A warm and sunny day hastened our departure from the Newt and helped ease the blow just a little bit. Our destination was about 2 hours south, The Jurassic Coast in Dorset. This was our busiest day on the entire trip and we may have bit off a little too much, but it was doable and the scenery was truly breathtaking.
The roads through the countryside were beautiful but, to us Americans, a bit treacherous. One lane paths wound through hamlets and villages where we often found ourselves bracing around corners hoping no one was coming the other direction. There's a scene in The Holiday where Cameron Diaz is trying to drive into the nearby village in Kate Winslet's Mini Cooper and as an oncoming truck barrels towards her, she starts screaming. I'm happy to report that is a very accurate depiction of driving through the English countryside.
But the magic of England triumphed over the inconvenience and soon sheep pastures, rolling hills, and green grasses lulled us into a sense of peace. That is until we started approaching more civilization and suddenly dark and foreboding castle ruins loomed above us. Corfe Castle wasn't on our itinerary for the day, but that's what traveling will do – teach you how to change plans.
We pulled into the parking lot and walked to the sweet little pub/visitor's center to find out what we had just seen and if we wanted to explore any more. Turns out this is quite the castle ruins with a long and storied history. Corfe Castle is over a thousand years old and was built in 1200AD for Henry 1 – William the Conqueror's son.
More impressive than the history though, was wondering how they built the castle sitting proudly on top of the mountain. If the ruins are impressive, I can't imagine how the actual castle looked 1,000 years ago.
We opted for the path less traveled and instead of heading into the village and the ruins like most people, we diverted onto a sheep path that had us climbing up a mountain on the opposite side of the ruins so we could look across the valley into the castle. It was magical. Far below us in the valley a steam passenger train chugged its route below the castle and I could have sworn it was the Hogwarts Express.
Hi, huge Harry Potter fan here. We popped into Corfe Castle Village with the intention of finding lunch and found a cute little cafe with some excellent gluten free options.
Stomachs filled with sandwiches and crisps we headed onward to the coast.
Our destination was Old Harry's Rocks on the Dorset Jurassic Coast. There are so many landmarks along this southern coastline – Durdle Door is another popular location – but it's all connected by these beautiful white cliffs and landscape that makes the area very well named.
For anyone else trying to plan a visit to Old Harry's Rocks: We parked at the South Beach carpark and ran into a Good Samaritan who saw us struggling with the parking meter situation (you couldn't pay cash and had to use the app, but it's hard to download an app when you have no cell service in a foreign country) and he gave us his all day parking pass.
Turn right out of the carpark and follow the signs to the trail for Old Harry's Rocks. It's about a 2 mile flat walk out to the edge of the cliffs.
The view was truly breathtaking and we tentatively explored (not too close) the cliff edges and views. We sat for a bit and watched the Royal Air Force practice parachuting drills over the English Channel and chatted with some locals on their daily hike.
All too soon the weather started getting blustery and the light began to fade so we bustled back to the car for the 3 hour journey back to London. Although there were so many sights along the way – Salsbury for example we drove through which has a beautiful gothic cathedral you can see for miles which houses one of the four remaining original Magna Cartas – we wanted to get back into London before it was too late at night to drop off the rental car.
Our London adventure continued in the region of Marylebone where we stayed in the hotel/pub called The Grazing Goat. It was the perfect cozy little room to rest for two nights before heading home.
Again, we had plans to visit a museum or two but the weather was again picture perfect so we walked Soho, Fitzrovia, and Mayfair where a few highlights included:
- Brunch at Granger and Co. an Australian restaurant
- a full and wonderful shopping experience in Liberty of London
- exploring the alley's and back roads of Soho filled with boutiques and small shops
- coffee at the Aime Leon Dore cafe ( we're big fans of their NYC store too and it was fun to pop into the London counterpart )
- dinner at Wagamama – which is not a particularly "London" restaurant but we know the menu well and I'm always impressed with their gluten free options.
And that was our trip to England. Truly utterly magical. From back alleys of London to resorts in the countryside and back to the bustle of Soho, we had a trip better than I could have imagined it being. Forever thankful and grateful to be able to see new places, experience life outside of my personal construct, and learn the lessons that only come through travel.
I hope this was a helpful recap for you if you're curious about what it looks like to plan a trip to England or if you're visiting anytime soon.
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