Walk - Durlston Country Park's Woodland Trail

1.1 miles (1.7 km)

Durlston Castle - BH19 2JL Durlston Castle - BH19 2JL

Easy - A gentle coastal walk, along compacted limestone, tarmac and woodchip paths through Durlston’s Victorian landscape, with superb views. A Tramper mobility scooter can be hired from Durlston Castle to do this walk (booking recommended) or explore the rest of the Country Park. A BSL Guide to the Clifftop Trail is available on a tablet, to borrow from Durlston Castle. Printed trail leaflets (including large print and Easy Read versions) are available to purchase from Durlston Castle. A shallow, gently sloping path leads from the 1st car park to the Castle.

One of four waymarked trails through the National Nature Reserve and Grade II listed Historic Garden at Durlston Country Park, a Victorian estate developed by businessman George Burt and a haven for wildlife, as well as a place of international geological importance for its fossils and rock structures. Look out for the quotes from Shakespeare and the Bible, inscribed on plaques around the estate, as well as the massive 40-ton Great Globe of the world as it was in the 1880s. A good walk in autumn, when the leaves start to turn and the woodland is full of birds and small mammals busily preparing for winter. 

There are plenty of benches along the route.

    There are a range of wonderful places to lay your head near the Coast Path for a well-earned sleep. From large and luxurious hotels, to small and personable B&B's, as well as self-catering options and campsites. The businesses that support the Path, where you've chosen to visit, are listed here.

    YHA Swanage

    Shared and private rooms available. Self-catering and meals available. on

    Tom's Field Campsite & Shop

    Traditional. rural camping in beautiful Isle of Purbeck. Just 20 mins walk from South West Coast Path and Dancing Ledge.

    Chiltern Lodge

    Chiltern Lodge is a detached house in Dorset's Worth Matravers, ideal for coast walks or lazing in the garden. Relax, rejuvenate and re-capture life in the slow lane. Wifi offered.

    Weston Farm Campsite (The National Trust)

    Our wildlife-rich campsite, just one mile from the South West Coast Path offers a tranquil overnight setting. Please check opening dates on website .

    Alford House B&B

    Very friendly B&B situated in a beautiful village. We can pick up/drop off to the path.

    What is on your list of things to do when you visit the Path? From walking companies, to help you tailor your visit, with itineraries and experts to enhance your visit, to baggage transfer companies and visitor attractions there are lots to people and places to help you decide what you'd like to do. The businesses that support the Path, where you've chosen to visit, are listed here.

    Swanage Information Centre

    Delivering a wealth of ideas, enthusiasm & information to visitors & residents of Swanage & Purbeck areas including heritage, coastal & countryside walks. We’re accessible & dog friendly & offer our ‘miles of smiles’ welcome to our enchanting seaside town

    Interactive Elevation

    Route Description

    1. From Durlston Castle forecourt, follow the Timeline back up the hill to the car park then follow the tarmacked path opposite the Car Park machine leading back towards Swanage, following the tree waymarkers.

    Insects flourish in the shelter provided by mature hedges such as the one before you, and species seen here in the summer include bumble bees, bush crickets and the gatekeeper butterfly.

    Note the unusual shrubs growing beneath the trees as you enter the wood. There are records of people collecting plants as long ago as 1495BC, when the fifth Egyptian Pharaoh Queen Hatshetsup sent botanists to Somalia to bring back incense plants, but the Victorians developed plant collecting into a passion that transformed many country estates in Britain. Estate owner George Burt planted a number of exotic species here from around the globe, including snowberry from America, bamboo from China and Japanese spindle.

