Another fine day on the southern coast of England presented itself with a bright sunrise on August 29th. The road beckoned so I drove out of Brighton driving due west with the destination of Swanage in mind about 90 miles away.
I was following along the base of some hills in South Downs National Park bordering my route on the right; the ocean to my left. I had only travelled about 20 miles when I noticed I needed some fuel for the car. I rounded a corner and caught a glimpse of some castle towers peeking out over the treetops just beyond the next exit at Arundel. “Looks like the perfect place to find some gas, go for a walk to stretch my legs in the fresh morning air, and what better place to do that – around the grounds of a castle! Perfect! This exit looks like it has everything I need and could want!”
A lot of pathways to follow, according to the map above, and a wonderful subject for an impromptu photo shoot wouldn’t you say? I didn’t really have time to take the guided tour of the inside of the castle, especially since it appeared to be quite extensive and lengthy but it’s supposed to be a very interesting tour. I did, however, thoroughly enjoy walking around the grounds and taking photos of this magnificent and impressively formidable castle.
According to the castles’ website, “There are nearly 1,000 years of history at this great castle, situated in magnificent grounds overlooking the River Arun in West Sussex and built at the end of the 11th century by Roger de Montgomery, Earl of Arundel.”
It has been the seat of the Dukes of Norfolk and their ancestors for over 850 years.
This was the site of the original Norman castle. The oldest feature is the Motte, an artificial mound, over 100 feet high from the dry moat, and constructed in 1068. It would have had a wooden structure built on top of it in the beginning.
After the Motte was built, next came the gatehouse two years later in 1070.
Bevis was a great giant of ancient times, and who, as legend has it, agreed to be the warder of the gate of Arundel Castle. It is said that the Bevis Tower was built to accommodate him.
Hmmm…lions guarding the drawbridge at Bevis Tower; better turn around and go the other way! Eventually, I worked my way back to the courtyard near the front of the castle where the door to enter is located and where the tour inside begins.
Course, I didn’t buy a ticket to go inside, so I just chatted with the guard at the door for a few minutes and then started back down to the entrance gates at the bottom of the hill.
As I made my way back down, I came upon the rose garden off to the right. I had been so busy looking at the castle on the way up earlier, I hadn’t even noticed there was a garden! Imagine that, me missing a garden! That’s strange, indeed! I can’t imagine how I didn’t smell the aromatic fragrance of their blooms! It was superb; the blossoms filled the air with their profuse perfume in every direction!
I felt a bit hungry after that nice walk so I decided to stroll through the village outside the castle walls to see what I might find to snack on. The ‘square’ on High Street offered up a wide variety of places to choose from and several items to tempt my tastebuds!
That small ‘square’ had every kind of shop imaginable including the Butcher,
and where is that Candlestick maker? Okay, no candles that I can see but I’ll take one of those yummy looking puff pastries with the caramelized apple slices in it, please!
Across the street from the Baker on the left side of the street was a delightful little “second hand” shop with all kinds of wonderful things. Once inside, every room on each level of this very old and rickety building was filled with treasures galore to explore!
It’s probably a good thing my suitcase wasn’t big enough to take all I would have liked, especially that toy horse on wheels!
On the way back to the car I spotted some really cool old lace and pretty pottery too!
The drive west took me through South Hampton, a bustling port, and down through the New Forest National Park lands down into Bournemouth where I hugged the coastline until I came to a small ferry which crosses the narrow channel near Brownsea Island and takes cars & cyclists over to the Studland and Godlingston Heath National Nature Reserve. (Phew! That’s a mouthful!)
It was a cute little ferry that took about 5 minutes to cross the channel over to the nature reserve where the eastern edge of the Jurassic coastline begins.
Not much further to go now, only about 6 miles to Swanage! I wondered what it had in store for me. As I came down the road, it turned near the water’s edge following along a pebbly beach filled with colourful beach chairs & umbrellas. Families were frolicking and splashing in the blue-green water beyond as I entered this little seaside village by the bay.
Across town and slightly up the hill behind it, I found the Swanage Youth Hostel that I would call home for the night. This elegant Victorian house offered fine views across that beautiful bay.
As the sign states, Captain John Anderson, of the SS Great Eastern, built this villa with the proceeds he received for laying the first-ever transatlantic cable from Ireland to America. It’s a nice homey type of place; beautiful wood panelling in the living room, spacious and it has a really comfortable feel about it; thanks, Captain John!
Before descending back down to the seashore, I noticed a sign pointing uphill from the hostel to a castle! Think I’ll go check it out!
Durlston Castle was a small structure perched on the cliff overlooking the English Channel looking south toward France. The land it sits on, The Durlston National Nature Reserve, is perfect for exploring the Jurassic Coast, a newly designated World Heritage Site that tells a geological story covering 200 million years. Find the Dinosaur footprints! The castle has all kinds of exhibits set up for this very purpose! What I enjoyed the most, however, was the panoramic views from it offered!
Like Brighton Beach, Swanage is an activity-packed seaside holiday location, but much more relaxed, kicked-back and low key; a bit more my style. It boasts a safe sandy Blue Flag beach, spectacular coastal scenery, high sunshine ratings and festivals galore. After looking at the ocean from above, I decided to head down to the bay and get my tootsies in the water. It looked so inviting!
Then I started walking along the edge of the bay toward the beach on the other end to see what wonderful treasures this sunny and inviting village would unveil.
Across the pavement from the beach in a pedestrian-only zone, there were little huts lined up one after the other with colourful doors and which reminded me of storage units one rents to keep ones’ extra stuff in. Turned out they were storage units of sorts. These people keep all of their beach gear here; the BBQ, chairs, tables, cups, silverware, floaties and whatever else one needs for visiting the beach. They rent these coveted units year round. That way they have everything they need, including a refrigerator & microwave, when they head to the beach to play! Ingenious!
Beyond the seashore, I ventured into the inner streets browsing the shops in town…
Which included a quaint little train station…
As a finale, I went up to the Grand Hotel perched on the cliff above the beach on the opposite side of the bay from where I started. It was a very nice place and had some gorgeous views of the bay and village beyond. Bet it looks really nice at night with the lights reflecting on the waters’ surface.
It was great fun exploring this lovely seaside village. I liked the way it was cozy, relaxed, and had a low-key ambience.
I easily settled in nicely for the evening after all that walking, enjoyed a nice fresh fish supper, and relaxed on the veranda at the villa (er…I mean, hostel).