The Isle Of Purbeck


The Isle Of Purbeck Medium Route – pdf
Distance: 29.1km
Time: 2-3 Hours
Total Ascent: 654m

The Isle Of Purbeck Big Route – pdf
Distance: 47.9km
Time: 3-4 Hours
Total Ascent: 767m

To push an analogy, If Arran, the island off Scotland is referred as Scotland in miniature, then the Purbecks could be described as the Southwest in micro. The Purbecks are a small range of hills just off the south west coast of Poole, and while it isn’t strictly an island it is almost one, and certainly feels distinct from the mainland. The easiest way to reach the Purbecks is through the stretch of country by Poole known as the Sandbanks and apparently the most expensive real estate in the UK (and second only to Monaco in Europe).


In an almost embarrassingly clichéd way for Singletrack the night before this route guide is a blur that possibly involved two pubs and some strange Australian themed bar. David from Hot wheels (our generous hosts and bike providers for this route) seemed to have a thirst entirely unquenched by the excesses off Christmas and New Year and was keen to drink. It seemed to be rude not to. After Nurofen and a brief tour of Hot Wheels warehouse in the morning and crashing on a terrifying chopper mini bike we thought we really ought to get out and about.

It’s like an adventure, only smaller.

issue40pic2The thing with mini adventures is apart from a hangover to nurse, an exciting way to get to the start of the ride really helps. The Purbecks gives you the perfect opportunity, with a chain bridge ferry to cross the few hundred metres of open water to the start off the ride proper. The initial road race that ensued was the standard ‘kill the journalist’
ploy that’s an occupational hazard for us, Chipps with years more experience at these games rode at his own pace with partner Emily, while I turned a decent shade of purple and gripped on to the rear wheel of David’s bike and clung on for dear life, as we gurned into a chunky headwind.

Once everyone was suitably in oxygen debt and aware of their officebound legs and Christmas Pudding body, things settled down into a much more settled pace, initially the ride was mostly double track through hardwood and pine wood stands, there was time to breathe and not be buffeted by the wind.

I’d travelled down from the north the night before and was frankly hoping for some clear skies and some mild south coast weather, instead I seemed to have transported with me howling winds dense fog and after not too long, freezing rain. This was one of those rides where the poor guide has to spend the whole time saying “Normally just over there there’s an amazing view of the channel” and “When the water isn’t boiling you can see porpoise here’. Instead, like a blind man reading brail we looked down at our front wheels and received information from the trail through the knobbles of out tires. Looking up just stung too much. Corfe Castle is right over… there… somewhere.

The highlight of the ride should have been a fabulous ridge with the sea to the left of us, open country to the right (it’s very reminiscent of the South Downs) and the beautiful Corfe Castle ahead, the reality was a tightly huddled group pedalling into a gale force wind with heavy rain and hail beating against us and no one seeing anything at all. Despite this you can see the potential of the riding. There’s nothing terribly technical but on a nice day it would be a fun day out, great views, clean air and some great places to see on the way around. It’s perfect ‘take your mate that’s never been riding before’ kind of riding with enough ups to feel like you’ve had a workout.

issue40pic3Today however felt more like Paris-Roubaix as we rode through a wet, grey farm and headed up an unfathomably steep cobbled climb, rain dripping from my helmet peak onto my nose and my sleeves slowly filling with rain, I tried desperately to remember this was one of the perks of the job and should be grateful. Some of our friends from Hot
Wheels that were now pushing up the climb behind me probably felt the same way too.

After regrouping, a discussion about which pub to go to for lunch nearly ended in mutiny. I realised that it really was probably what a good ride should be all about: machismo at the beginning and then the brief unity that that the joint suffering of rain and headwind brings, then near murder when someone suggests riding to the pub further away than
pub that is nearer!

Sitting in the trendy low-lit pub, dripping mud and water onto the carpet and leaving grit trails on anything we went near, we looked out in to the gloom. “What’s that”? “Corfe Castle. Were heading back past it on the way back” It looked about ten miles away and the we still needed to get to the ferry, after looking at the decreasing light I let out a resigned sigh, and looked in to my bag to see if I’d packed my lights, it was going to be a long day. We then discovered that all the hot drinks were off the menu as the pub had had a powercut – which would explain the ‘trendy’ candles on all the tables. Fortunately, the sausage sandwich making machinery was still operational or we’d have had another mutiny.
Leaving the pub, we reached in Corfe Castle in about five minutes, the whole country in miniature completely throwing my scale off kilter, Corfe Castle is imposing but it’s not Balmoral, the hills are generous but not Munros, and therein lies this place’s charm. It’s cosy olde world South West, the houses are ridiculously twee, there are teas shops everywhere and nice old pubs. You can ride a mountain bike here and have good day out but you’ll never be far from cream teas/ice cream/or beer and a restaurant.

issue40pic4As we slogged back to the ferry, my feet squelching in my boots, the brief gaps in the cloud revealed beautiful views out to sea and across to the mainland. Turning back towards the island, dark woods clung to hills with smoke from cottages stalling above them, I had that hard to describe feeling inside that only being outside can do, and if the Purbecks can do that in weather like this they really can’t be bad.


The Jurassic Coast is an area of outstanding natural beauty (when you can see it) and has a huge amount of touristy places to stay, from campsites to self-catering castles. The road riding and walking around there is spectacular too, so why not make a long weekend of it?


We stayed at the Premier Inn, Holes Bay, Poole.
08701 977 210

Bike Shops:

Bikelab, Poole
01202 330011
Offcamber Cycles, Blandford Forum
Ride Cycle Works, Poole
01202 741744
And many more, as the saying goes.

For more info:

See the brand new Mountain Bike Guide to Dorset by Ernest Press for 33 routes around the area.

Categorised as:

South West England