Updated: Sep 5
This blog is dedicated to leaving behind the city of London and heading southwest to Dorset England. Dorset is not a city, but more like a whole area along the Jurassic Coast. Durdle Door and these 4 best castles are what I call the best of the area. Of course, there are plenty more sights to see and a few more castles that could be added to the list. But these are my favorites for the time frame. To make it a day trip, you cannot see everything, there just isn't enough time in the day. I will be talking about other attractions, and history along the way, plus the very special Durdle Door. This can be done from a cruise. If you have a port day in South Hampton, or Portland England, rent a car and check it out. It will save you hours on the drive, just be sure to be aware of what time you have to be back on the ship, you may need to cut a stop or 2.
I will be doing the sites in order as if you left from London, be sure to leave early in the morning because you will want to be at Durdle Door at 8 AM and the first castle at 10:30 AM that is when they open. I am all about spending several days out in this area. But if you are on a little vacation in London you might just have time for 1 day trip. So you may want to cram as much in as possible, while taking in some breathtaking views and immersing yourself in the history and the culture as much as you can for a day trip.
Durdle Door is natural limestone arch into the ocean. Years of the waves beating on the coast line helped to form this archway, and eventually it will disappear due to the sea. This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Lulworth Cove and a burial mound are located nearby. It is under a 3-hour drive from London, so try your best to be on the road near 5 AM, Being here early as you can tell by the picture to the right, it was still chilly, but it was early May. Always dress in layers, just in case unless you are here in the dead of summer. But anytime you are by the ocean there will be wind, and this is England where it seems to rain a lot more than I am used too.
This is absolutely the most amazing view of the coast and being here bright an early at 8 am will give you plenty of time to walk up the path and down the hill to Durdle Door, and to the beach access. Crowds start showing up early too, and by 9:30 during summer months it will be crowded, so do be here early. The uphill part can be rough, but not terrible. But the best way to see Durdle door without tons of walking is to use the car park above the path. Its only about a 10-minute walk down to Durdle Door Beach from there, but be mindful of walking back up. Also, this viewpoint above the cliffs is great for people who have difficulty with walking. which is where I liked the most and took the most pictures. Plus, it's not far of a walk to see Durdle Door from there. Look for the above the cliff car park, signs will easily point you in the right direction.
Pictures below from cliffs looking to the sea at Durdle Door.
There are other paths, like one leading to the Man O War Beach which is less crowded than the Beach right at Durdle Door. If you would like some quite time that would be a great beach to check out before you left. There are other hikes in the area with this beautiful coastline but with a limited time frame it probably would not be possible.
Be sure to stop at the bottom parking lot also, take a moment to use the facilities if needed, or there is a small cafe visitor area. Durdle Door is free to visit with only a cost of 3 Euro to park your car. Give yourself about 15 minutes to drive to Lulworth Castle which is the next stop at 10:30 AM.
Lulworth Castle is a beautiful estate with 2 churches' (St Mary's St Andrews), a cemetery, and of course the castle of the grounds. Plus, thousands of acres for Agriculture. Side note the Estate includes Durdle Door which was only 4 miles away. The castle was originally built in 1588 and completed around 1609. This was a hunting estate originally with history dating back to the 11th century. In 1649 in came into the Weld family and still to this date in the Weld family. Pretty neat huh!!!!! Even though it was seized during the Civil War and used as a Garrison for a while, the Weld family regained control after the Civil War.
Notable people also stayed at the estate. King George III stayed here in the late 1700's.
Also, it is known that during the French Revolution surviving member of the Royal Family stayed here for a while, and Charles X of France stayed here on his way to Edinburgh in 1830.
PIctures below of Lulworth, St Andrews, and the cemetery.
St Mary's was built in 1786 and was the first new Roman Catholic Church built since the Protestant Revolution. They had to receive special permission from King George III because the structure did not look like a church.
There was a huge fire here in the 1920's that gutted the castle. The family built elsewhere in the meantime, but finally in the 1970's restoration began on the castle. And since then it has been a tourist attraction, museum and so much more.
The Lulworth Estate has so much more to it than just the castle. With farming still happening, you may have drunk milk from the cows on the farm, they produce over 25,000,00 liters a year. Take some time to walk the castle, and the grounds. Spend a little over an hour here but be on the road by noon so you can make it to Portland Castle which is a 45-minute drive.
Admission is 7 Euro, and 3 Euro for parking. Please book in advance to get the 10:30AM spot.
