Enid Blyton and her husband Kenneth
© Isle of Purbeck Golf Club
© Isle of Purbeck Golf Club
Noddy Library at Knoll House Hotel
Enid Blyton was one of the most successful British authors of the twentieth century and wrote many books including The Famous Five, The Secret Seven, The Magic Faraway Tree, Noddy and many more.
She wrote more than 800 books and stories over 40 years, but still found time for three holidays a year in Dorset (specifically the Isle of Purbeck) for over twenty years. During the 1940’s she visited with her daughters Gillian and Imogen and later with her husband Kenneth.
“I somehow feel more English for having seen those Dorset fields, surrounded by hedges basking in the sun” said her character Julian from the Famous Five book ‘Five on Finniston Farm’.
When visiting Dorset, Enid and her family would often stay at The Grand Hotel in Swanage and the Knoll House Hotel in Studland.
Not only did Enid holiday in Dorset, but the beautiful landscapes and interesting people gave her inspiration for many characters and locations in her books. Enid’s character Mr Plod from the Noddy books is founded on the Studland village policeman of those days, PC Christopher Rone, who must surely now rank as the world's most famous policeman!
She wrote 21 full length Famous Five books. In the first book ‘Five on a Treasure Island’ you are introduced to four children – brothers Julian and Dick, their sister Anne and their cousin George (Georgina Kirrin). The fifth member is George’s dog Timmy. Enid is said to have based the character George on her younger self. The Five spend their school holidays together, sometimes staying at George’s parents’ house, ‘Kirrin Cottage’. There is sometimes a train journey mentioned in the books, which you too can re-create on a vintage train ride with Swanage Railway between Swanage and Corfe Castle.
Corfe Castle, which some say featured in Enid’s Famous Five novels as ‘Kirrin Castle’ is one of Dorset’s iconic landmarks. 2017 marked the 75th anniversary of the first Famous Five book, ‘Five on a Treasure Island’. In this book, the four children and Timmy the dog go on an adventure to Kirrin Island to hunt for lost gold. You can walk around the base of Corfe Castle or go inside and climb up for views over the village and surrounding countryside.
Just a couple of miles from Corfe Castle is The Blue Pool, described in the book 'Five Go Off In A Caravan' as “An enormous blue lake that lay glittering in the August sunshine”. The Pool is less blue these days, but doesn't that description just want to make you go and visit it for yourself! Set within the Furzebrook Estate, the Blue Pool is also home to Blue Pool Tea Rooms – a vintage style teahouse perfect for lunch or a cream tea.
In the Famous Five book ‘Five Fall into Adventure’, the children take a picnic down to the sea “Where rocks jutted up from the beach, surrounded by limpid rock pools”. This is undoubtedly Kimmeridge Bay which is one of the best places to go rock-pooling in Dorset. Later in the book, the children row a boat around the coastline until they see “a high cliff” on top of which was a “dour, grey stone building….. a little like a castle. It brooded over the sea with one square tower overlooking the waves.” The building is thought to have been inspired by Clavell Tower – built in 1831 as a folly and which is now holiday accommodation with amazing views over Kimmeridge Bay.
“Mystery Moor” in the Famous Five book ‘Five go to Mystery Moor’ is reputedly based on Stoborough Heath, found between the Blue Pool and Ridge. It is home to heathland birds, all six native species of reptile and the vivid marsh gentian. The “railway line” mentioned in the book is now a dismantled tramway which can be walked along. You can follow the Purbeck Way walking trail from Corfe Castle to Stoborough Heath passing by the Blue Pool along the way.
She did all the things that you may wish to do on holiday, such as climbing aboard a steam train and travelling through Corfe Castle village to the pretty seaside town of Swanage. She also often enjoyed swimming around Swanage Pier with her husband Kenneth - now the pier is a popular diving spot where all kinds of aquatic creatures can be seen.
The coast where she walked has now been designated as part of the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site. Blyton’s ‘The Rubadub Mystery’ is thought to be set at the beautiful Stair Hole next to Lulworth Cove - a fantastic place to see blow holes, caves, arches and coves. The book is set in a seaside village with a secret whirlpool and submarine bay. Not the Famous Five this time, but four children, a dog and a monkey go on an adventure to discover spies and long lost relatives. The ‘seaside village’ of Rubadub-On-Sea could easily be a description of Swanage or Weymouth with their piers and promenades, and the ‘submarine bay’ is most likely to be Portland Harbour near Weymouth – where torpedoes were developed and manufactured.
Enid and her husband Kenneth Darrell Waters were keen golfers and in 1951 they purchased Studland Bay Golf Club (now known as the Isle of Purbeck Golf Club). Gordon ‘Johnny’ James was the Club’s greenkeeper and also Enid’s ‘bright-eyed’ and ‘nut-brown’ caddie, who she tipped lavishly and included as the character Lucas in her book ‘Five Have a Mystery to Solve’. Even if you don't like golf, you can admire the amazing views over Poole Harbour from the clubhouse and enjoy a drink or something to eat.
Poole Harbour which Enid admired, is a site of national importance for migratory birds and Brownsea Island (owned by the National Trust) in the harbour is believed to be Enid's 'Whispering Island' in the Famous Five books. In Enid’s time, Brownsea Island was owned by the very reclusive Mrs Bonham-Christie, who would not tolerate visitors and allowed the island to return to nature. In ‘Five Have a Mystery to Solve’, Enid described it as “Keep Away Island”. Now, the Island is open to everyone and it’s one of the few places in England where you can see red squirrels. You will need to catch a boat to the Island from Sandbanks or Poole Quay.
Although Enid never lived in Dorset, she owned Manor Farm at Stourton Caundle near Sturminster Newton, which she would visit when in the area. This farm was the inspiration for the Famous Five book ‘Five on Finniston Farm’.
It really is no wonder that Enid Blyton found Dorset a place to retreat to and write such inspirational stories for her children.
If you are staying in Swanage, you can travel along the famous Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site from Swanage Pier to Poole Quay passing Old Harry Rocks along the way.
If you are staying in Poole, you can catch a boat to Swanage and then get on a vintage train with Swanage Railway to Corfe Castle. You can also take a boat trip from Poole Quay around the harbour and see all the islands. You might not be able to get off the boat in winter - but Brownsea Island was out of bounds in Enid's day too. Boats also run from Sandbanks to Brownsea Island in the summer.
You too can pretend to be part of the Famous Five by following the Enid Blyton Trail and visiting the places that inspired Enid's books. Or why not use our 3 day itinerary to explore The Isle of Purbeck just like Enid and her books' characters did. Don’t forget to pack yourself some corned beef sandwiches and lashings of ginger beer for the journey!
Spend 72 hours in the Isle of Purbeck and have a jolly good time, just like the Famous Five did!
Visit places which inspired Enid Blyton to write some of her most loved books.
Situated on the Isle of Purbeck, the coastal town of Swanage is a fun family resort ideal for...
Corfe Castle village is overlooked by the outstanding ruins of its castle perched on a hill in a gap...
Dorset's wonderful, contrasting landscape has inspired many famous writers to put pen to paper...