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Delightful Dorset

26 August 2014

image from Delightful Dorset

Whenever a bank holiday weekend rolls around I always make sure I take a trip somewhere new. With the uncertainty of my visa situation I wasn’t able to plan this weekend very far in advance. By the time I was back in the UK, flight prices over the bank holiday weekend were ridiculously high so my original hopes of going to Budapest were dashed. Still determined to get out of London, we ended up deciding to hire a car and take a road trip to Dorset in South West England.

Not having grown up in this country, I was unaware that apparently everyone else in England travels to the south coast on this particular weekend. Accommodation was booking up fast but we ended up finding a hotel on the Isle of Portland, just south of Weymouth. On Saturday morning we picked up our hire car from London City Airport, which I chose due to its close proximity to where I live. In hindsight though this wasn’t the best idea as it meant getting caught in a long queue of traffic leaving London. Picking up the car from either Gatwick or Heathrow would have cut out most of the traffic at the start of the journey and is something I’ll have to remember if I ever decide to do a similar trip!

Unfortunately the traffic congestion delayed our travel time by a considerable amount and it meant having to forego my original plan to stop off at Highcliffe Castle en route to Portland. We finally arrived at our hotel around 6pm Saturday evening, spent a bit of time relaxing after the long journey and enjoyed a nice meal in The Cliff Panoramic Restaurant.

Our first stop on Sunday was Durdle Door, a natural limestone arch on the Jurassic Coast near Lulworth. This is the most beautiful stretch of beach I have seen in England, with crystal clear water. Even though it looked enticing, the weather wasn’t quite warm enough for me to enjoy a swim but it didn’t stop others from jumping in.

After leaving Durdle Door we had originally planned to stop off at Lulworth Castle, however when we got there we found the castle was booked out for a wedding and would be closed all day. The sign at the front said the park would remain open but when we drove in an attendant at the car park informed us we wouldn’t even be able to get close enough to take photos of the castle from the outside. If you’re planning a visit check the website or phone ahead to avoid disappointment!

We continued on to our next destination, Tyneham, a small village and parish which was evacuated during World War II to be used as a firing range and training ground for troops and has been deserted ever since. Tyneham is only accessible when the Lulworth Ranges are open to the public, but luckily for us it is open most days during the summer months. The village has a certain sadness about it with a lot of the old cottages in ruin, but the church and school house remain intact housing exhibitions about the village and its people. A short walk from the village will lead you to spectacular views of the Jurassic Coast but visitors are asked to keep to official footpaths. Signs are posted warning about explosives and unexploded shells.

In the afternoon we drove back to Weymouth where we had a late lunch of fish and chips and took a stroll along the beach. The clouds were growing ominous so we decided to start making our way back to Portland to avoid getting caught in the rain.

Our last stop for the day was Portland Castle, one of Henry VIII’s finest coastal fortresses built in the early 1540s to protect against French and Spanish invasion. The gun platforms have great views overlooking the harbour.

On Monday morning we drove north to Somerset to visit the Fleet Air Arm Museum, the world’s second largest naval aviation museum. Since we had a long drive back to London following our visit, we arrived at the museum right on opening time and were the first people inside. This meant we had most of the exhibitions to ourselves for a while - an hour later the queue to purchase tickets was out the door. I’m not an aviation enthusiast in the slightest (my boyfriend is), but I still found many of the exhibitions interesting and I was impressed by the sheer size of the collection - I wasn’t expecting to see so much.

I managed to survive the drive back through to East London and was sad to say goodbye to my little VW Golf. There is still so much more of England’s south coast to explore and I can’t wait to go back again.

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