Swanage has to be the starting point for a visit to the area and there are two sites in the immediate vicinity of the town, both about a 15 minute walk into the centre.
We have stayed at both sites.
Ulwell is conveniently situated for a walk to Studland as it is on the eastern side of the town. It is a mixed touring and static site and though it can appear a little expensive in the peak periods, it does offer reasonable offpeak camping. We stayed here at New Year. It does include entrance to its indoor pool. Quality wise it can not be faulted.
Herston is the other site which has the advantage that it is a 15 minute walk into the centre and also a short walk to Herston Railway Halt and you can get subsidised tickets from the campsite for the railway.
Like Ulwell it has a variety of accommodations and the facilities of a shop and bar but no pool. It also does not have the pristine appearance of Ulwell but it is in a good position for Swanage.I had to ask for the toilets to be cleaned on our stay in March; they were very apologetic and arranged for it to be done.
It does have the added advantage of large camping fields though they are not particularly level.
Oddly its website does not publish prices but they range from £20 to £40 for a serviced pitch with water and electricity and an extra £5 for drainage., though most of the £20 pitches appear to have greywater drainage.
At £25 perhaps a little pricey for March but like Ulwell it is open all year and I could not fault our pitch at all and therefore I would stay again in offpeak and use our own facilities.
I just had the feeling that with a little more care and attention given to the sanitary facilities this could be an excellent site.
There are two campsites in this village, both geared to real camping i.e tents, neither allows caravans and both are only suitable for small campervans. We have stayed at both in our Elldis but our new motor home is too large.Both sites operate a turn up and see policy.
Both have the added advantage that it is less than a mile walk across the fields to Dancing Ledge on the coast.
Tom’s Field ( limited reservations in peak periods & a few electric hookups)
Tom’s Field has a bit of a cult following and it is in a beautiful position and is generally reasonably priced though the 25p shower tokens annoy me. The shower facilities are very dated but they are clean.
They do run a breakfast club at weekends and in peak periods which could be a boon for campers.
Acton Fields Camping Site,Langton Matravers .Swanage Dorset BH19 3HR
Tel: 01929 424184
This is more of a seasonal site.
Most people who appear to arrive at this site are spillovers from Tom’s field next door but do not let this put you off. It was one of the first sites we ever visited with our motor home and we loved it, particularly as we were at the top of the site with superb sea views. The site is not level and the access road is rutted so not suitable for caravans nor would I suggest large motor homes or those that are low lying.
The facilities are fairly basic, though they have been improved, but kept very clean. Showers have to be paid for.
In the season a mobile bakery van comes to the site.
This is a very pretty site and at just over £15 for a pitch with electricity ( member age concession rate off peak) represents excellent value. No bars or entertainment and no lights, so you are treated to a magical night sky. As with all Camping & Caravanning sites the sanitary facilities are kept scrupulously clean..
It is a short walk to Corfe Castle (National Trust) and a walk out of the back of the site to pick up some excellent walks.
It would be possible to do all the walks from here but it would involve a greater use of public transport, obviously not a problem if you have a car.
There is a caravan club site here which looks very nice when we have passed it but though it is near a Railway Station, it would not be on our radar as a walking base, ok if you have a car.
There is also a seasonal site.
Though not the cheapest form of transport, certainly the most fun and at some stage should form part of your walk itinerary.
Offpeak tends to be limited to weekends only.
Train 31086 arriving at Herston Halt
Buses (both leave/arrive at Swanage Railway Station)
Route 40 from Swanage to Corfe - this route has the added advantage that it detours via Langton Matravers and Kingston so ideal for coastal walks. An hourly service and the drivers are very helpful with regard to touchdowns..
Route 50 Studland to Swanage
These buses offer an open top version in the summer
Follow the coast path westwards out of Swanage, for a small section in New Swanage, you have tio follow the road but you shortly pick up the cliff walk towards Handfast Point and Old Harry.
The beauty of all these walks are they are well signposted and as you can see for miles,you always know where your final destination is.
It is worth descending to Studland and experiencing the beach. There is also a pub in the village which serves typical pub fare but on a nice day has a garden overlooking the sea.
We did not eat here, the food did not look that appetising and it has mixed reviews. We would rather take a picnic with views of Old Harry - bliss.
There was also a café but this had more limited opening hours off season.
You can return the way you came or go back up to the ridge, Ballard Down and follow this in the direction of Corfe before descending either to Ulwell or Herston Cross.
This is a stunning walk starting with superb views of Corfe Castle before you go under the railway bridge and climb up to East Hill. You have two choices here, either take the steps immediately under the bridge or for a more gentle walk continue to Challow car park and take the track up.
You then follow the ridge for 5 to 6 miles to Ballard Point with spectacular views of Poole harbour and Swanage Bay.
A further mile along the coast takes you to Old Harry.
Bus no 50 from Studland to Swanage and then No 40 to Corfe or the train.
