If there were any island I’d like to be shipwrecked on, this would be it. Brownsea is the largest of all the islands in Poole Harbour, is incredibly beautiful, full of amazing wildlife, surrounded by crystal clear blue waters and….oh ok, it has a castle. I simply refuse to be marooned anywhere that doesn’t have a castle. Unfortunately, stays at said castle can currently only be enjoyed by employees of the John Lewis / Waitrose partnership since they lease this castle come luxury hotel. But I figure in marooning emergencies they’d make an exception right?
Brownsea Island, owned by the National Trust was one of my favourite destinations during school summer holidays as a child and still is my go-to day out for peace, quiet and pure beauty.
As the word ‘island’ suggests, the only way of getting there is by boat. Numerous small ferry companies leave at half hourly intervals from Poole Quay and also from Sandbanks, a stones throw away from the Harbour Hotel, right next to the chain ferry which comes from the Purbecks. The journey is around £10 per adult and £6 per child return (family tickets are also available), and includes a very interesting trip round all the islands with running commentary on the history of each one (depending on tides).
If you’re a member of the National Trust, entry onto the island is free….yes you heard me, free! If you’re not, it will cost you £6 (£3 for children) – and you can easily spend a full day on Brownsea.
The main buildings on the island include tea rooms, gift shop, the castle, and a beautiful church. At the moment just 30 people live on the island in 10 houses located in an idyllic spot next to the castle with fab views back to Poole Harbour (my jealousy of their location was quickly dampened by the realisation there is neither a bar or a clothes shop on the island – how do these people survive?!). Most of the islands inhabitants work either for the National Trust or the John Lewis partnership.
The rest of the Island is yours to roam. You will receive a map when you arrive which outlines the different walks you can do depending on how much time you have. I would strongly recommend you walk the entire length of the island – if I can manage it, you definitely can. It will take you roughly 2 – 3 hours, (longer if you stop for a picnic) and takes in some of the most beautiful views of Poole Harbour and the Purbeck hills you have ever seen. It’s so quiet and peaceful that at times you really do feel that you could be on a paradise island in the middle of nowhere.
The island is also teaming with wildlife. One half of it is a protected nature reserve and is home to the rare red squirrel, these poor mites are almost extinct in Southern England so seeing one is a real treat. My top tip is to go before the 24th October and book the red squirrel guided walk, as this is the time of the year they come down from the canopy of trees to store food on the ground ready for winter.
In fact, Autumn is a great time to visit Brownsea. Download their ‘Rich Reds of Autumn’ walk map to experience Brownsea’s awesome autumn colours.
Brownsea Island – Do’s and Don’ts
Do take a picnic. There gorgeous scenic spots round every corner and plenty of picnic tables and benches.
Do visit the scout camp – founded in 1907 by Baden Powell Brownsea was where the scouting movement first began.
Don’t try and pick a pretty feather from from a peacock’s tail. It’s cruel, they don’t like it, and they’re more fierce than they look!
Do check out the gift shop for some great local produce including jams, chutneys and my favourite – fudge!
Do take outdoor games, there are plenty of open grassy spaces for you to play in.
Don’t make lots of noise if you want to be in with a chance of spotting a red squirrel.
Don’t stand too close to the cliff edge….it makes me feel sick…..please….don’t!