Culture, Destinations

Lulworth and East Dorset: a Cool Top 10

Every month our friends at Cool Places give us a top 10 of places – to see, to eat and to drink – that can be easily accessed from some key YHA hostels. This month it’s YHA Swanage and YHA Lulworth Cove on Dorset’s Isle of Purbeck, close to both of which you can find brilliant pubs and loads of things to do, plus the very best of the fabled Jurassic Coast. Here are some of their favourites…

Joe’s Café

Joe’s is little more than a shack at the back of South Beach at Studland Bay, but it manages to offer the quality of produce that far larger establishments struggle to supply – from Purbeck ice creams to organic soups, sandwiches and salads – and the ingredients are all fresh and largely local or fair trade. Perch on a bench overlooking the beach and enjoy.

Studland Sea School

Whether you’re a kayaking expert or a complete novice, kayaking around Old Harry Rocks is always something special. If you thought the chalk stacks were impressive from above, you truly get an idea of their scale and grandeur from the sea, especially when you kayak through the little arches and gaps between the stacks.

Bankes Arms

This ivy-clad Purbeck stone pub is a perfect winter bolthole just off the South West Coast Path – though it truly comes into its own in the summer when you can chill out in its huge grassy front garden which has dazzling views over the coast. The pub has its own microbrewery and serves a range of home-brewed ales and ciders.

Kimmeridge Bay

Kimmeridge Bay is part of a private estate which is perhaps why it has remained so unspoilt. The beach is great for a picnic or beachcombing for the abundance of fossils that can be found here. Your buckets and spades will go unused as most of the bay is made up of an unusually smooth rock that gently slopes out into the sea.

The Scott Arms

You’ll be hard pushed to find a better view than the one from this pub’s garden, a dazzling panorama overlooking Corfe Castle. As well as real ales and draught scrumpy, you’ll find a good menu that champions local, seasonal ingredients and even herbs and vegetables from their own garden.

Swanage Railway

Though only around nine miles in length, this vintage railway is the best way to get to the coast from Corfe Castle. It runs regularly and the journey is always memorable, passing through countryside that is little changed from the days when Enid Blyton famously used the train in her stories.

Corfe Castle

One of England’s most memorable sights, your first view of Corfe Castle nearly always takes your breath away. The hilltop castle appears as if from a fairy tale and you can wander around the ruined walls and turrets that give superb views over the surrounding countryside.

Clavell’s Café and Farm Shop

Lovely café, restaurant and farm shop in the pretty village of Kimmeridge, serving local produce that includes meat from the owner’s farm and lobsters from Kimmeridge Bay, as well as cream teas, home-made cakes, sandwiches and light lunches during the day.

The Square & Compass

The Square and Compass is a Dorset institution. Built as a pair of cottages in the 18th century, the bar itself is simply a hatch in one wall and the interior a couple of rooms, warmed in winter by log fires and a mass of people and dogs. The garden overlooks superb countryside, while the pub’s ales, ciders and famous pies really hit the spot.

Dancing Ledge

Consisting of a rocky ledge below low cliffs, Dancing Ledge is one of the south coast’s best wild swimming spots. It’s not an easy place to reach, which means that it is rarely busy even in high summer. You can swim off the ledge itself into the sea, though most people plunge into a large rock pool, blasted out by Victorian quarrymen for local school kids.

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