Home to more footpaths and bridleways than a-roads, it’s little wonder Dorset is considered one of the UK’s premier walking destinations. For centuries, this largely rural county on England’s South Coast has attracted no-end of contemplative strollers, the most famous of which being Thomas Hardy, who spent much of his time gallivanting around Dorset’s pleasant pastures and squally, Jurassic Coast.
Follow in the footsteps of this famous Victorian novelist on your next holiday in Dorset with a hazy summer stroll in the charming Melbury Downs. Comprising the UK’s largest collection of butterflies, as well as a lush, evocative panorama that’s bound to put a smile on your face, this handsome chalk downland is the perfect place to spend a sweltering summer’s day in the hiking boots.
Tough terrain and steep ascents make this 3 mile walk a fair challenge, so give yourself plenty of time to complete the route. If tackling it during the summer months, be sure to carry plenty of water as shops are few and far between.
Park in the Spread Eagle Hill car park, turn left and follow the road North for around 300m. Here you’ll find a gate; walk through this and follow the fence before ascending up the charming Melbury Hill. When you’ve reached the top, breathe hard, relax and enjoy the 360 degree panorama of the Vale of Wardour, Shaftesbury and Blackmore Vale.
Descend the Beacon via a more southerly route and keep your eye out for rare butterflies, including the chalkhill blue and marbled white. The Downs are also famed for their glow worms, which appear when the weather’s good, so be sure to carry your camera in order to capture these peculiar creepy crawlies as they illuminate your path.
Once you’ve reached the Saddle of the hill, turn right and pass through the pedestrian gate, before following the fence on your left which traverses the summit of Compton Down. Eventually, you’ll reach a stile that’s buried in a thick hedge; climb this, keeping an eye on the impenetrable branches for a glimpse of the illusive Adonis butterfly, before heading west until you rejoin the path which takes you back to the car park.
Download the comprehensive route and map for this walk here.
Rent a cottage in Dorset with Sykes Cottages
With 130 cottages to rent from coast to country throughout Dorset, there’s no better base for a walking holiday in this marvellous English county. To find out more about Dorset, or to choose the perfect cottage for your trip, visit our Dorset cottages page today.