A short break to Swanage

I was reflecting recently how sad I was that I haven’t blogged this year. It’s not been a conscious decision to stop. Rather work and life have been so very busy, I just haven’t had the time to focus on it. And over time, the volume of posts I’ve wanted to share has become overwhelming which means I never quite know where to start.

But here I am. I’m keen to continue keeping a record of our family adventures so I’m going to do my best at filling in some of the gap, even if it means some of my updates are about things we did months ago!

This one, however, is about a trip we’re currently on our way home from so it’s very current indeed (or at least it was when I started writing it a couple of weeks ago)! Towards the end of August, we found ourselves with a few days free and the potential to escape the capital – so on the spur of the moment we decided to head down to the south coast for some beach fun in Dorset. With no car, and keen to reduce our carbon footprint, we planned an itinerary around public transport and had the most wonderful few days.

Day 1: Splashdown in Poole

Alex had heard about a waterslide park called Splashdown that he was desperate to visit. So we started our journey with a train from London to Poole, and a bus out to Splashdown for three hours of fun. We met up with a friend and her daughter, and the kids had an absolute blast trying out all the different slides.

(As an aside, I didn’t join them at Splashdown as I had some client work to do – and I found a great co-working space right in central Poole to work for a few hours. If you’re ever looking for someone to work, it was super comfortable and really good value.)

Onwards to Swanage

We then hopped on a train to Wareham where we picked up a bus down to Swanage. We didn’t time that part of our journey well, ending up waiting nearly an hour for the bus – but the weather was sunny and warm, and the village was pretty so the wait wasn’t too bad. The bus journey was absolutely stunning as the sun was setting and we loved the views of Corfe Castle and the Isle of Purbeck as we got closer to our destination.

We checked into the Purbeck House Hotel finding a perfect family room. Our room (number 32) had a double bed and ensuite bathroom on one floor, and then a mezzanine level with another two beds for the kids. It was brilliant having our own spaces and the grounds of the hotel were peaceful and spacious. I’d definitely go back.

We dropped our bags off, and headed straight to the beach for fish and chips on the shoreline.

Day 2: Exploring Swanage

We were a bit worried when we woke up on our first morning in Swanage as it was torrentially raining and we hadn’t packed waterproofs! But luckily it began easing off as we were about to head out to find somewhere for breakfast. We didn’t travel far, finding the brilliant LoveCake just down the road which served a marvellous fry up!

Full of food, we walked it off with an exploration of the Swanage waterfront. We meandered along the beach passing beach huts, ice cream stands and deckchairs and planned out a very local day. We started with a crazy golf tournament (which remarkably, Sophie won!) and then headed to the historic Pier to hire paddleboards for some water fun. Matt, Alex and Sophie donned wetsuits and headed out into the harbour for an hour. The kids, having both paddle boarded before, were quickly up on their feet – but it took Matt a bit longer to find his sea legs (and he’s very cross I failed to take a photograph of him standing up!). They had so much fun exploring the boats and pier, and of course, pushing each other in!

After a delicious seafood lunch at the 1859 Pier Cafe, we gave in to the kids’ begging and let them play on a big inflatable park that had been set up in a nearby park for charity. Matt and I enjoyed lazing in the sunshine with our books while Alex and Sophie clambered around and had fun on the huge slides.

Last stop on our Swanage exploration was the beach! With the sun out and the golden sand so inviting, we hired a couple of deckchairs (£3 each) and set up near the shoreline for the afternoon. With a lifeguard station, crystal clear water and a very gentle gradient of depth, it felt like a really safe place for the kids to swim and they made the most of the opportunity by enjoying the water for ages. They spotted loads of large and small fish and swam out quite far together. Matt even joined them for a couple of lengths of the swimming zone. It was such a fun afternoon.

We showered off the salt, sand and suntan lotion before heading out to a nearby pub for dinner to experience a delicious ‘Coastal Crust’ pizza being served from a van in the garden.

Day 3: walking the coast path

After croissants on the beach, we hopped on one of the local ‘Breezer’ buses to nearby Langton Matravers to hike the coast path.  We’d walked part of this a few years ago on a visit to Swanage so we chose to hike a different section, this time walking back to Swanage. From the bus stop, we walked towards the coast through pretty fields, startling plenty of sheep and even a deer (can you spot it in the picture below?).

Before long, we found ourselves at Dancing Ledge – a rocky ledge jutting out into the sea surrounded by cliffs. The weather was absolutely gorgeous, so we sat for ages in the sunshine looking out to sea, watching groups of brave people coasteering and boats out in the distance. The children scrambled around on the rocks and explored rockpools.

Eventually, we dragged ourselves back onto the path and started the easy walk back to Swanage. Being a coast path, there were plenty of ups and downs along the cliff tops, but the views were consistently gorgeous and the miles whizzed by.

The Anvil Point lighthouse was soon in sight which meant that Durlston Castle – and lunch (!) – was close! After hiking in the hot sunshine, it was a relief to turn inland into the shady woodland of the country park. Very quickly, we arrived at the castle where we enjoyed a delicious lunch and lots of cold drinks in the cafe there.

Revitalised and full of energy, the children rather randomly decided to jog back to Swanage – a couple of kilometres away. Confident they’d be able to find their way back to the pier, Matt and I left them to it and enjoyed a peaceful walk together along the coast path, passing the lifeboat station and harbour as we neared the town.

Reunited with the children, they quickly persuaded us to let them cool off with a bit more paddle-boarding, so we let them spend an hour playing around in the shallow waters together.

The weather was so glorious, we spent the rest of the day on the beach enjoying ice creams and much swimming. It felt like the Mediterranean.

On our final evening, we had dinner on the pier and soaked up the beautiful evening light on the water. A perfect day.

Day 4: Stopover in Southampton

We were up and out early on our last morning in Dorset. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, so we headed straight to the beach for pastries, more swimming and even a spot of gymnastics from Sophie! It was so calm – just what we all needed after a busy busy summer.

It was hard to drag ourselves away from Swanage, but we had one more stop before heading back to London. We took another ‘breezer’ bus, this time directly to Bournemouth station. It took an hour, but was an open-top bus passing beautiful beaches and evening going on a ferry at Sandbanks, so the time whizzed by and was super fun! At Bournemouth, it was back on a train – this time to Southampton to visit our friend Katharine and her daughter Emilia.

Katharine lives in Eling, next to the gorgeous little Eling Tide Mill and some excellent crabbing spots – so the children soon got stuck in and caught ridiculous numbers of crabs together.

We were only away for four days – but it genuinely felt like a restorative holiday and was just perfect to get us energised for the start of term and another busy spell of work. I love that we were able to do so much without needing a car, and am already wondering when we can get back to the Dorset coast…

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