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When you think of Dorset, you think of the Jurassic Coast. 96 miles of stunning coastline, packed with iconic features such as Durdle Door. For scenic walking tours of England’s south coast, what better destination to start from? Below are a few of our recommended Dorset walks to try next time you’re in the area.
There are many different walking trails to choose from along the south coast, but the one we’ve chosen starts at the southern end of Studland Bay, where you will see the instantly recognisable chalk formation of Old Harry, one of the south coast’s most iconic features. It’s a rewarding stroll between Studland Bay and South Beach, with some incredible landscape on display, and it’s also fairly easy – it will take around 1-2 hours of your afternoon to walk the 3.5-mile length of the route.
Thousands of years ago, Old Harry was linked to The Needles on the Isle of Wight by a line of chalk hills, as was Old Harry’s Wife, a very similar chalk formation. Unfortunately, years of erosion mean that Old Harry’s Wife is now no more than a stump and the link between Old Harry and The Needles is no longer present. However, you do still get incredible coastal views as far out as The Needles on this walk.
Studland Bay, where this route originates, is owned by the National Trust and offers four miles of glorious beaches to stroll along. For those wanting to take their four-legged friends on this adventure with them, the good news is that the entire route is dog-friendly.
This fascinating walk gives you an insight into the importance of Purbeck’s limestone formations, and their significance to geologists, fossil hunters and more. The many caves and quarries of Purbeck, along with breath-taking coastal views, make for some fascinating scenery. The most recognisable of these quarries is Dancing Ledge, which gets its name from the fact that the limestone platform that still remains is about the size of a ballroom floor. The walk is moderate in difficulty, with some steep ascent and descent, and is around 4.5 miles in length. It’s recommended that you have a good quality pair of shoes, as some of the paths can be slippery. If you’re lucky, you may get to see some fascinating wildlife along the way, including Puffins nesting on the cliffs.
The coastal walk at Burton Bradstock is a short, circular route that takes just 30-40 minutes and is perfect for a quick and easy exploration of fascinating scenery. It’s a satisfying walk that offers panoramic views of the Jurassic Coast. On a very clear day, you can see as far out as Devon. You can walk along the South West Coast Path, the longest footpath in the country, towards the idyllic village of Burton Bradstock, before heading towards Burton Beach, which was famously used by soldiers during World War 2 to practice their invasion of Normandy.
This is a lengthy, endurance walk of 13 miles for those wanting to spend a day or more exploring the Jurassic Coast. If you are prepared to commit an extensive amount of time, you will be more than rewarded with dramatic coastline rugged cliffs and hidden coves. The Isle of Portland itself is a large limestone mass only connected to the mainland via a narrow causeway from Chesil Beach. Look out for a wide variety of wildlife, including rare plants and wildflowers, plus don’t forget to pay a visit to the iconic Portland Bill Lighthouse, which was used to guide boats safely across dangerous waters until 1996.
The Golden Cap is made up of a hill and a cliff, the latter of which is the highest point on the south coast, standing at 191 metres. The name Golden Cap comes from the distinctive outcropping of golden-coloured rock present at the top of the cliff and the cliff itself is visible for tens of miles along the coast. On a very clear day, you can see across Lyme Bay to Dartmoor. The cliff is very important geologically speaking and many fossil collectors visit the large boulders at the base of the cliff to see if they can find any exposed fossils. The hill is owned by the National Trust and offers miles of footpaths and several different routes to embark upon, with varying degrees of difficulty, meaning there will be something available for everyone, no matter how your mobility and fitness are.
If you’ve been inspired to pull on a pair of walking boots and explore the magnificent Jurassic Coast, then you should take a look at our excellent coastal Dorset holiday cottages.
Image credit – John Tomlinson