There’s something deliciously nostalgic about Dorset, perfectly fitting as the setting of arguably the most nostalgic novels in UK history – the Enid Blyton Famous Five series. Last weekend we visited Corfe Castle and Swanage, original Blyton stamping ground and inspiration behind her own Kirrin Castle which features in the Famous Five books.
Corfe Castle isn’t just a set of mystical ruins on top of a steep hill. It’s also a very pretty little village, complete with old school sweet shop, picturesque pubs and stunning views across Purbeck. From here, you can get the steam train down to the seaside town of Swanage which, when you’re two and six years old, is pretty much the most exciting thing ever.
This is exactly what we did last Saturday, when we took Travelodge up on their offer to explore the Enid Blyton trail to celebrate World Book Day. Starting off with a stroll through the village centre, we made our way to Corfe Castle station, which is like stepping back into a Famous Five time zone. Complete with old trunks on the platform, retro adverts for vintage products and even a real roaring fire inside, there’s a cosy and comforting atmosphere. It also happens to be the best place to catch views of the imposing Corfe Castle ruins, looking down on the village.
From Corfe Castle, the steam train takes around forty minutes to get to Swanage. I must admit, I wasn’t sure this would work for us. With a sprightly toddler not known for her patience or ability to sit still, I imagined a journey chasing her up and down the rickety aisles, not getting a moment to pause and enjoy the scenic views. But I was wrong. Both the journey to Swanage and the return trip back to Corfe Castle were easy and stress-free. Both girls spent much of the time with their noses pressed up against the window, watching the steam from the train puff across the fields of sheep.
The day turned from bright and sunny to cold and foggy and, as we arrived in Swanage, a thick mist rolled in from the sea, enveloping much of the town and following us all the way back to Corfe Castle. We ate our fish and chips looking out to sea and the girls had a quick run around in the mist on the beach, before we hurried back to the warmth of the steam train.
Once back in Corfe Castle, the plan had been to explore the actual ruins, but by this time the mist was thick and icy, and the ruins were barely visible on top of the hill. So we ducked into one of the invitingly cosy pubs and chose to warm up by the fire, waiting for the fog to clear instead. Except it didn’t clear and, as we waited, the kids were getting more and more tired and fractious, so we had to ditch the original plan altogether and have a wander through the village instead, catching glimpses of the ruins as they jutted out spookily through wisps of fog.
Corfe Castle is around a thirty minute drive from the seaside town of Poole, which is where we headed to the Travelodge for a bed and breakfast stay after our day exploring. Rather than head out to a local restaurant (Poole Quay – home to plenty of restaurants and cafes – is a ten minute walk away) we opted to eat at the hotel and have snacks in our room for a family movie night afterwards. We were all tired and in the mood for pyjamas and lounging, and the Travelodge – handily right next to Asda and Costa – provided the perfect base to do this.
Breakfast the following morning didn’t disappoint and set us up for our journey home. It was a great weekend and a trip I’d definitely recommend whatever your age. There were just as many excited young children as excited pensioners, eager to follow in the footsteps of Enid Blyton and recreate their own Famous Five experience.
To watch our trip on film, have a look at the video I made of our adventure (complete with over-excited toddler and multiple parenting outtake moments, naturally…):
Thanks to Travelodge for working with us on this post. For more details of how I work with brands check out my Work With Me page.