Durlston Castle has been voted Britain's favourite heritage project.

The Swanage folly has been crowned the country's after topping the public vote in this year's National Lottery Awards.

EastEnders and Gavin & Stacy actor Larry Lamb paid castle workers a surprise visit to present them with the award, which recognises the contribution lottery-funded projects make in local communities.

Larry, who is no stranger to Swanage, explained: “My grandmother was from Wareham so Swanage was the first place I ever saw the sea as a child.”

The actor revealed none of the castle staff knew what was going to happen when he arrived with lottery representatives.

“They knew something was going to happen but they didn't know what, “ he said. “It was lovely to be part of it.”

Durlston, which also scooped a £2,000 cash prize, and the six other winners will be celebrated on a star-studded BBC programme later this year.

Larry said: “I was delighted to present the award to Durlston Castle. It shows just how popular and important the castle is, beating so many excellent projects to win this prestigious award.”

Hamish Murray, from Durlston Castle, described the award as a huge honour.

He added: “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.”

Daily Echo readers were among those who backed the castle in the online poll that allowed the attraction to secure its place in the finals of the nationwide competition

Its recent renovation has opened up improved facilities which can be accessed by a wider range of visitors.