Dorset

Exploring Studland, Dorset

Studland, a small village perched on a peninsula in south Purbeck, is a pretty village famed for being the start (or end, depending on how you look at it) of the 630 mile-long South West Coastal Path. With swathes of long, sandy beaches, this is a perfect spot for beach-lovers, whilst there are some great spots to eat too. Studland was fundamentally important during World War II as a training ground for the D-Day landings in Normandy.

Being so beautiful, this is a very popular spot for visitors...

Managed by the National Trust, the small but lovely South Beach with its thin strip of sand backed by beach huts are reminiscent of a different age, whilst if you head north walking through Middle Beach and Knoll Beach (which has lots of water sports and also a naturist section) you’ll reach Shell Bay, a beautiful stretch of white sand backed by heath land. This area is inhabited by lots of wildlife, including all six species of reptile found in the UK (watch out for adders) and its waters are breeding grounds for sea horses. Being so beautiful, this is a very popular spot for visitors though if you are prepared to walk a little further you can usually find a quieter spot. At one end of the beach is the chain ferry which connects the Isle of Purbeck to Sandbanks in Poole.

With the Coastal Path starting here, it would be wrong not to walk some of it, so head to the iconic Old Harry Rocks, a twenty minute walk which leads to a stack of chalk rocks looming out of the sea, many with caves and arches. You can walk right up to the edge, but be careful as the cliffs are eroding – you could at one point walk onto the rocks but the path collapsed in 1896. If you like being on the water, you can kayak around Old Harry Rocks as part of a tour with Studland Sea School.

It’s hard to imagine Studland’s beautiful beaches covered with soldiers and tanks, but this spot was extremely important towards the end of World War II when the whole area was evacuated so it could be a training ground for the D-Day landings at Normandy. A pillbox – Fort Henry – was built and at one point housed King George VI, Winston Churchill, Eisenhower and Montgomery who planned the invasion from this spot. Today, you can visit the bunker and try to imagine what it must have been like to be part of such a pivotal moment in the war.

There are some great places to eat and drink in the area; if you’re having a beach day head to Joe’s Cafe on South Beach, a laid-back spot serving coffee and fantastic lunches. Middle Beach Cafe is more of the old fashioned sort, serving sandwiches and ice creams. For some great pub grub, head to the Bankes Arms which also has its own micro-brewery on site (the Isle of Purbeck Brewery) whilst ultra hip The Pig on the Beach is perfect for something a little special – make sure to book!

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