culture and community
- Ulwell –
- Woolgarsten –
- Worth Matravers –
Notable names of Purbeck
Being synonymous with natural beauty and with a rich geological and human history on England’s Jurassic Coast, it’s no surprise that the Isle of Purbeck has inspired many organisations and companies both near and far to use Purbeck in their titles.
Local ‘Purbeck’ organisations
As well as the well known Purbeck Hills, also known as the Purbeck Ridgeway, and other various walking routes, such as the Purbeck Way, there is a wide range of notable companies that use Purbeck in their names, from buses to archery clubs, and from schools to cider companies.
Join a local Purbeck-inspired club, such as the Purbeck Runners or try your hand at something new, like clay-pigeon shooting.
- Purbeck Sports Centre – The Isle of Purbeck’s largest leisure centre has a gym, swimming pool and café. Check the latest classes on their website: ℹ️ www.dorsetcouncil.gov.uk/sport-leisure/leisure-centres/purbeck-sports-centre/purbeck-sports-centre.aspx or phone 📞 01929 500000
- Purbeck Runners – A friendly running club covering Swanage and Purbeck, with regular weekly runs from Swanage’s Beach Gardens and The Mowlem. Visit their website to join: ℹ️ www.purbeckrunners.co.uk
- Purbeck Archers – The local archery club is open to both children and adults and meets regularly at the Purbeck Shooting School during the summer months ℹ️ www.purbeckarchers.org
- Purbeck Shooting School – Have a go at clay pigeon shooting at the 80-acre site based just outside Purbeck, toward Bere Regis. Find out about group bookings and lessons on their website: ℹ️ www.purbeckshootingschool.com or call 📞 01929 405101
- Isle of Purbeck Golf Club – The Isle of Purbeck GC is in a fantastic location between Studland and Corfe Castle and offers membership, coaching and a pro shop, and welcomes visiting golfers. Contact details: 📞 01929 450361 ℹ️ www.purbeckgolf.co.uk
- Purbeck Angling – The fishing tackle shop in Wareham is associated with the Wimborne & District Angling Club. It’s open seven days a week and is situated on on South Street
As well as The Swanage School, The Purbeck School in Wareham also serves students of the town and the wider Isle of Purbeck, and there is also a special school based in Swanage.
- The Purbeck School – The Purbeck School is a co-educational secondary school and specialist science collage for students aged 11 – 18 in Wareham. Contact details: 📞 01929 550077 ℹ️ www.purbeck.dorset.sch.uk
- Purbeck View School – Based in Swanage, Purbeck View School provides both day and residential education and care for students aged 7 – 19 with Autism, learning difficutlies and complex needs. Find out more on the school’s website: ℹ️ www.cambiangroup.com/specialist-education/our-schools/autism-schools/purbeck-view-school/
Tune in to the local community radio station or check the local news with the Purbeck Gazette, Swanage News or on Purbeck Police’s Facebook page:
- Purbeck Gazette – Look out for the free, monthly edition of the Purbeck Gazette, packed with local news, events and a handy local business directory. You can also read the gazette online here: ℹ️ www.purbeckgazette.co.uk
- Purbeck Coast Radio – Turn your FM radio frequency to 101.2 to listen to local chat, great tunes and all the latest news in Swanage and Purbeck. Listen live online: ℹ️ purbeckcoast.com
- Purbeck Police – Part of the wider Dorset Police, Purbeck Police keep an active profile on Facebook with their latest news stories as well as useful advice and information on community engagement activities ℹ️ en-gb.facebook.com/pg/PurbeckPolice/posts/
Purbeck culture and the Arts
The Isle of Purbeck has an active creative arts and music scene throughout the year, which has inspired the creation of Purbeck-dedicated annual festivals.
