The world famous Jurassic Coast stretches along a 95 mile length of Dorset and Devon coastline and makes a mighty fine day trip from Bournemouth. It’s not even a long day, if you’re pushed for time. Old Harry Rocks marks the eastern most point of the Jurassic Coach and is only a few miles from Bournemouth as the crow flies. Indeed, if the weather is fine, or at least not too bad, you can clearly see the rocks from Bournemouth’s beaches. Getting there is a 45 minute drive or bus ride – the Purbeck Breezer leaves Bournemouth hourly.
The trip itself is quite pleasant, winding through the millionaires playground of Sandbanks, across Poole Harbour on the chain ferry and onwards through the Purbeck countryside until you reach the little town of Studland. From there, your journey makes use of your legs rather than the internal combustion engine. The rocks are a 3/4 mile stroll up and down rough tracks and across grasslands to the top of the cliffs.
Why the name Old Harry Rocks? No one knows for sure. One theory is that the devil, referred to locally as Old Harry, took a nap here once upon a time. It seems an unlikely tale to me. Another story holds that a local pirate, Harry Paye, used to keep his loot in the area. This strikes me a being a little more plausible. Whatever the case, the Rocks have been attracting visitors for a long time, although these days you’re more likely to find that they are happy day trippers, coming to admire the view.
Or else, rather unfortunately, unhappy souls who plan on making this view their last. It’s a long drop to the rocks on the bottom. It’s a popular spot for that sort of thing. Even more unfortunately, it is not unknown for visitors to slip and fall accidentally. The vase of flowers are there for a young woman who took an unplanned tumble the week before my visit. Suffice it to say, one should mind one’s step and tread carefully. And if you’re walking the dog, make sure you throw the stick in the right direction.
The walk and fresh sea air will make you hungry. There are three dining options available to you. The Pig is a rather posh hotel serving fine cuisine with a price tag to match. Mains will set you back from £16 to £20 per head. Or there is the Bankes Arms, a pub that dates back to 1549, or so they say. Alternatively, if the weather is nice, bring your own grub. There’s plenty of space on the cliff tops for a picnic.
We chose to splash out and have something fancy at the Pig. We’d checked the menu out on our way there and I simply needed to choose between the liver and bacon or the veal. It’s a very cosy little place. Warm and a little worn, which just adds to the character. Alas, lunch service ends at 2.30 pm and we didn’t have time to wait for dinner service. We headed back down the road to the Bankes Arms. Which is very worn, to the point that one wouldn’t feel out of place spitting on the splintered floorboards. But I didn’t. I’m pretty sure that is frowned upon.
Pubs in the UK are pretty hit and miss. With the chains, such as Wetherspoons, the food is cheap but consistent. You know what you’ll get. Otherwise, you could end up with either a feast or a plate of gristle and fat. And a bill which will sometimes make you wonder if you couldn’t have lasted a little longer till you get to Claridge’s. I always play it safe in these sorts of establishments. Most of them will do a reasonable fish and chips. A cheese ploughmans is also hard to screw up. On this occasion I was a little more daring and plumped for the faggots. The chalkboard told me that they are locally made. One hopes that anything locally made will be reasonably edible. And faggots aren’t hard to cook. As it turned out they were very good. A little overdone, but perfectly satisfying and pretty tasty.
I took more than these three photos. To see the full set of my snaps from our trip to Old Harry Rocks, click here and you will soon find yourself at the right place for the photo tour.