Though not actually an island, the ISLE OF PURBECK – a promontory of low hills and heathland jutting out beyond Poole Harbour – does have an insular and distinctive feel. Reached from the east by the ferry from Sandbanks, at the narrow mouth of Poole Harbour, or by a long and congested landward journey via the bottleneck of Wareham, Purbeck can be a difficult destination to reach, but its villages are immensely pretty, none more so than Corfe Castle, with its majestic ruins. From Swanage, a low-key seaside resort, the Dorset Coast Path provides access to the oily shales of Kimmeridge Bay, the spectacular cove at Lulworth and the much-photographed natural arch of Durdle Door.
The whole coast from Purbeck to Exmouth in Devon – dubbed the Jurassic Coast – is a World Heritage Site on account of its geological significance and fossil remains; walkers can access it along the South West Coast Path.Read More
East of Swanage, you can follow the Southwest Coast path over Ballard Down to descend into the pretty village of STUDLAND at the southern end of Studland Bay. The most northerly stretch of the beach, Shell Bay, is a magnificent strand of icing-sugar sand backed by a remarkable heathland ecosystem that’s home to all six British species of reptile – adders are quite common, so be careful. On Middle Beach, you can hire kayaks from the Studland Sea School or take one of their excellent guided kayak tours round Old Harry Rocks, through cliff arches and sea caves.
A mile west of Lulworth Cove the iconic limestone arch of Durdle Door can be reached via the steep uphill path that starts from Lulworth Cove’s car park. The arch itself sits at the end of a long shingle beach (which can be accessed via steep steps), a lovely place for catching the sun and swimming in fresh, clear water. There are other steps to a bay just east of Durdle Door, St Oswald’s Bay, with another shingle beach and offshore rocks that you can swim out to.