Situated on the Isle of Purbeck, overlooking Swanage Bay, Durlston Country Park comprises of 320 acres of land, perfect for exploring. Just a short drive from Ulwell Cottage Caravan Park, this fun, family friendly day out is a great way to discover the Dorset coastline and the wildlife that inhabits it.
Durlston Castle is an imposing Victorian building with impressive views out to sea. It is has recently undergone major refurbishments and is now home to a visitor centre, gift shop and a number of interactive displays and exhibits, which will help give you an insight into the local area and the history of the park itself. The Fine Foundation Gallery exhibits collections from local Dorset artists and host’s performances throughout the year.
Beautiful plants and flowers
Thanks to its unique position, geology and the hard work of the parks dedicated team of rangers; Durlston is a haven for plants and flowers. As you walk along the coastal path during the spring and summer months you will be greeted by a carpet of wildflowers, which flourish in the area and boast an array of vivid colours. If you look carefully enough, you may spot one of the 9 species of orchid hidden amongst the grass! As the seasons change, so do the flowers and fauna, meaning there is a constantly changing view to greet you.
Durlston is home to an abundance of wildlife, some of which is extremely rare. Over 270 species of species of birds have been recorded in the park, with many choosing the area as a nesting site. Migrating species can also be found resting on the rocky outcrops and a chorus of birdsong can be heard as you walk around the park. From the visitor centre it is possible to get an up close look at the birdlife from cameras positioned along the cliffs.
A vast array of other wildlife including butterflies, reptiles, foxes and deer can also be found wandering through the grounds, depending on the weather conditions and time of year. It is sometimes possible to spot seals and bottlenose dolphins diving beneath the waters below the park from the elevated position along the cliffs.
Walks and trails to explore
Follow one of four trails from the castle through the grounds of Durlston Country Park using the trail guide, to discover some of the parks hidden corners. Explore wood and heathland and enjoy far reaching views out to see. The park also lies on the South West Coast Path and can be incorporated into longer walks to Anvil Point and more strenuous walks along the length of the Jurassic Coast.
To keep children entertained during a walk, there are family explorer rucksacks available to hire from the visitor centre, which contain fun activities to complete in the woods.
Astronomy and stargazing
Durlston Country Park is also well worth a visit during the hours of darkness to indulge in a spot of stargazing. The remote position away from light pollution affords visitors beautiful views of our solar system, thanks to a new telescope and observatory. Throughout the year there are a number astronomy events open to public, which give visitors the opportunity to learn more about our skies and use some of the centres telescopes.