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The Jurassic Coast has some of the most stunning scenery in the UK with natural arches, limestone stacks and towering cliffs. Here are 6 great Dorset coastal walks to help you see the best.
The South West Coast path is one of the most iconic trails in Britain. Stretching 630 miles along the southwest of the country, the route collects everything from stunning beaches to historic castles; cream teas to comfy country pubs.
A small section of the path (about 100 miles) contains Dorset’s Jurassic Coast. Here, jagged white cliffs plunge into the ocean and huge arcs of golden beaches frame the English Channel making it some of the finest scenery in Britain.
The good news is you don’t need to traverse the entire 630 miles to get a taste of this dramatic countryside. We have put together six Jurassic Coast walks that capture the best of the area. Each is only 1 to 3 hours long, not too difficult, and makes for a great half-day out.
So grab your walking shoes, collect towering cliff tops, stop at natural arches, sample local ales, and discover homey cafes with our favourite Dorset Coastal walks.
Booking your trip via the links on this page (or on our book page) will earn us a small commission, at no extra cost to you. Thanks for your support – Paul & Mark.
IN THIS GUIDE
STUNNING DORSET COASTAL WALKS
1 – OLD HARRY ROCKS
Difficulty – Easy | Distance – 6.2 kilometres (3.9 miles) | Time – 2 hours | Our Tip: Don’t stand too near the edge of the cliffs when taking photos.
Old Harry Rocks was once two white limestone rocks standing proud at the eastern end of Dorset’s Jurassic Coast. Unfortunately, Old Harry’s Wife crumbled into the sea at the end of the 19th century.
Old Harry remains – joined by other white stone monoliths that have now been carved out along the coast. It’s one of the most impressive stretches of coastline in the UK with dazzling white chalk stacks assembled like a jigsaw puzzle waiting to be completed.
This clifftop circuit from Studland Village along the Old Harry coastline is a great way to take in the splendour of the natural scenery in the area. In addition, the grasslands near the rocks are awash with unusual wildflowers and an abundance of butterflies.
Where to start the walk? — This Jurassic Coast walk starts at the car park at the Bankes Arms pub in Studland. You can either do a quick walk from the pub to Old Harry Rocks and back (25 minutes each way) or complete a loop via Ballard Point (2 hours).
More details — You can find more detailed information on the South West Coast Path website.
For more information, read our guide on the different ways to visit Old Harry Rocks.
2 – ST ALDHELM’S CLIFFS WALK
Difficulty – Easy | Distance – 4.4 kilometres (2.8 miles) | Time – 1 hour | Our Tip: Wear walking boots after rain as it can get muddy walking across the fields.
The St Aldhelm’s Cliff walk passes a rugged section of the Dorset coastline that is unfairly under-visited. This is a great walk to admire the harsh realities of the battered coastline and get off the beaten track a little.
The walk passes the 13th century St. Aldhelm’s chapel and has excellent views of the carved out bay of Chapman’s pool. Since the path is so close to the edge, it also gives you dramatic views of the beaches below framed by stacks of crumbling rock.
Where to start the walk? — Start the St Aldhelm’s walk from the car park just west of Worth Matravers. Head south across the fields and bend west to the chapel. There is then a short steep 200ft descent and ascent after which the path follows the cliffs and crosses another field before returning to the car park.
How long? — This Jurassic Coastal walk takes around 1 hour and 30 minutes – map and instructions.
3 – LULWORTH COVE TO DURDLE DOOR
Difficulty – Easy | Distance – 2 kilometres (1.25 miles) | Time – 30 minutes | Our Tip: This walk can get very busy, try to be there early or late to avoid the crowds.
One of the many fun facts about Great Britain is that we drink around 60 billion cups of tea a year. If you’ve spent too much time in quaint, cosy tea rooms and only have time for one walk, this is the one.
Over the course of an easy one hour stroll you’ll pass dramatic towering white cliffs; the iconic stone arches of Durdle Door and arcs of sweeping golden sand. It rightly deserves its reputation as one of the most beautiful stretches of coastline in the country.
From high above the sea, cows graze in lush green meadows – a dining room in an enviable location. Secret beaches appear tucked into coves and the waves of vertical cliffs extend into the distance. There is nowhere else quite like it.
Where to start the walk? — Start at Lulworth Cove and explore the folded limestone rocks of Stair Hole. Then head over the cliffs to photograph the arch at Durdle Door, one of England’s most iconic landmarks. From here you can stroll the sands of Man O’War beach or head even higher over the mighty crags of Bats Head. It’s a great few hours.
Details — For more detailed information and maps on our Lulworth Cove to Durdle Door walk post.
