Monday, 31 August 2015

Isle Of Wonders - Discovering Purbeck

The Isle of Purbeck is not what it may seem. In fact it isn't even an island, but a peninsula creeping out the south of Dorset between Poole and Weymouth.

Just 15 or so miles from the hustle and bustle of Bournemouth, Purbeck is a world away in atmosphere. Busy beaches are replaced with quiet coves and the packed towns give way to sleepy villages.

This August Purbeck opened it's doors to the somewhat unexpected occasions of reggae parties and outdoor movie nights. I went along to see what surprises this corner of Dorset had in store.

Reggae Night In Kingston, Dorset

As August rolled into Dorset, The Scott Arms in Kingston announced their reggae and jerk party night. Kingston, Dorset would for one day transform to embody the colour and flavour of its Jamaican counterpart with rum punch, jerk chicken and reggae on the decks.

The village is famous because of The Scott Arms pub and it's stunning views overlooking the Purbeck hills and Corfe Castle. The village itself is dotted with nothing more than quaint cottages selling fresh honey and eggs and an imposing church; the epitome of British countryside living.

As we arrived the cars were mounted on any available piece of narrow road, and the music was humming. The usually more than adequate beer garden was loaded with a heady mix of families, local and an eclectic crowd drawn in for the party. Locals chatted among themselves in that wonderful way village communities do that townies don't get and the laid back vibe took hold.

Jerk was all that was on the menu, so we snaffled a seat next to a new family and ate our jerk with rice and peas, plantain and homemade slaw, washing it down with a glass of punch as the sun set. And it went down very nicely. The flavours were balanced and tasty, and whilst I would have liked a little more spice, I think it was a perfect introduction to Jerk for a Dorset village.

The party rolled into the night long after we'd left, no doubt the event of the year for this tiny nook.

Luna Cinema at Lulworth Castle

Our next exciting discovery on the Isle of Purbeck was that the Luna Cinema was bringing an outdoor movie night to the iconic Lulworth Castle in late August.

Lulworth Castle actually isn't a castle at all, and was built as a hunting lodge in the early 1600's, before being seized by the Roundheads during the English Civil War. The French royal family used it as a residence in exile in the 1800's and the whole building was gutted by a fire in the 1920's. After much restoration with the help of English Heritage, the Weld family who have owned the castle since the 1640's, opened the gates in 1998 and the castle became a top event site in Dorset, hosting weddings, Camp Bestival and now Luna Cinema. 

Approaching the castle through the gates it looked like something from a movie, with the sunset casting a vanilla speckled sky over the turrets. We and other film fans milled about exploring the castle and grabbing a burger before huddling up in our camping chairs and blankets and accepting more than our fair share of free Starbucks and cider samples. 

The movie tonight was a Sunday afternoon favourite in my family; Back To The Future! We don't get many outdoor cinema clubs in Dorset and although I've made my pilgrimages to the likes of Summer Screen at Somerset House, there's nothing like events in your own back yard.

As we settled into the movie, I realised this was probably the first time in my life I've sat silently, undisturbed by my phone to watch this movie. There were so many smaller details which I'd become blind to in the years of lazy Sunday afternoon watching. I was discovering it all over again, almost like watching it for the first time. 

Despite the autumnal chill that crept in as the moon rose, we giggled and snuggled until it was time to go home, having rediscovered a classic in a show-stopping setting.

There's loads more to discover in Purbeck too, including the stunning natural sights of Durdle Door and the Jurassic Coast, and the villages of Wareham and Worth Matravers. Have you visited any? Share your favourite Purbeck spots with me.