A pleasant town in which to overnight, Swanage grew as a small port and fishing village until flourishing in the Victorian time, both as a seaside playground for the rich and famous, as well as a sizeable port for the nearby stone quarries.
Famous as Thomas Hardy’s fictional ‘Knollsea’, there are still plenty of signs of the towns heyday, an attractive Victorian Pier and Promenade still in place along with the interesting Wellington Clock Tower which, up until 1867, stood at one end of London Bridge. As the bridge was widened the tower had to go and it was removed and then reassembled stone by stone down here by the Victorians looking for a reassuring little piece of the capital at their latest resort by the sea.
The Swanage Museum and Heritage Centre is worth a visit and the town is well served for overnight walkers with a good number of cafes, bars, restaurants and pubs as well as a reasonable number of shops if the need arises. It’s also one of the better locations for a swim with a gently sloping white sand beach which is sheltered and generally calm.
For anyone staying a bit longer the main attraction nearby is the 11th century remains of Corfe Castle, one of Britain's most majestic ruins which nestles in a stunning of location at the gateway to the Purbeck Hills. It is superbly atmospheric, with breath-taking views from its crumbling ruins. You can make a great day out by taking the Swanage Steam Railway up to the castle (what better way could there be to arrive!). After looking round these stunning and iconic remains, enjoy an easy 5-mile amble back down to Swanage along the ridgeway with superb views out to sea as you pass over Brenscombe Hill, past archaeological remains at Long Barrow and Nine Barrow Down, where there are also some excellent examples of the old medieval Strip Lynchet Farming systems.