I’m very fortunate to live on the South Coast, which means that whilst we are somewhat lacking in mountains, we do have the beautiful walks along the South West Coast Path, and believe me, if you’re looking for ascents/descents, it will not disappoint…
I have been walking these sections of the SW Coast path since childhood. We would come down here a lot after school with our parents, and as I grew up I learned more about the coast, as we undertook our Silver DofE Expedition in the Purbecks.
If you’re looking for stunning vistas and arguably some of the best views along the Jurassic Coast, then look no further…
Tyneham to Lulworth Cove
This walk starts and finishes at the village of Tyneham, a ‘ghost village’ on the Lulworth Ranges in Dorset and one of the only parishes in the UK with a population of zero… In 1943, the land (including the village) was requisitioned for military use, to be used as firing ranges. The people of Tyneham left their houses, intending to be able to move back, but never did.
From Tyneham, you walk out of the village towards Worbarrow Bay.
Out of Worbarrow, you follow the SW Coast Path markers up the hill. This section is steep, and on a wet day can turn very slippery. At the top of this section is Flowers Barrow, an iron age hillfort built over 2500 years ago. You can still see hut circles and some of the ramparts. From Flowers Barrow you follow the Coast Path markers. Don’t worry if you can’t spot them, there are also yellow posts all along this route which you need to stay inside anyway, due to unexploded ordnance left over by the army. Walk over the top of Flowers Barrow and you’ll begin to head down the hill to Arish Mell. Local legend says that one foggy night Roman legionnaires were making their way back to camp across the cliffs at Arish Mell and fell to their deaths. It’s rumoured when the night turns foggy & if you listen very carefully, you are able to make out the clang of armour and their desperate cries.
If, however, you’re there in daylight, it’s worth noting that you can’t go on to the beach due to unexploded ordnance. Arish Mell is also the site where the pipeline from Winfrith Nuclear site used to come out into the sea.
From Arish Mell, you head back up the cliffs, it’s another steep climb but there are steps (of sorts) if you choose to use them. I recommend you do, not least so you can finish this walk, but also so that you can see the beautiful views along the coast in both directions! Eventually the coast path splits, follow it to the left and you’ll head down to Mupe Bay A beautiful spot in summer, and due to its inaccessibility often a lot less busy than other beaches along the coast…
From here you walk along the coast path, above a smuggler’s cave (really!), past the fossil forest and a lookout tower. You’ll eventually pass through the gate that takes you out of the Lulworth Ranges.
Keep following it and you’ll reach Lulworth Cove. This walk is a great one, but ensure that it’s a weekend where the Lulworth Ranges are open before heading down there! You can find this walk online at OS Maps if you want to follow it – here.
From Lulworth, if you want to continue on, there’s a beautiful walk up over the hill at the far end of the car park, which will bring you out above Man O’War Cove and the famous Durdle Door!
After something less hilly?
Then head to Portland Bill. From the car park, you can walk around the headland, near the lighthouse, see the famous Pulpit Rock or watch the Portland tidal race. The walk along the coast path is fantastic, and definitely bracing on a breezy day!
There are no hills, it’s a beautiful walk on a sunny day, especially if the wind is up as the waves crashing on the rocks is an amazing sight!
My favourite coast path walk?
As a teenage Sea Cadet, I took part in my silver Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, and for the expedition we headed to the Isle of Purbeck, famous for being home to Corfe Castle and some of the most breathtaking views of the Dorset coastline. It’s now somewhere I walk regularly, and have been known to wild camp here too!
The best place to start and end this walk is in the village car park in Worth Matravers. We couldn’t do that on this occasion as it was full, so found parking on the road by the pond (this is not available between May and September).
Turn right from the car park and head in to the village, the famous Square and Compass Pub will be on your left. When you reach the village pond, follow the lane below it past a row of very pretty terraced houses.
Bear slightly to the left and the path is fairly obvious, so follow it until you reach a gate and then head through the field. You’ll reach another gate, pass through this and continue on the gravel track past Winspit Cottage. The path from here is easy to follow and takes you right down to the sea and quarry.
This quarry has some fantastic rock climbing… It’s also not a bad wild camping spot, if you’re so inclined, but remember to arrive late, depart early and leave no trace!
In my case, I left pretty much as soon as the sun came up!
Just before the quarry, there is a SW Coast Path Marker for St Aldhelm’s Head, so you can’t miss it! After around 1 mile you will reach another fork in the path. At this point, you can either head left, down in to a dip in the cliff, with some old bunkers and building remnants, or up and across the top, past the monument to WWII radar development.
From St Aldhelm’s Head, there are 2 options.
For the more sedate walk (avoiding the aptly named by my friend Steph ‘devil’s staircase’) fork right, towards the coastguard cottages and follow the flatter path around to Chapman’s Pool.
For the more adventurous route, head out along the cliff path once more, past more benches with stunning views across the Purbeck coastline until you reach the steps. They are fairly steep and will need to be taken one at a time. The steps are quite muddy, so exercise caution in wet weather.
Continue following the path, cross a stile and follow the rocky path around in to another field, where you will have the most amazing view of Chapman’s Pool from the Royal Marines Memorial.
Cross another stile and follow the path through a field over to a farm. On the road, it’s signposted Worth ¾. Pass the car park at Renscombe Farm and turn right to head along the road to Worth Matravers with the pond on your right, back to the car park.
These are 3 of my absolute favourite walks on the Dorset coast and I can’t recommend them enough to anyone who either wants a challenge, or just some stunning scenery.
Kate blogs over at Adventures of Kate and is an award winning outdoor and adventure blogger with an insatiable desire to be in the mountains or near the sea.