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About Durlston Country Park

Durlston from the westDurlston Country Park is a 320 acre country park and nature reserve. The Park is part of the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site, and has been owned by Dorset County Council since the early 1970's. 

The Park is Grade II listed in the National Register of Historic Parks and Gardens. Most of the Park is a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest and since 1997, a Special Area of Conservation. The majority is also designated as a Site of Nature Conservation Importance. In 1997 the Dorset and East Devon Coast was awarded World Heritage Site status for its geological importance. Durlston forms part of an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the Purbeck Heritage Coast (which holds a Council of Europe Diploma for its management).

In June 2008, Durlston was awarded National Nature Reserve status by Natural England in recognition of the national importance of Durlston for wildlife. Durlston has also been awarded the Green Flag Award in recognition of the quality of its amenities for visitors. Visitor facilities at Durlston include a Visitor Centre, a shop and the seventhwave cafe in the castle, walking trails, public toilets and car parking. 


Park map

Weather today

This weather forecast is taken from the Durlston weather station by the Learning Centre.


Wildlife and landscape

Few places in Britain equal Durlston. The bare statistics merely hint at the amazing diversity of wildlife: 33 species of breeding butterfly,

Wild flowers at Durlston

over 250 species of bird recorded, 500 wildflowers, 500 moths and thousands of other invertebrates.

Durlston's special qualities stem from a combination of geography, geology, history and careful management which has created a mosaic of nationally important wildlife habitats: sea cliffs, downs, ancient meadows, hedgerows, woodland, and dry stone walls each with their characteristic plants and animals. 


Tilly Whim quarryWildlife apart, there are plenty of other things to see: The history of  Durlston can be detected in the now dry, glacial river valley, the ancient Saxon field systems, two types of quarry, the inland Purbeck Stone Quarry, and the Portland limestone cliff quarry known as Tilly Whim Caves.


High on the ridge remain the footings of a Napoleonic telegraph station, and Anvil Point Lighthouse adds further interest to a visit.




The great globeThe eminent Victorian, George Burt, left a legacy of fascinating artefacts. These include the 'Great Globe', 40 tons of Portland limestone, cast iron bollards from the City, St Martin's and other parts of London, and Durlston Castle itself, all linked by scenic cliff top paths with Victorian panels quoting poetry and facts of interest.



Durlston teaching sessionEach year, thousands of school children and students use Durlston as an educational resource.  A wide range of sessions and other educational facilities are provided by the Rangers to help them get the most from their visit.






Friends of Durlston

The Park has always had close ties with the local community, and the Friends of Durlston organisation provides a focus for goodwill and support. 

Over 700 Friends provide an enormous amount of practical help from running the Visitor Centre counter and updating our wildlife records, to monitoring butterflies and building dry stone walls.

There is also a thriving social side to the 'Friends', with illustrated talks held monthly and other events throughout the year.



Sustainability Policy

Durlston Country Park is committed to championing sustainability in our local community. We strive to go above and beyond the guidelines set out in Dorset Council’s Environmental Policy and have implemented several measures to this effect. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • Managing Durlston to maximise the value of the Park for wildlife (grasslands and woodlands act as a carbon sink, as well as supporting internationally important wildlife).
  • Installing 10KW of photovoltaic panels on site which have offset 42 tonnes of carbon as of 2019.
  • Using an air source heat pump to heat the Learning Centre.
  • Minimizing the use of herbicides.
  • Minimizing waste and promoting recycling through the facilities provided on site.
  • Using only recycled plastic or paper bags in our shop.
  • An ongoing phased transition from petrol power tools to electric models.
  • Sourcing goods and services in line with environmental best practice.
  • Working with partner organisations and local interest groups to improve our standards and practices.
  • Working to improve car free access opportunities including the Durlston Neighbourcar Lift-share scheme, a seasonal shuttle bus and improvements to pedestrian access from Swanage.
  • Installing a water refilling station at the Castle Kiosk for visitors to use.
  • The installation of a compost toilet at The Shed to reduce water use.
  • A programme of education for school groups and visitors to raise awareness of environmental issues and conservation.
  • Working in partnership with the seventhwave Cafe to champion sustainability. The cafe has taken several measures including their 7 mile menu with ingredients sourced from within seven miles of Durlston, gaining plastic free status due to reducing single use plastic items and offering discounted takeaway drinks for those who bring their own containers.

Durlston will also be working to help deliver Dorset Council’s new draft Climate and Ecological Emergency and Action Plan



The Council's policy of 'Conservation for Public Enjoyment' has formed the basis of the Park's management for 40 years. This, combined with the support of the Friends and many others, has led to a number of awards including:

2021. Green Flag Award

2020. Durlston won Gold in the Visit England Awards in the Accessible and Inclusive Tourism category.


2020. Accredited Country Park Award.


2019. Durlston won Gold in the Dorset Tourism Awards in the Accessible and Inclusive Tourism category. The park then went on to win Bronze in the South West Tourism Awards in the same category.


2012. The Castle renovation was voted the best Heritage Lottery Project


2010. Durlston was voted 2nd in a competition to find Britain's Favourite Park, organised by The Keep Britain Tidy Group.


2006. Durlston received the Royal Horticultural Society's 'Conservation and Environment Award' for outstanding conservation work.


2006. English Nature SSSI Award.


As an internationally important site for wildlife and geology, Durlston is protected by a host of designations. Durlston forms part of an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the Purbeck Heritage Coast (which holds a Council of Europe Diploma for it's management).

Most of the Park is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and since 1997, a Special Area of Conservation. Most of the Park is also designated as a Site of Nature Conservation Importance, while in 1997, the Dorset and East Devon Coast was awarded World Heritage Site status for its geological importance.

In June 2008, Durlston was awarded National Nature Reserve Status by Natural England in recognition of the national importance of Durlston for wildlife.

This long list of accolades and designations highlight the site's importance and provide a reminder of the great care that must be taken to conserve this wonderful facility for future generations.

At any time of year, a visit to Durlston is a memorable experience. Despite its popularity, there is still the peace and quiet to enjoy the natural splendours of the area, and no matter how many times you visit there is always something new to see and enjoy.

GrasshopperTilly Whim quarry

Durlston Castle