5 of the Best Coastal Walks in West Dorset
The Dorset coastline is some of the most spectacular you will find anywhere in the world. With towering cliffs offering stunning views, there is no shortage of footpaths you can explore. Here we explore 5 of the best coastal walks in West Dorset. All these walks take in sections of the South West Coast Path and the World Heritage Site Jurassic Coast.
1. Weymouth to Lulworth Cove
Length: Approximately 13 miles. Toughness: 8/10, lots of steep small climbs.
This is one of our favourite walks as it encompasses so many different terrains and even a short ferry trip too – coastal walks in west Dorset don’t get better than this! If you start at Ferry Bridge which is at the western edge of Weymouth you can easily pick up the Rodwell Trail which will take you all the way to the Nothe Fort. From here you can descend the steps to the Weymouth Harbour entrance. In the summer, for a small cost, hop on the rowing boat ferry to Weymouth Pavilion.
You then need to walk all along the Weymouth Esplanade, stopping for an ice cream on the way. In the distance you will see the rest of your journey – a rather lumpy set of cliffs that will take you all the way to Lulworth Cove. Don’t let this put you off though as the effort is well worth it.
Leaving the seaside resort behind you will walk up towards Osmington and can take on a well deserved drink at The Smugglers Inn. On from here you will walk along the beach at Ringstead before heading back up on to the cliff tops at the White Nothe. This is where the path gets very steep. There is a succession of 4 lung busting climbs that lead you up and over the chalk cliffs marking that start of Purbeck. On a clear day the views are second to none and with the highlights of Durdle Door and Man O’ War beach to look down on, you are easily distracted from any aches.
The final stretch of the walk is all down hill into West Lulworth. There are a number of pubs, cafes and ice cream stalls where you can rest, relax and reflect on a great day of walking.
2. Isle of Portland Circular Walk
Length: Approximately 9 miles. Toughness 4/10, one climb up to the Verne, fairly good paths throughout.
For walkers of average ability, the circular walk around Portland is very achievable. You can either start at sea level at the beginning of Chesil Beach or take the first steep climb out of the equation and leave your car at the top of the hill near to the Portland Heights Hotel.
From the Olympic rings, head in an anti-clockwise direction to the west of the island. This will lead you through the Tout Quarry Sculpture Park, where you can admire some of the interesting masonry. The route will then lead you onto the cliff top path. Take care as it can get narrow in places.
The path winds its way to the south until it reaches Portland Bill. The well known red and white lighthouse is situated here along with a number of other quarry related relics including Pulpit Rock. Stop for a drink and a bite to eat at the Lobster Pot cafe – the crab sandwiches here are great!
Continue following the well marked coast path along the eastern edge of the island. After a couple of miles you will see signs for Church Ope Cove. This sheltered beach with picturesque beach huts is well worth the slight detour off the trail.
Once you’re back on the South West Coast Path the route back will take you up a steep set of steps to the Verne Prison. From here you can follow the path back to the hotel where you can take in the far stretching views along Chesil Beach and over Weymouth Bay.
3. Lyme Regis to Seatown
Length: Approximately 6 miles. Toughness 7/10, steep climb up Golden Cap.
The traditional seaside town of Lyme Regis is a great place to start coastal walks in West Dorset from. There are a couple of car parks near the Cobb where you can leave your car. Be warned that these can get really busy in the height of summer.
Walk along the promenade heading east and the path will lead up across the golf course and on to the cliff tops. Here you can take in the great views across Lyme Bay. The route will then head slightly inland and back to the coast at the village of Charmouth, which is one of the best places in the world for fossil hunting. From here, you head up to the National Trust location called Stonebarrow Hill and across one of the quietest and most beautiful stretches of coastline to St Gabriel’s Mouth.
Standing in the distance is Golden Cap – your big hill climb on this walk. The route up to this viewpoint is steep and challenging however on a clear day the views from the top are outstanding. The peak marks the highest point of the whole of the south coast.
Once you’re done with admiring the view, it’s all down hill from here. Walk on down from Golden Cap through the fields and wind your way towards our very own Golden Cap Holiday Park. There is also the Anchor Inn pub here which is great spot to refuel and rest your feet.
4. Burton Bradstock to Ferry Bridge (Weymouth)
Length: Approximately 17 miles. Toughness 7/10, a reasonably flat but long route.
We think this is one of the most underrated walks along the coast path in West Dorset. At around 17 miles, it is the longest walk on our list, however it has the least elevation gain and goes through some really quiet unspoiled and remote stretches of the Dorset Coast, making it achievable for most people.
Leaving Burton Bradstock you will follow the coast path over the cliff to Cogden Beach, before trekking on the path that is on the edge of the beach. Here you get a real scale of Chesil Beach as this 6 mile stretch takes you on past West Bexington towards Abbotsbury.
Just before you arrive at the section of the beach near Abbotsbury, the path deviates inland to bypass the Fleet lagoon. Now there is a big change of scenery as you walk through woodland and farmland fields before being elevated above the village. Here you can look back along the coastline and reflect on the murky seafaring history of this area. Stories of a past of smuggling and wrecking add another level to the rich history.
The path then takes you around near to Langton Herring before you are put back next to the waters edge of the Fleet. You then just need to follow the wiggly route all the way along the Fleet. Passing many acres of farmland and crossing quite a few styles you will eventually reach your destination. Ferry Bridge marks the point where Weymouth leads on to the Portland Beach Road. You can wander up to the enjoy refreshments at Billy Winters or Taste at Chesil Beach.
5. West Bay to Golden Cap
Length: Approximately 4 miles. Toughness 7/10, Short but challenging with two steep hill climbs.
Starting in the pretty fishing town of West Bay this short but challenging walk keeps you on the South West Coast Path, across farmland and clifftops with stunning views.
Heading west from West Bay you will climb up a wide gravel path which easily takes you up onto the cliff top. You will soon be walking past our Highland End Holiday Park. If the conditions are right you may see paragliders who use this area for their take off and landings. Head down towards Eype Beach then walk back up the path on the other side. You will see Thorncombe Beacon marking the peak of the first hard hill climb.
Once you have scaled this one, set your sights on Golden Cap in the near distance. The good news is that in between you and this next peak is The Anchor Inn, a popular spot with walkers. Here you can either stop for a midway refreshment or, if you have the will power, know that it will be there as a reward if you are choosing to walk back this way.
The path up to Golden Cap is steep. But with woodland and grazing pasture nearby it is also interesting and varied. Once you reach the summit you can on a clear day see for many miles. All the way along Chesil Beach to Portland in the east and across Lyme Bay to Lyme Regis in the west. It is a highlight of the Jurassic Coast at the end of one of the best coastal walks in west Dorset.