4 – BOWLEAZE COVE TO SMUGGLERS INN
Difficulty – Easy-Medium | Distance – 5.8 kilometres (3.6 miles) | Time – 2 hours | Our Tip: Don’t drink so much in the pub you can’t focus on the views when heading back.
If your favourite walks involve a country pub lunch in the middle, like some of the fantastic hikes in the Cotswolds, then this is for you. This lovely walk rises over cliffs and down to beaches as it undulates through a very fine section of the Jurassic Coastal path between Bowleaze Cove and Osmington Mills.
It may not have the drama of Durdle Door or the towering limestone rocks at Old Harry but it does have our favourite local pub. Nestled beautifully between two cliffs in the tiny village of Osmington Mills, The Smugglers Inn is packed with character and feels miles from anywhere. Grab a locally brewed pint, recharge on traditional English pub food and contemplate the journey back.
Where to start the walk? — Begin the walk at the perfectly named Lookout Café just above Bowleaze Cove and follow the southwest coastal path for 2.7 miles to Osmington Mills. This Dorset coastal walk takes about 1 hour and 15 minutes (one way) and return is via the same route – map and instructions.
5 – WEST BAY TO HIVE BEACH CAFE
Difficulty – Medium | Distance – 8.6 kilometres (5.3 miles) | Time – 2.5 hours | Our Tip: Make sure you take the time to walk on the beach under the cliffs.
We expected to be impressed by Durdle Door and Old Harry Rocks, but the cliffs of West Bay came as an unexpected surprise. The faces of the cliffs look like ripples on a lake and, being sandstone rather than limestone, their golden colour gleams in the early morning or late afternoon light.
Where to start the walk? — You can just park at the East Bay car park in West Bay and take a look, but it’s better to include them on a circular walk to Burton Bradstock and back.
The loop begins at West Bay, heads across a golf course and fields before passing through Burton Bradstock. The hike finishes by dropping into the charming Hive Beach cafe. Recharge on local fish on the decked terrace before heading back along the cliffs to West Bay.
How long? — This circular Jurassic Coast walk is 5 miles, takes about 2 hours. Most of it is across undulating hills but there are a couple of short, but quite steep ascents, which require a bit of puff – map and instructions.
6 – GOLDEN CAP
Difficulty – Medium-Hard | Distance – 7.2 kilometres (4.5 miles) round trip; 3.8 kilometres (2.4 miles) there and back | Time – 3 hours | Our Tip: If it has rained, wear walking boots and be particularly careful coming down.
If like us, you have to get to the top of something, then this Dorset Coastal walk is for you. Golden Cap is the highest cliff on the south coast standing at 191m (627 feet). While it’s not the adrenaline hit induced by some of our favourite scrambles in the Lake District, from this position, it nonetheless towers above the surrounding countryside. As a result, the views from the top are expansive.
Sea cliffs disappear off in each direction backed by a patchwork quilt of green fields. The view eastwards towards Thorncombe Beacon towering over the golden shingle beach used to be particularly lovely, but in 2021 a large landslide carved a massive gash in the cliffs.
Where to start the walk? — The path up Golden Cap begins at the car park by the sea in Seatown. It’s just over 1 mile rising to the summit but the steep path will take you about 40 minutes. At the top you have a choice to head back the way you came or complete a loop passing through Stanton St. Gabriel and Langdon Lane.
Use the information board in the car park or follow these Golden Cap map and instructions.
MAP | JURASSIC & DORSET COASTAL WALKS
The best of the Dorset coastal walks are spread across a fairly large area. We’ve listed all our walks on the below map to help you get your bearings.
BEST TIME TO DO THESE DORSET COASTAL WALKS
The best time to undertake these Jurassic Coast walks is from May to early July. Throughout this period, the days are long and generally dry, the flowers are out and the school holidays have not yet begun. It’s the perfect time to enjoy Dorset’s beautiful coastal scenery. September and October are also good options, however, the temperatures could be starting to drop.
The weather is often best from mid-July to the end of August, however, the area is extremely busy over this time. Book your accommodation well in advance and try to set off on the walks early to beat the crowds.
Winter months can be cold and wet, but the scenery is no less beautiful. Wait for a window of sunny weather and book last minute to secure a sojourn to the Jurassic Coast while it’s bathed in soft winter light.
TIPS FOR OUR DORSET WALKS
1 –The paths are generally clear and easy to follow on each of these walks, but allow a bit longer to explore and soak up the views.
2 – On dry days most of our Dorset walks can easily be done in trainers or comfortable shoes, but after a few days of rain the trails can get muddy. We’d suggest walking boots if this is the case, or at least shoes you don’t mind getting wet.
4 – Take a camera (because it’s beautiful) and swimming trunks for a (refreshing!) swim amongst beautiful scenery.
5 – Some of these walks can get very busy, particularly in the summer holidays, so start early where possible to try and beat the crowds.
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