A WEEKEND IN DORSET: HOW WE VISITED DURDLE DOOR WITHOUT A CAR
The first half of 2019 absolutely zoomed by for us, so by the time the May Bank Holiday rolled around we were craving a quiet weekend away from the city.
To keep things relaxing we wanted to avoid the hassle of hiring a car, so we needed to find a spot which we could easily reach with public transport. Only having 3 days, it also needed to be in relatively close proximity to London. The idea of Dorset immediately seduced us with it’s stunning scenery, coastal views and cute towns.
If you’re looking to fulfil a similar set of criteria, then read on for our sample itinerary for visiting Durdle Door and Dorset without a car.
WHERE TO STAY
We choose to base ourself in the small town of Wareham due to its handy position right between Durdle Door and Corfe Castle, our main “must see” spots on this trip. Direct trains run frequently between London Waterloo and Wareham station and take about 2.5hours.
The other reason that swayed us into staying in Wareham was The Priory Hotel. Only a 15minute walk from the train station, The Priory is nestled in a fairytale setting on the banks of The River Frome. The Grade 2 star listed building dates back to as early as 809! (yes you read the correctly). Once a monastery, the boutique hotel is now filled with one off antiques and luxury interiors and is really an attraction in itself. We had a cosy double room in the eaves which overlooked the back garden & out on to the river, and we could easily have spent the whole weekend just napping and sipping tea on the terrace.
Admittedly the hotel seemed to be geared towards older guests (probably due to the higher price tag when compared to other hotels in Dorset) but we had a lovely stay and would gladly return one day for another visit.
DAY 1 - LONDON TO WAREHAM, CORFE CASTLE
After a quick breakfast in London (aka a Pret yoghurt pot as we hurried through Waterloo station) we hopped on a train and arrived into Wareham just before lunchtime. We got our first look at this pocket sized town as we wheeled our weekend suitcase towards The Priory Hotel. The town is basically one high street of shops and cafes which leads to the river. Taking advantage of the abundant sunshine, we decided on lunch out on the hotel’s terrace, comfortably sliding into the relaxed pace of country life already.
After having a quick chat with the hotel staff about local walks and hikes we laced our boots and headed towards Corfe Castle. The walk was an easy grade, through some nice scenery (mainly towards the end) and was quite well sign posted. It’s just under 10km and took us about 2.5hours. You can find more on this “Purbeck Way” walk here.
Although we decided to walk, you could choose the more straightforward option of catching a taxi or local bus (with a quick 15minute journey time), we really just wanted an excuse to brush off our hiking boots on this trip and spend some time with nature (living in central London makes you miss fresh air!).
Corfe is such a lovely little village with the castle sitting high watching over everything.
Depending on what time of year you visit there is a heritage steam train that runs through the town up to 10 times a day. You can check the timetable here in order to align your visit with a sighting of the train. We didn’t have the time but you can also actually board the train for a visit out to nearby Swanange.
Sadly we’d arrived too late for afternoon tea at the tea rooms, so we settled for some (very affordable) take away pastries from the local bakery instead, before wandering around the beautiful old streets.
As the sun was beginning to set, and our legs a little weary, we opted to take the bus back to the hotel.
DAY 2 - WEST LULWORTH AND DURDLE DOOR
We started Day 2 with a hearty breakfast at the hotel before making the convenient walk to the bus stop for the 25minute trip to West Lulworth. Up until the Wool Station stop we were actually the only passengers on the double decker, but this quickly changed at the train station stop where we were joined by what felt like a whole train of people! We were very thankful we’d boarded at the earlier stop. As everyone else was heading straight to the Durdle Door stop we decided to jump off early at West Lulworth and explore the town first.
During the Summer season the buses run quite frequently between Wareham and Durdle Door, via West Lulworth, so its up to you which order you want to see things in (take a look at the timetable here.)
After falling immediately in love with this cute village we just happened to wander our selves onto a trail that led to a great view point of Lulworth Cove. After that little diversion we walked back down the hill and in to town for a Fish & Chip lunch at The Castle Inn, before finally making our way out to the cove itself.
Being a warm Bank Holiday Sunday meant we weren’t alone but it was nice to be by the seaside regardless.
From the cove there is an uphill (and we mean uphill!) path that will lead you to Durdle Door in about half an hour… Depending of course on how many times you need to stop after a big lunch, hah! You can see in one of the shots below the huge carpark and crowd of people walking along the coast.
Just as we arrived some fog rolled in and we were treated to some beautiful moments as we sat on the cliff enjoying the view.
As the fog turned to drizzle the crowds thinned out and we decided to hike up the hill behind us for a different angle.
As we had a bit of a wait to the next bus we decided to kill time by walking back along the road to West Lulworth for one final look and wait for the bus there instead. The walk is much quicker and easier this way (although obviously less scenic).
We were back in Wareham in time for a sunset dinner on the deck of the Old Granary Pub.
DAY 3 - WAREHAM (RETURN TO LONDON)
In all honesty you could probably squish everything on this trip into just 2 days, but as the point was for us to unwind and relax, having the third day was a god-send. We debated whether we should make another trip out to the coast, take another hike or head to a surrounding town, but in the end we chose to sleep in, enjoy one last delicious breakfast at the hotel and then wander around Wareham. There isn’t a lot to “see” in Wareham, but there are some nice little shops and pubs, and the area near the river is perfect for sitting down with an ice-cream and watching the world, and boats, go by. To End our trip we stopped in for a pub lunch at The Red Lion, before jumping back on the train bound for the bustle of London.