The Portland Castle has amazing views of the ocean, built as an artillery fort by King Henry the VIII. He used this fort as protection against France and the Roman Empire. You may recall he was at odds with the Roman Empire due to him separating his country from the Catholic church so he could take a second wife, and then a 3rd wife, because he was so desperate to have a male heir. Constructed in 1539 after the marriages and deaths of wife 2 and 3, This castle was royalist during the Civil War. and also played a part in history during the 1st and 2nd World War. You will notice from the gun platform when looking out to sea a breakwater that help shield small watercraft in the sea, plus 2 concrete cassions use for the prep for D Day. Interesting note SIr Walter Raleigh lived here at one point.
The audio tour is included in admission price of 7.50 Euro. Look out at the sea from the artillery platforms, get a close look at the canons, peak through windows looking out to the sea, tour the Tudor Kitchen, and take a quick stroll through the Contemporary Heritage Garden. Also, if you need a snack or a drink head to the captains Tea Room
You can combine this castle tour with a trip to Weymouth from some beach fun, but if you do you will have to cut the next castle of the day. Only stay about an hour here at Portland Castle leaving at 1:45 to drive to Durlston Castle which will take a little over an hour.
Durlston Castle will not be a long stop, but its a stop nun the less. If you have stuck to my time frame you should be here before 3PM which will give you an hour to check it out. Which is more then enough time. It has beautiful views of the sea and you can even walk down the steps in front to get a closer view. The castle is part of the Durlston County Park where they are woodlands, and walking paths around. Parking for an hour is only 2 Euro.
Durlston Castle really isn't old at all. Built in 1887 and was never supposed to be a castle, just a restaurant and meeting place for the owner of the property named George Burt. The property was made from local stone from the Dorset area, and close by are the Globe and sundials you will have time to check out. You can also spot a lighthouse. In the late 1890's the roof of the castle was used for radio transmission to the Isle of Wright. The property itself changed hands several times through the years. But eventually purchased by the Dorset County Council.
Pictures above facing the sea from the other side of Durlston Castle, and the wooded area nearby.
Leave Durlston by 4pm and drive just back up the road to Corfe Castle which is 17 minutes away.
Corfe is my absolute favorite. Be here no later than 4:30 PM because this castle is only open till 6 PM and last entry is 5PM. It also has a 12 Euro entrance fee during peak season. Standing there all iconic in the Purbeck Hills overlooking the beautiful little village of Corfe. Basically, all periods of English History are visible in this little Village and surrounding areas. From burial mounds from 6000BC, trading with Romans in around 50AD, the building of the Castle by WIlliam the Conqueror, King Edward the Martyr being murdered here, Morton House Hotel from 1590 still standing in the village you can Tell there is so much more to see here then the castle. Glance at Queen Victoria Commemorative Diamond Jubilee Cross in the fountain and an old water pump bearing the villages arms. Also located in the village 1/20th scale model village and castle made to resemble what it looked like in 1646 before the burning of the castle during the English Civil War. While visiting the area. You must take time to explore the village and visit the Courtyard Cafe for Breakfast, a scone or Tea. Many films have used this village as a backdrop because of the old-style buildings most of which were built in the 1700's.
The castle itself built for William the Conqueror around 1086. It was royal castle during the medieval period, and favorite castle of King John in 1200. It was a royal residence until Queen Elizabeth I sold it to Sir Christopher Hatton in 1572. Later in 1635 the castle was bought by Sir John Banks were his wife Brave Dame Mary (as she was later known by) defended the castle, trying to stop it from being destroyed during the Civil War. Because of her bravery she was allowed to keep the keys to the castle after it was destroyed after a parliament vote. The castle location guarded the main route through the Purbeck Hills where Marbel and Limestone were once Quarried. Just take a walk through the ruins and you will get carried away with thoughts of all the people that were here either staying at the castle or fighting here. If these old stones could talk the stories you would hear some amazing tales of treason.
Pictures below are from at the castle and then views down to village.
Check out the Church of St Edward where Edward the Martyr was taken after he was murdered. The tower of the church is from the 13th century with rest of the church being restored during Queen Victoria's time Inside the church is a display of official seals for every constable of Corfe Castle from 1224 to 1847. Also nearby is the town hall which is known to be the smallest town hall in England, go check it out, there is even a tiny museum there.
After touring Corfe Castle and Village, where I hope you picked up a great dinner at the Fox Inn or the Castle Inn there in Corfe. You have done a lot of driving and checking out sights today, so you deserve some good food for the 2.5-hour drive back to London, at least most of it is highway driving. I bet you still sleep good tonight.
If you decide to split this up into a 2 day trip that would be great, you could check out more without wearing yourself out while giving you more of a chance to dive into the culture and become a local instead of just a tourist.. Also, if this seems like too much just pick 3. Durdle Door, Lulworth Castle, and Corfe Castle would be my top 3 picks.
And on that note, this concludes 4 Castles and a Durdle Door in one day. I hope you enjoyed, and it made you want to get out there and explore.
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