Tradition with a twist

Some holiday destinations never go out of fashion — here's how to give a Dorset break a 2021 update


If 2020 was the summer of nostalgia, reliving our favourite childhood holidays while travel restrictions kept us close to home, this year we’re still embracing those traditional destinations — but looking for something new.

And for a classic English escape, no list would be complete without Dorset. Whether you’ve got memories of countless family breaks with parents and grandparents in Bournemouth or the kind of idyllic summer escapades conjured up by children’s books like the Famous Five novels, there’s inspiration to be found by the Dorset coast and in its countryside.

So while picnics and summer adventure never go out of fashion, here’s how to update your slice of Dorset this summer.

Boat and train

There are few more traditional modes of transport than a steam train — unless you’re planning a horse and cart ride — and you can still chuff around the countryside aboard the Swanage Railway, on its 25-minute jaunt through the Purbeck countryside from Swanage to Norden, stopping at Corfe Castle where you can jump off to explore the ruins.

The 12-mile trip takes you from the Victorian seaside town of Swanage, which has one fewer pier than in Blyton’s day, but is otherwise the perfect place to stroll along the promenade and the remaining pier, which was restored a few years ago.

Update your traditional day out by adding a cruise along the Jurassic coast. City Cruises has combined tickets for the Swanage railway and its cruise to and from Poole Harbour, passing some of the spectacular rock formations and cliffs of the coast, Brownsea Island with its red squirrels and the beaches of Studland Bay.

Have a picnic

No traditional day out is complete without a picnic, although you can upgrade from ginger beer by stopping at the Langham Wine Estate, around 30-40 minutes from Weymouth and Bournemouth.

Set in the Dorset countryside, there are tours to take of the estate as well as tastings — Langham was named Sparkling Wine Producer of the Year, beating off competition from Champagne houses and Prosecco brands, so you can also pick up a bottle or three after a walk around the vineyard.

Dorset isn’t short of spectacular spots to enjoy your picnic either, so don’t settle for an average everyday field. As well as the famously fossil-filled beaches and the arch of Durdle Door, there are some less well-known spots to try too.

For a location as elegantly grown-up as your picnic, Bennetts Water Gardens holds the national plant collection of water lilies within its eight acres. Anyone who’s seen Monet’s home at Giverny, or his famous paintings, will also recognise the view of the Japanese bridge over the lily pond.

Or head to the Blue Pool near Wareham: the former clay pit was dug by hand and abandoned in the early 19th century, before filling with rainwater. In some lights, it can appear a greeny turquoise thanks to the clay particles in the water — a less than romantic explanation for this picturesque site in the Purbeck Hills.

Go for a dip

The classic seaside holiday always includes a paddle and some sandcastle building. But you don’t need your bucket and spade to have fun.

Head to the Isle of Portland, where you’ll find the OTC (Official Test Centre) in the grounds of the National Sailing Academy. You can try windsurfing, kitesurfing and stand-up paddle boarding, including lessons for beginners.

Or kids will love Dorset Adventure Park, a huge waterpark spread over two obstacle-filled lakes and surrounded by woodland, overlooking Corfe Castle. Bounce on trampolines, clamber on monkey bars and tackle the action tower on the water — not to mention a mud trail with 50 obstacles if you want an added challenge.

For a rather different summer adventure, head to Dancing Ledge near Swanage where stone quarrying blasted a hole in the rock ledge which turns into a natural swimming pool when the tide is in. You can sometimes spot dolphins out at sea and a colony of puffins too as you gaze out to the waves, well worth the scramble down to the flat stretch at the base of the cliff.

And if a sandcastle is essential? Head to SandWorld at Weymouth, where huge lifesized works of art are created entirely from sand and water by award-winning sand sculptors, this year inspired by fantasies and fairytales.


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