Every so often when we need to get away and go for a long walk we take off to the Dorset coast. It’s not too far and often our guests also make day trips to the area. This area is home to some unique geology and natural habitats, including the Jurassic coast, England’s only natural world heritage site. The scenery is stunning and there are plenty of good places to stop for lunch too.
In November Peter and I walked to Old Harrys Rocks, the weather was kind, we could see The Needles on the Isle of Wright, Bournemouth beach and we finished the walk off with a drink at The Pig on the Beach https://www.thepighotel.com/on-the-beach/
Distance 3½ miles
Start South Beach car park, grid ref: SZ038824
Few geological formations on the Dorset coastline are as instantly recognisable as the chalk sea stack of Old Harry and his wife. Formed by sea erosion, which now threatens the formation itself, the chalk headland offers spectacular views across Poole harbour to Bournemouth and the Isle of Wight. This easy walk takes you along the clifftop and through the chalk grassland of the surrounding area, with the added benefit of starting and ending at the Bankes Arms
Distance 2½ miles
Start West Bexington Beach car park, grid ref: SY532865
Following a short stretch of the South West Coast Path, this walk takes in the area around Chesil Beach, an 18-mile long “barrier beach” that shelters Weymouth from the erosion caused by the prevailing wind and waves. Fishermen are a common sight on the coastline. Further inland, the wide hedgerows offer excellent habitats for birds, and the nearby nature reserve (chesilbeach.org/cbfnr) offers further bird-spotting opportunities. Abbotsbury sub tropical gardens should not be missed if you’re down for the day.
Distance 3½ miles
Start Langton Matravers car park, grid ref: SY997784
Dancing Ledge at Langton Matravers, Swanage, has a small tidal pool that was blasted into the rock for use of local prep schools about a hundred years ago. This walk follows the natural limestone grassland through Scratch Arse Ware and surrounding fields to Dancing Ledge. The area is an evocative one – a nearby sycamore tree was thought to have been once used as a hangman’s tree and the coast nearby was smugglers’ territory.
The Scott Arms in nearby Kingston is a traditional pub with excellent views over Corfe Castle.
Distance 3 miles
Start Middle Beach car park, Studland village, grid reference: SZ035828
The sand spit of Studland is a unique spot – the only place in the British Isles where all six native species of reptile can be found. This walk takes in areas of the fascinating heath, which is also home to a diverse array of insects and birdlife. Studland (nationaltrust.org.uk/studland-beach) is the start point for the South West Coast Path, and is also home to some fantastic beaches, with barbecue spots and views across to Sandbanks (a short journey away on the chain ferry), Bournemouth, and the Isle of Wight. The wide open Shell Bay is a popular spot, with gently sloping waters backed by dunes, while for those who prefer slightly more freedom, the most popular naturist beach in Britain is nearby.
This walk takes you to two of Dorset’s most famous landmarks and is along the South West Coastal Path. When you reach Durdle Door you can walk down to the beach and reward yourself with a swim.
The Weld Arms in West Lulworth is a great pub for lunch
I could not finish without including Lyme Regis, although it’s not quite as close as the other routes I’ve mentioned. Lyme Regis boasts breathtaking scenery and a special mystique, making it a sparkling resort for all seasons. Its historic Cobb and harbour are iconic features, set against moody blue cliffs yielding fossilised evidence of life on earth millions of years ago. An ancient town featured in the Domesday Book, Lyme Regis is home to a number of historical landmarks and educational attractions.