Swanage - Take a Trip Down Memory Lane

Swanage – The Great British Seaside like it used to be. Take a trip down memory lane, a stroll along the prom and don’t forget to pack your bucket and spade!

Swanage - Take a Trip Down Memory Lane
Swanage Seaside

The Swanage Railway

In the first decade of the 20th Century, holidays at the Great British seaside started to become fashionable.  Through trains from London whisked their jolly passengers – and all their buckets and spades – away from the smoke to breath the fresh sea air for a few precious days.  The lovely images below were hanging on the walls of the Air B’n B apartment we rented for a few days.

The Swanage Railway opened on 20th May 1885. London and South Western Railway operated it as a branch line from Wareham to Swanage, Dorset.

As car ownership grew, the popularity of a a trip to the seaside inevitably  began to decline.  The last train between Wareham and gas lit Swanage station ran on New Year’s Day 1972. It carried 500 passengers – all of whom had purchased a specially printed British Rail Edmondson card ticket costing 50 pence for an adult and 25 pence for a child.

Swanage Seaside
Swanage Seaside
Swanage Seaside
Swanage Seaside

Thankfully though, a heritage railway group later revived part of the line.  The Swanage Railway now operates a 9.5-mile (15.3 km) line which follows the route of the former line from Wareham to Swanage with stops at Norden, Corfe Castle, Harman’s Cross and Herston Halt.  Steam returned to the Swanage Line in 1980, but it took until 2009 for the first passenger service to fully recommence – a triumph for all those involved with this mammoth reincarnation effort.

Oh I Do Like to be Beside the Seaside!

However you arrive at Swanage, be prepared for a trip down Memory Lane.  You can take a stroll along the prom (prom prom), hire one of the bright little beach huts that line Swanage beachfront and take your choice of ice creams from the many shops in town.

We were visiting in February, so a Dorset pasty on the pier was the order of the day – the ice cream shops were firmly shut!  Watch out for hungry seagulls – it was the quickest lunch I’ve ever eaten – but decidedly delicious though.

Swanage Beach
Swanage Beach

Coastal Walking around Swanage

If you follow Love to Wander, you will know that I have set myself the task of walking the coast of Great Britain – well all the nice parts at least – a chunk at a time.  It was good to have the opportunity to add Swanage to my map (see more below).

If you love coastal walking, you can enjoy long walks in the more remote parts of the coast – away from Swanage beachfront itself.

Shell Bay Beach

Park in the National Trust Car Park and look over to Sandbanks – home to some of  the most expensive housing on the coast of Britain.   Properties in Sandbanks had an overall average price of £1,425,449 over the last year.  Detached houses there sell for an average of £2,623,152 (Rightmove March 2024).  Remember though that averages can always be misleading.  A four-bed bungalow (North Haven Point) in Sandbanks recently sold for a whopping £13.5 million!

Studland Beach/Knoll Beach

Shell Bay Beach runs into Knoll Beach and Studland Beach, which gives you a lovely long coastal walk to blow the cobwebs away.  In February, it was completely deserted – you may well find more visitors there on a warm Summer’s day?!

Studland Beach - near Swanage
Studland Beach - near Swanage

Somewhat surprisingly, there is a naturist reserve on Studland Beach.  On a cold day in February, there was absolutely no way we were going to take advantage of the opportunity to remove all our clothes – “Not today thank you!”

Studland Bay Naturist Reserve - Near Swanage
Studland Bay Nature Reserve - Not Today Thank You!

Another option for a coastal walk is nearby Durlston Country Park.  There are a variety of daily activities you can join in there and some lovely clifftop walks.  The café restaurant is a great option for lunch too.

Tips for Future Travellers

If you love live music, think about visiting Swanage during the Blues Festival – usually held during the first week of March.


Apart from the lovely restaurant at Durlston Country Park – the Seventh Wave Restaurant – there is a popular seafood restaurant at Shell Bay Beach – Shell Bay Bistro.  We couldn’t try it though as it was shut out of season.

In Swanage, I can recommend the Black Swan Inn as the best place for a really good evening meal.  A French chef ensures that the fare on offer there is a significant cut above your average British pub grub offering.

We were staying in an Air B ‘n B apartment near Swanage beachfront on this trip.  If you are looking for a hotel, then the Purbeck House Hotel looked like a good option.  We just popped in for an evening drink, but the coffee and cakes for sale on the bar looked tempting, which bodes well.

Walking the Coast of Great Britain

Coastal walking is my favourite sort of walking and so features prominently on Love to Wander.  Take a look at some of the other coastal walking trips we have enjoyed on this interactive map.  If you want to watch the map continue to fill with coastal walks that might inspire you to lace up your own walking boots and take a wander along the beaches and cliffs of our beautiful coastline yourself, do sign up to receive regular updates.

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