One of Dorset’s leading heritage sites is celebrating after scooping a top national award.
Durlston Castle, in Swanage, was voted Best Heritage Project in this year’s National Lottery Awards after being put to a public vote.
Volunteers and staff were stunned when celebrated actor Larry Lamb, best known for roles in EastEnders and Gavin and Stacey, dropped in to present them with the award.
More than a hundred lottery-funded heritage projects, from all over Britain, applied for the award. From these, the best 10 were selected by a panel of experts, before two rounds of public voting crowned Durlston as the clear winner.
The castle, which is run by Dorset County Council’s countryside ranger service with help from volunteers from the group Friends of Durlston, is a key attraction on the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site.
It was reopened in November last year after undergoing renovation works, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, with support from a wide range of funders and the county council.
Durlston Castle now boasts improved facilities, a restaurant, and a world-class interactive visitor centre.
Since the castle reopened, there has been an influx of new visitors, with more than 200,000 visits in the first year of operation. This has benefited the local economy and new jobs have been created for local residents.
Members of staff from Durlston will join the six other winners for the National Lottery Awards at a special star-studded BBC One programme later in the year.
Winners receive a £2,000 cash prize to spend on their project as well as a coveted National Lottery Awards trophy.
Larry Lamb said:
“I am delighted to present this award to Durlston Castle. It shows just how popular and important Durlston Castle is, beating so many excellent projects to win this prestigious award. National Lottery players should be proud that their money has made such a difference to the castle.”
Hamish Murray, countryside ranger manager at Dorset County Council, said:
“It is a huge honour for everyone associated with Durlston to win the UK’s Best Heritage Project.
“Lottery funding has helped Dorset County Council to transform the castle into a world-class facility for everyone who visits this wonderful section of the Jurassic Coast.
“The Durlston Rangers, project team and volunteers have worked tirelessly to make the project happen, and the award reflects the tremendous support of the local community.”
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Dorset County Council
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