Durlston Country Park and National Nature Reserve

Posted by Luci Ackers on 20 April 2015
Related property: Langton House
Durlston Country Park

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On the southern tip of the Isle of Purbeck, with excellent views out over the Channel, sits Durlston Castle. A Victorian Building constructed completely of local stone that was originally built as a restaurant for visitors to the estate.

Purbeck limestone was a popular building material in the area during the 19th century and George Burt, a stonemason, used it to build his folly in the 1880s. The folly, Durlston Castle, stands within the Durlston Country Park which George Burt purchased in order to build and develop into a tourist attraction. Today the area is part of the larger Durlston National Nature Reserve which has fantastic wildlife, paths and trails for visitors to explore.

The 19th century building was restored in 2011 along with the Great Globe, a large stone sphere also created by Burt in the 19th century which was to become one of the largest of its kind in the world and sits in the grounds. Now Durlston Castle is the new Visitor Centre for the Park. The site is also home to an Astronomy Centre with a 14” Meade telescope, observatory and Learning Centre providing talks and lectures – ideal for discovering the dark skies and star clusters above Durlston.

The Castle Visitor Centre is often referred to as a 'gateway' to the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site. From the grounds Durlston Bay and the famous coastline are a simple walk away, as are the Tilly Whim stone quarry caves and Anvil Point Lighthouse. A number of walks will lead you from the castle through a variety of terrain to some spectacular locations and viewpoints. Four of the trails are clearly way-marked, and there are leaflets for each at the visitor centre, or you could even link up to the South West Coast Path from here and explore part of the famous National Trail.

The trails enable you to discover the Country Park and navigate your way to some spectacular coastal viewpoints, spotting some of the local wildlife as you go. Durlston Nature Reserve is teeming with incredible Jurassic Coast wildlife, both marine and birdlife as well as a variety of wildflowers and the numerous butterfly species that frequent the area, such as the nationally rare Lulworth Skipper butterfly which is reasonably common around Durlston.

An observation point along the Clifftop Trail sits at the top of the Portland-stone cliffs where it joins the South West Coast Path and is backed by woodland. You'll pass a number of seabird colonies along these cliffs so keep your eyes open for Razorbills, Guillemots and Herring Gulls. A live-feed Guillemot cliff-camera operates when the season is right so you can see the birds in action. Some larger species inhabit the cliffs here too like Peregrine Falcons, Shags and wintering Black Redstarts. Durlston is positioned right on the southern coast of the Isle of Purbeck and so is a great place to spot those species that are on their migratory journey; Pipits, Kestrels and Wagtails in the grassland; Warblers, Blackcaps, Nightingales and Stonechats in the scrubland. The wooded area to the east of the Castle makes a great home for Woodpeckers and Tits too, so you won't be short of things to look out for!

If you are planning a visit, the Visitor Centre's Daily Diary is a good one to check, it keeps a record of all the wildlife spotted each day and where it was seen. There is also a good programme of Events throughout the year so you can take part in special days, walks and talks if you wish. When you arrive the Visitor Centre has good facilities, information and maps as well as a café/restaurant for if you're making a day of it.

If you really are planning a full exploration of the Purbeck countryside, take a look at the National Trust website for extra ideas. And for a place to stay while you're in the area, Langton House is a pretty 19th century property that has been beautifully converted into apartments and sits at the edge of the village of Langton Matravers. Follow the link below to find out more.

Luci Ackers

Luci Ackers

Luci loves getting out and about for a good cycle ride or easy-going walks in the countryside, and thoroughly enjoyed the time she previously spent working for the National Trust. Her love of writing started from a young age and on rainy days nothing beats curling up in a secret corner with a good book.

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