- Purbeck Art Weeks – The largest annual arts even in Purbeck sees artists opening their studios to the public, collaborating on exhibitions and providing a packed programme of talks, concerts and creative activities. Visit the PAW website for a look at this year’s artists: ℹ️ www.purbeckartweeksfestival.co.uk
- The Purbeck Folk Festival – Every year a farm in the heart of Purbeck comes alive with the sounds of folk music, barn dancing, poetry-reading and much more. The family-friendly festival is based just off the A351 between Corfe Castle and Swanage ℹ️ www.purbeckvalleyfolkfestival.co.uk
- Purbeck Film Festival – The annual film festival here in Purbeck aims to bring a rich diversity of classic, independent and foreign languages films to rural communities by bringing them to local venues ℹ️ www.purbeckfilm.com
Purbeck food & drink
Many areas in Dorset have become foodie destinations, so it’s no surprise that some born-and-bred food and drinks companies proudly use Purbeck in their brand name.
The following are must-tastes while you’re here on your holiday and make excellent souvenirs.
- Purbeck Ice Cream – Traditional flavours as well as the more unusual Dig-a-saurus and Skulldiggery. Many of the attractions and shops in and around Purbeck stock this award-winning local ice cream
- Isle of Purbeck Brewery – Grab a pint of Purbeck IPA or take home some bottled Fossil Fuel or Studland Bay – Wrecked with you. Rather handily brewed on the same site as The Bankes Arms pub in Studland
- The Purbeck Cider Company – Look out for locally-crafted ciders such as the Purbeck Pirate and the Dorset Blush
Find places to stay – or even move to – on the Purbeck Heritage Coast:
- Corfe & Purbeck Holidays – Self-catering holiday cottages inCorfe Castle and the wider Purbeck area ℹ️www.corfeandpurbeckholidays.com
- Purbeck House Hotel – A Victorian hotel in the heart of Swanage. Get in touch to book a room to stay or to hire the venue for an event: 📞 01929 422872 ℹ️ www.purbeckhousehotel.co.uk
- Purbeck Property – For holiday homes and residential sales and lettings around Purbeck
- Purbeck Lettings – Residential lettings covering Swanage, Corfe Castle and the wider Purbeck area
- Purbeck Breezer – The handy local bus route is a cheap and easy way to explore all that Swanage and Purbeck have to offer
- Purbeck Taxis – Book a cab to take you to the attractions that buses don’t reach or for a day out without driving. Call 📞 01929 500 604
- Purbeck Mobility Centre – Hire a scooter or self-propelled wheelchair for the day or your entire stay to help you discover Purbeck with ease. The Wareham-based team will deliver to where you are staying for free. Contact: 📞 01929 552623 ℹ️ www.purbeckmobility.com
Explore Purbeck’s quarrying history
Discover the importance of Purbeck stone to the Isle’s economy, past and present at the Purbeck Mining and Mineral Museum in Norden and by exploring disused quarries, such as Winspit, and check out the quarries still in use today.
- Purbeck Mineral & Mining Museum – Located just outside Corfe Castle, you can combine your trip with a visit to the Swanage Railway Museum at Corfe Castle Station
- Winspit – Explore the old quarry caves of Winspit or learn more about Swanage’s quarrying past of the Tilly Whim Caves at Durlston Country Park
- Active local quarries – Haysom Purbeck Stone quarry, Lovell Purbeck, Lewis Quarries, Keates Quarries and Suttles Stone Quarry. You can visit Keate’s Quarry, near Worth Matravers, where dinosaur footprints have been discovered
Purbeck has also inspired some businesses further afield
- Farrow & Ball – Check out their Purbeck Stone paint colour –www.farrow-ball.com/paint-colours/purbeck-stone. The famous paint company also sticks other ‘local’ colours, such as Lulworth Blue, Ammonite and Wimborne
- The Purbeck Gundog School – Originally based at the Purbeck Shooting School near Wareham, Purbeck Gundog Training now runs out of their site at West Moors in Fernown. Call Chrissie to book your dog in on 📞 07719 605705 or 01202 870925