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This area is well worth exploring on a cottage holiday. The Isle of Purbeck is a peninsula encompassing Wareham, Swanage and St. Aldhelm’s Head, with the gateway to this region being Corfe, an iconic village dominated by a ruined castle, standing proudly on a rocky outcrop above the village and visible from miles around. The village offers a unique shopping experience, with a host of ‘nostalgia’ shops selling goods from times past, from home made fudges and ice creams to traditional sweets of yesteryear. There are gift, craft and jewellery shops, specialist stores such as the Ginger Pop shop and even a local blacksmith. Two of the main attractions though are Corfe’s Castle and the Corfe Castle Model Village. Ruined Corfe Castle, believed to have been the site of defenses since the Roman times, and a place of chequered history, is now run by the National Trust. The Visitor Centre charts the turbulent history of the castle and its various occupants.
Corfe Castle Model Village is a miniature reconstruction of Corfe’s original castle and village prior to their destruction at the hands of Cromwell’s vengeful troops during the English Civil War. But there is much more than just a model landscape to enjoy; a morning or afternoon is readily filled within the grounds, where plenty of family fun is to be had with giant games, a fossil corner, croquet, an enchanted garden, a wildlife garden with bird feeding and the lovely Dorset garden, quintessentially English gardens which have been beautifully maintained in a time-honoured fashion.
A small resort town on the Isle of Purbeck, Swanage offers some good beaches, a pleasant village of winding streets and a pretty seafront. Set in lovely countryside on the eastern side of the Isle, the area is a great base for walkers and cyclists, with some lovely routes to discover on the doorstep. Many visitors head to Swanage for its famous Steam Railway, offering a variety of leisure experiences, from intimate fine dining evening trips for two to family Santa specials at Christmas, as it heads on its journey through the stunning Purbeck hills and past Corfe Castle, en route from Swanage to Norden. Another good place for visitors to get their bearings is the town’s Heritage Centre, which can provide walking trails and local visitor attractions. The town’s beach is sandy and gently shelving; Old Harry Rocks at nearby Studland is also popular and here there is also a Naturist beach run by the National Trust.
Along the coast to the south of the town, Durlston Country Park is a nature reserve covering almost 300 acres of land and home to a worthwhile visitor centre and the Coast Watch Project, which monitors the wide variety of bird and sea life, including dolphins, that visit the shores. Visitors can gain a close up views of visiting wild and sea life using specialist monitors set up in the visitor centre. The park is also home to Durlston castle.
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