Walk into Swanage by the coast, about 3 miles and then take bus No 40 or the train.
Walk back- about 15 miles including visit to village of Sudland.
Tip Walk in the direction of Corfe to the coast for better views.
If staying at Herston walk up to the main road past the railway halt and take the number 40 bus to Acton which is just past the village of Langton Matravers. (ask the driver)
Take the track from the main road to the hamlet of Acton and then turn right towards the village of Worth Matravers ,as this keeps the amount of time you are on the road to the minimum.
There is a superb pub in the village serving a great range of beer, ciders and food from a traditional bar opening with excellent sea views from the garden.
Or there is a very pretty little café in the village, next to the pond (open all year except January and 1st 2 weeks in February and Mondays & Tuesdays)
Then descend down to the coast at Winspit and follow the coastal path all the way into Swanage.
At Durston Country Park there is a visitors centre which does refreshments. It also has camera shots of the large guillemot colony that nests here every summer and if you are very lucky you might see the odd puffin. Peregrine falcons also patrol this coastline looking for dinner.
If you are staying at Toms Field you have easy access to Dancing Ledge on the coast and then an easy coastal walk into Swanage or in the other direction towards St Albans Head which you could easily combine with a visit to Worth Matravers.
One can easily get carried away with superlatives to describe the walks in this area but this walk includes them all with superb coastal and country views.
Go to the top off the campsite and turn left and virtually immediately climb up to the ridge and continue westwards enjoying views over the village of Church Knowle on your left and Poole arbour on your right.
You continue along this ridge for about 3 miles, until you reach Creech Hill and the carpark. (on most weekdays you can not go any further as you reach the limit of the Lulworth military ranges)
You then descend via a bridal way and the road to Steeple Leaze Farm. There is a basic tents only campsite here.
Go into the farm and climb up the path opposite you, crossing a small stream. Do not take the track into the campsite.
Once up the top, you will see Kimmerdige Bay in front of you and you will need to descend, in places quite steeply, crossing open farmland at the bottom. Keep your wits about you as the paths are not as clearly signed as they could be but you will always see your ultimate destination.
Kimmeridge Bay was a beautiful spot for a picnic lunch, though there were toilets there was nothing else. This bay is very popular with surfers.
After lunch climb the cliff to Clavell’s tower and head eastwards for about a mile before taking the permissive path and climbing to Swyre Head. (signposted and you can see it in the distance. The beauty of this walk is that you can always see the landmarks that you are heading to.)
In the distance along the coast you can see St Alban’s Head.
Once at the top you head left, past the Trig point before taking the path down, after about half a mile towards Church Knowle . You will see the village, the campsite and Corfe Castle in the distance.
Tip If it has been raining you need to avoid going through West Orchard Farm as the farmyard will be reduced to a quagmire, so after a mile of descent take the first path on your left which will lead into a road and eventually by taking a path on you right will lead you into the top end of the village.
If you go through the farm keep bearing right with the footpaths and you will eventually come out near the church.
You then take the path next to the church, climbing the ridge and then turning right back to the campsite.
The pub in the village does good food.
Tip You know the saying ‘ All roads lead to Rome’ well in this case as you descend from Swyre Head ‘All roads lead to Church Knowle’
At Swyre Head head towards the obelisk then towards the car park and the village of Kingston and the pub in the village, check opening hours, before taking a bus back to Corfe.
Swanage The Purbeck Hills & Dorset Coast - some walking suggestions, by bus & the Swanage Steam Railway using your motor home from local campsites .
Swanage and its hinterland, the Isle of Purbeck is a relatively small area but what it lacks in size it more than makes up with its outstanding beauty. Very few areas combine outstanding coastal scenery with soaring cliffs and hidden bays with the glorious inland vista of lush valleys and the limestone and chalk ridges from where you can see for miles over Poole Harbour and towards the sea.
You also have a couple of blue flag beaches at Swanage Bay and at Studland, the latter being particularly impressive as it sweeps away for 4 miles to the ferry crossing over to Sandbanks.
Add to this a heritage steam railway and a good bus service then you have the basis of a good walking area.
Swanage itself gives the impression that it is itself in some sort of time warp, perhaps it is its superb Victorian pier, the sound and site of steam from the railway that in a moment, if you closed your eyes and blinked you could be back in a traditional Victorian seaside resort. Certainly in its heyday with the steam railway this town was a very busy Victorian seaside resort which continues to this day and though perhaps it is a little old fashioned this adds to its charm.
The other traditional industry was quarrying and it s much prized limestone was used in construction in London and throughout the town you will see reference to this and the fact that it was not only a one way trade with many buildings in Swanage having their origins in the capital. Notable examples of this are to be found at the town hall and at the Wellington Clock Tower on the seafront.
Swanage Bay is extremely attractive and there is perhaps no better way to enjoy it over tea and cakes at overlooking the sea.
The Corner Restaurant is worth checking out.