Best Dorset Walks Part 1 – The Isle of Purbeck

Wednesday, June 08, 2016 Hiking and Walking by William Dorey

If you’re looking for a day or two’s solid walking you can tackle all of these at once.

However, I’ve decided to break them up into several hour walks instead, so as to highlight the fantastic variety of locations Purbeck has on offer.

This is by no means a complete list, but it covers several of my personal favorite walks in Dorset:

Durlston Castle

Perched right up on the cliff above the dainty seaside town of Swanage, lies the unexpected Durlston Castle.

Durlston Castle

Built in the late-19th century it is made entirely of the local Purbeck stone.

The castle is surrounded by several hundred acres of parkland, nestled up against the steep rocky cliffs, and there are several paths that meander one way or another through and around the site.

A few oddities are also to be found in Durlston, including the curiously named Tilly Whim Caves; three disused stone mines that were active during the Eighteenth century.

You can still see the mineshaft entrances – although they are gated off and would be very dangerous to go inside.

I wouldn’t recommend it!

There is also a beautiful white lighthouse that you can visit that is located several hundred meters westward along the cliff path.

The area is also renowned for bird watching, with the steep cliffs providing the perfect nesting grounds for many species.

You might see Puffins, Swallows, Pallid Swifts, Yellowhammers, Skylarks and many more.

puffins

Throughout the year, it is also not uncommon to see dolphins in the sea just offshore, so keep an eye open and you may be one of the lucky ones!

Durlston Castle also has a restaurant inside, so you can combine your Dorset walk with a spot of lunch!

For more info visit: Durlston Castle’s official website.

3 day Dorset Walk: Dancing Ledge – Seacombe – Winspit

This section of the famous Jurassic Coast is my favorite (perhaps because it is very close to where I was brought up!) and is one of the best Dorset coastal walks to be had.

The three separate places I’ve referenced in the title are all different rocky coves.

You can walk to them from either direction along the coast – from Durlston in Swanage, or from Kingston/Kimmeridge.

However the easiest places to go from are Langton Matravers and Worth Matravers, two villages on the hill nearby.

You can park up, and then a number of different public footpaths lead out to the coastline (never more than a 45 minute walk, usually less).

Winspit is much nearer to Worth, and Dancing Ledge is much nearer to Langton, with Seacombe being accessible to both, but also closer to Worth.

You can walk between the three in a day quite easily, and they are all exceptionally beautiful places with an air of being secret and forgotten.

I’d recommend bringing swimming trunks if you are walking during the Summer months and it is warm, as they are all perfect places for a dip.

Dancing Ledge even has a man-made stone swimming pool cut into the rock, which you can go in at low tide!

Dancing Ledge

Easiest walk in Dorest: Studland Peninsula

The next wonderful piece of Nature’s handiwork is Studland Peninsula.

This is essentially a ‘spit,’ that being land formed by the directional movement of waves (‘Longshore drift’) bringing sediment along to coast to form new land.

This is no quick process, and takes many years to form, but the result is something special. Officially forming one end of the Isle of Purbeck, it contains some breathtaking heathland, myriad sand dunes, and one of the UK’s most perfect beaches.

Studland Beach is very long, and it has that golden sand that one can only dream of.

Studland Beach

Combine that with a view to the majestic Old Harry Rock (see point 5) and neighboring cliffs, and the sea view out to the Isle of Wight, there are not many better places to be in the UK!

If you take a stroll inland from the beach, trails lead in every direction through the dunes and heathland.

By this point, you will already be in the Nature Reserve, where there are freshwater lakes hosting a huge variety of wildlife, a plethora of birds, insectivorous plants (truly!) and if you are lucky enough – otters!

As a bonus point, the land here is mostly flat; making it one of the lighter Dorset walks on my list.

Kimmeridge Bay – Kingston

Another chunk of the Jurassic Coast and another one of my favorite Dorset walks – the sublime Kimmeridge Bay.

For the casual holidaymaker you might not ever learn of its existence if you visited the Isle of Purbeck, because there are not many signs, and even if you did see a sign you would likely think it was just a small village.

However, if you knew how majestic Kimmeridge Bay really is you would definitely be making a detour to visit.

On the one side you have the cliffs of Lulworth and Portland far off in the distance, and then on the other side (towards Swanage) you have Clavell Tower perched on the cliff and Swyre Head towering above behind it.

It is English countryside at it’s best.

Kimmeridge is also host to some of the best fossils in the UK – with the crumbly slate cliffs continually eroding, an incredible number of fossils are uncovered every year.

It would not be surprising if you found several at the bottom of the cliffs of the beach area.

There are several walking routes, either going from the sleepy village of Kingston to Kimmeridge, or the other way round

OR

you can make a circular route (3-4 hours) starting and ending in Kingston (there is an excellent pub there called The Scott Arms which is a good endpoint as they serve good food!).

Scott Arms Kingston

Here is the rout for this Kimmeridge walk.

NOTE: Kimmeridge Bay is privately owned, and there is a small charge of ┬ú4 or so to visit if coming directly by car.

Corfe Castle – Old Harry

One of the most essential spots to cover in my list of walks in Dorset is the mystical and ancient ruins of Corfe Castle.

It was built in the 11th century by none other than William The Conqueror, and underwent many stages of destruction and reconstruction that have brought it to its current state of dilapidation.

It remains an incredible sight nonetheless, especially to those that are not expecting to see it.

The National Trust now manages it, and for around £5 per person you can walk up on the hill amongst the ruins, all the way up to the keep.

Corfe Castle

My suggested walk is to go from Corfe village up to the top of the hill Nine Barrow Down, and then to follow the path along the top all the way out to where the cliffs meet the sea at Old Harry.

This endearingly named analogous geographical rock formation is the result of millennia of relentless sea erosion, gradually wearing down these beautiful chalk cliffs.

The views from the hill along most of this route are spectacular, with most of Purbeck in your sights for most of the way. It is even mentioned in Bill Bryson’s book ‘Notes From A Small Country.’

Here is the link to this Corfe Castle walk.

Arne RSPB Reserve

Purbeck really is an outstanding piece of land; so diverse in its beauty and so varied are its landscapes.

This final location really shows this to be true, as it couldn’t be more different to the Jurassic Coast.

Bordering Poole Harbor, and close to the town of Wareham, there is an area of low-lying heathland, made up of pretty meadows, swampland, forests and seaside – host to a huge variety of wildlife, including the mega-rare Smooth Snake!

From the car park, you can follow several different trails of varying lengths (30-80 mins) around the reserve, the longer of which reach the edge of the harbor side.

The Arne RSPB Reserve is also not far from Studland, and both places can easily be visited in a day. You can even walk between them (3-4 hours walk) if you want more of a trek!

More information is available on the official Arne RSPB Reserve website.