Day tripping in the UK
I planned our return from SE Asia well - giving myself three weeks school summer holidays before I go back to teaching at the end of August. This has largely been spent catching up with friends and family, particularly those who also work in education and are on summer holidays too. So when Kat returned from Copenhagen we got a couple of dates in the diary, the first being a day trip somewhere along the south coast.
To me, a summer day trip should tick the following boxes; no more than a couple of hours' drive, pretty things to ogle at, somewhere nice to eat, and somewhere you can sit and soak up the sun, relax and read your book.
When it came to selecting a destination, it took nothing more than opening Google Maps on my phone, panning down to the south coast (we both currently reside in Hampshire) and scrolling along until something took our fancy. Corfe Castle immediately caught my eye, and a trip to Swanage and the castle was planned.
Swanage is located on the Dorset coast, south-west of Bournemouth. It's a seaside town (with a sandy beach!), just south of the A35. We arrived on the chain ferry from Bournemouth Sandbanks - a great way of reaching the area if you're coming from the East as you save on mileage by cutting out a long stretch of A road. The chain ferry leaves from the very tip of the Sandbanks peninsula, taking around five minutes and costing £4.10 each way for a car or just £1 if you're on foot. Note; cash only! More info can be found on timetables, tolls and discounts here.
After leaving the ferry, we drove the ten minute drive to Studland Bay. We were greeted with the most beautiful blue skies and warm temperatures - it is just gorgeous here! We walked down to the seafront anticipating a light lunch at Middle Beach Cafe but unfortunately they don't take card payments. Who knew! So we hopped back in the car and drove down to The Bankes Arms where we ordered our go-to pub lunches (brie and ham ploughmans for me and scampi for Kat, if you were wondering) and sat out in the sunshine, taking in the sea view. Blissful.
If you fancy treating yourself, make sure you visit The Pig on the Beach. I celebrated by 28th birthday at The Pig at Brockenhurst (New Forest) last year, and had a really delicious meal. This one looks just as beautiful, in a picturesque setting. They also have rooms; you're looking at £150 a night, midweek during the summer.
Parking around Studland Bay
As Studland Beach is a National Trust area (there is a nature reserve and visitor centre, and the beach and dunes are managed by the NT) the parking is NT-owned. If you're planning on spending a lot of time in the area, you can get a day ticket costing £9 which allows parking in all NT carparks. Of course, if you have a NT membership parking is free. You can pay on card in most of the machines, as well as coins.
After topping up our vitamin d levels, we got back in the car and drove ten minutes or so in to Swanage. We stopped to check out the Bird's Nest cafe; an old converted train buffet car serving cream teas and the like, nestled at the end of Swanage's Steam Railway station. Walking down the highstreet you see the usual second hand book shops (my favourite), gift shops and tea rooms.
Of course, no day trip is complete without coffee and cake and we chose Love Cake Etc to indulge our sweet tooth. Apple cake with thick clotted cream and flat whites were the order of the day, and needless to say it totally hit the spot. Love Cake Etc itself is beautiful; not too twee, but a perfectly designed vintage tearooms serving lunches and cakes in the day (cream teas and afternoon teas ahoy!) as well as boozy dinners in the evening. A huge lemon curd swiss roll was presented on to the cake table as we were leaving and my stomach literally lurched at the sight.
Just five miles up the road we visited the historic Corfe Castle. Dating back to the eleventh century and built by William the Conqueror, Corfe Castle is an iconic piece of British history. Owned by the National Trust, the ruins are set up high and can be seen from a distance as you drive in to the village. It costs around £9 to enter the Castle ground during the summer (peak) months, a little less in off-peak months.
We enjoyed wandering round the village in the sunshine, stopping for goblets of wine at The Greyhound Inn (seriously, they were huge) and childishly fooling around on the outdoor gym equipment in the children's play park. I blame the goblets of wine.
We parked for free in the 1 hour bays on West Street in the village itself. There is also a National Trust car park for the Castle just outside the village, and other pay and display car parks around the village.
With weary heads and sunkissed legs we hopped back in the car and made our way back home. Our day in Studland/Swanage/Corfe was just what the doctor ordered to help combat my post-travelling blues, and the perfect day trip for those craving some sea air and a bit of old British village life. Blissful.