    Burt was the nephew and business partner of a nineteenth-century stonemason and builder, John Mowlem. Acknowledging that they owed much of their success to the fine Purbeck and Portland limestones in their quarries, the two wanted to use some of their wealth to enhance the area. In 1862 the uncle built the Mowlem Institute, a reading room and library, and the same year Burt bought Durlston Head and the surrounding land, including the limestone quarries at Tilly Whim Caves (see the Durlston Clifftop Walk). He developed the estate on the clifftop, with its fine views along the coast and across the bay to the Isle of Wight, for the benefit of the tourists who were visiting the South West Coast in ever-increasing numbers as a result of the railways being built throughout Britain. In 1887 he built Durlston Castle as a restaurant for the estate and laid out most of the paths in the park. He also commissioned the Great Globe, a map of the world as it was in the 1880s, carved from 40 tons of local Portland limestone and built in 15 segments at his uncle's Greenwich stoneyard.

    Burt used ships to deliver the building stone from his quarries to London, and the ballast he picked up in the capital for his return journeys can be seen throughout Swanage, including many of the bollards, as well as the entire facade of the Town Hall, which started life as the front of the Mercer's Hall in London. Most spectacular was the Wellington clock tower, originally built as a memorial to the Duke of Wellington but such a poor timekeeper that it was removed when it was realised that it was obstructing traffic around London Bridge in 1860, and Burt brought it to Swanage instead.

    In the 1890s the castle roof was used by Marconi engineers for early wireless work, transmitting signals to the Isle of Wight.

    In spring and summer, the meadow to the right of the path hosts dozens of different species of wildflower, including Southern Marsh, Pyramidal and Bee Orchids. The hedge to the left includes species such as Dogwood, Spindle, Japanese Spindle, Hazel and Hawthorn and supports many different species of bird.

    2. At the bottom of the tarmacked path, turn right, go through the gate then take the woodchip path to the left, unless you would like a more level shortcut, in which case go straight ahead for a few yards and turn right . At the bottom of this path, continue straight ahead, then follow the path to the right around the bottom of the glade.

    The tall trees in the glade alongside you provide good shelter for wildlife but still let in the sunlight, and the insects thriving here, including hoverflies and butterflies such as the speckled wood, provide a good source of food for many migrant birds in the spring and autumn. Listen out for flycatchers and warblers.

    There is a viewpoint on the seaward side of the glade looking out to Peveril Point. There was a major landslip some 70 years ago in the wood below the viewpoint, completely destroying the semi-mature woodland that had been established there. The wet, unstable conditions have led to the growth of hardy species such as willow. Listen for the call of chiffchaffs in the spring, and look out for sparrowhawks hunting above, as well as sandwich terns fishing in Durlston Bay.

    There are frequent small landslips in the inaccessible areas of the estate, caused by the instability of different layers of rock. Durlston Head is of international importance for its varied beds of hard stone inter-layered between softer clays and shales. At the bottom of the stack are the Portland beds, were formed in cool clear seas some 150 million years ago, while above them the younger Purbeck beds were formed in a landscape of swamps, ponds and saltwater lagoons. After they had been laid down these rocks were deformed and broken by the tectonic forces caused by the whole continents very slowly drifting around the globe.

    Durlston's rocks are also noted for the fossils they contain, giving an extraordinary record of life in the late Jurassic and early Cretaceous period. These include shells, fish scales, sharks, crocodiles and even dinosaur footprints, all formed over millions of years. Many of the fossils and rocks of both the Portland and Purbeck series’ can be seen in the Rock Room or in the Fossil Wall at the Learning Centre.

    3. After a tour of the glade follow the Coast Path back towards the castle and the car park; or for a longer walk carry on along the Coast Path (see the Durlston Clifftop Walk).

    The wide path from the glade is known as Pinecliffe Walk, and before the landslip it was used by horse-drawn carriages bringing visitors to Durlston Castle from Peveril Down. There was once a stand of Pine trees here (another favourite of Victorian estate-owners). Many of these have now been felled, and their rotting stumps provide a haven for woodlice, beetles and fungi, which in turn attract birds and small mammals, such as mice and grey squirrels. Occasionally a shy roe deer can be glimpsed through the trees.

    Public transport

    Limited public transport. Visit www.durlston.co.uk for details. A pleasant 1 mile walk uphill (mainly along the Coast Path) from Swanage bus or steam railway station.


    Durlston Country Park (Postcode for Sat Navs: BH19 2JL).


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