The South West Coast Path

The South West Coast Path is the UK’s longest and most popular National Trail, with over 9 million visitors each year. At 630 miles long (over 1000km), it stretches from Minehead on the North Somerset coast, around Devon and Cornwall and finishes in Poole Harbour in Dorset. The path passes through a range of significant and protected areas, including Exmoor National Park, Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape, The Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site and five Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Due to the length of the trail, the terrain and difficulty varies with the geological make-up of the land, however as it hugs the coastline so closely, the trail must return to sea level with every river mouth, and rise with every cliff, making for a challenging and hilly route in many places, thus attracting walkers from all over the world.

 

The Jurassic Coast

The Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site is a 95 mile stretch of coastline recognised around the world for its geological significance. Not only are there some spectacular rock formations, there are an abundance of fossils to be found along this stretch of the coast, with discoveries spanning 185 million years. The entire of the Jurassic Coast sits within the South West Coast Path and it’s a fantastic and varied section to explore.

A handful of our holiday parks are situated on the South West Coast Path, making West Dorset Leisure Holidays the perfect choice for hikers looking to tick off sections of the route. Our 5-star touring, camping, glamping and holiday home accommodation is the perfect base from which to explore this world class path and admire natural beauty spots along the way.

The South West Coast Path enables you to take in some of Dorset’s most iconic landmarks as you clock up the miles. Here’s our pick of must see locations along the Dorset stretch of the path, from West to East.

  • The Cobb at Lyme Regis – known as The Pearl of Dorset, Lyme Regis is a must-visit coastal town
  • Charmouth Beach – one of the best locations on the Jurassic Coast for fossil hunting
  • Golden Cap – the highest point on the South coast of England, with spectacular views of the coastline
  • West Bay cliffs – made famous as the backdrop of ITV’s detective drama Broadchurch
  • The Fleet Lagoon – a vital and protected habitat for nesting birds, home to the incredible Abbotsbury Swannery
  • Chesil Beach – an 18-mile stretch of shingle beach from West Bay to the Isle of Portland
  • The Isle of Portland – an island connected to the mainland by a thin strip of shingle
  • Durdle Door – a world-famous arch, formed an estimated 140 million years ago
  • Lulworth Cove – a beautiful and sheltered bay with crystal clear blue waters
  • Worbarrow Bay – a quiet beach, just a short walk from the abandoned “ghost village” of Tyneham
  • Old Harry Rocks – a series of chalk stack formations between the towns of Swanage and Studland
Find out more about the Jurassic Coast

South West Coast Path FAQs

How long is the South West Coast Path?

The South West Coast Path is 630 miles or 1,014km long. It starts at Minehead in Somerset and finishes at South Haven Point on the shores of Poole Harbour. It is the longest waymarked footpath in England.

How long does it take to walk the South West Coast Path?

It takes approximately 7-8 weeks to complete the whole route, depending on your walking speed. It is common for hikers to split the walk up into day walks, or enjoy short breaks to tackle various sections over the course of a couple of days. You might want to view it as a long term challenge – and tackle a couple areas of the path each year on your holidays or day-trips.

What is the best section of the South West Coast Path?

This is completely down to personal preference – we think it’s all great! The best section will depend on what you look for in a walk. The Jurassic Coast section in Dorset has something for everyone to enjoy including commanding clifftop views, quaint villages, wildlife, cultural and heritage attractions and excellent food and drink.

Is the South West Coast Path hard?

Some sections of the South West Coast Path are challenging and involve steep ascents and plenty of hills. Other sections are relatively flat and can be enjoyed by children or adults with limited mobility. We recommend taking a look at the South West Coast Path website before starting your walk. There you will find in depth guides detailing the terrain and required ability level. Routes are classified as easy, moderate or challenging.

Where does the South West Coast Path start in Dorset?

The official stating point (or ending point) is at South Haven Point at Poole Harbour. It is marked by a commemorative sculpture, showcasing the different wildlife that can be seen along the route. You can join the route at any point and complete as much or as little of the path as you like.

Is the South West Coast Path accessible?

The South West Coast Path Association has marked a number of Easy Access routes, selected because the paths are reasonably level (without steep gradients or significant cambers), relatively wide (at least 85cm wide) and mostly obstacle-free (without steps or stiles, but there may be some gates). These routes are designed to be usable by people with wheelchairs, mobility scooters and pushchairs. You can find out more about these routes on the official website.

Countryside Mobility South West have set up a number of locations in the South West where anybody with difficulty walking can hire an off-road mobility scooter to use on the path. We are pleased to have this scheme available at Highlands End Holiday Park, with hire available from the park reception.

Staying safe on the South West Coast Path

As always, when out walking, please make sure you follow the countryside code and always stick to designated footpaths. Much of the South West Coast Path is routed over cliffs – take care to stay away from the edge as sections of the coastline is unstable and rockfalls happen frequently, particularly on the stretch from Seatown to Burton Bradstock. Always take a charged mobile phone, especially if you are walking alone. If walking with dogs, make sure they are on a lead around livestock and when near cliff edges.

 

Walks from Dorset holiday parks

West Dorset Leisure Holidays parks are the ideal base for a walking holiday tacking the South West Coast Path. Our parks are situated on or very close to the South West Coast Path Various day walks can be accessed from our parks, providing plenty of options during your stay. Explore a couple from the list or complete them all if you’re feeling adventurous!

Many visitors choose to tackle various sections during a holiday in Dorset – the distance depending on the age and ability of the party. Each section can be turned into a circular route or, you could make use of the X53 Jurassic Coaster and head in one direction and catch a bus back! It takes approximately 7 days to walk the length of the Jurassic Coast section of the South West Coastal Path.

Highlands End Holiday Park

Highlands End Holiday Park is located right on the clifftop at Eype, with pitches offering far-reaching views along the dramatic coastline and out to sea. The path passes right by the end of the park so you can get walking within minutes. Hike down to the fishing village of West Bay and over to Burton Bradstock or venture  west, past Eype Beach to Thorncombe Beacon and the beach at Seatown. We highly recommend making a pit stop at The Anchor. There’s a fantastic selection of dishes on the menu and the beer garden has phenomenal views.

Golden Cap Holiday Park

Golden Cap Holiday Park sits right behind the beach at Seatown and is ideally positioned for walking to Charmouth and Lyme Regis. The route starts with a steep ascent to Golden Cap – the highest peak on the south coast where you’ll be rewarded with stunning vistas to the Isle of Portland in the distance. You can see across the boarder into Devon and all the way to Dartmoor on a clear day. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife on this section of the South West Coast Path. The area is home to many species of butterflies and birds.

Graston Copse and Larkfield Holiday Parks

Graston Copse and Larkfield Holiday Parks are situated in the picturesque village of Burton Brastock. Larkfield is situated just a short 5 minute walk to Hive Beach where you’ll join the South West Coast Path. Graston Copse is slightly further inland, but still within easy reach of the South West Coast Path via a 1 mile walk along the river. If you fancy a light bite before starting your walk the Hive Beach Café offers and excellent selection of locally sourced seafood dishes. From here you can continue to Cogden, West Bexington and Abbotsbury if you really want to stretch your legs. If you’ve got time to spare, pay a visit to the Subtropical Gardens or Swannery. Both are popular attractions and well worth a visit. Keep a look out for marine life as you walk along the cliff top – dolphins and seals are regularly seen along this section of the coast.

Sandyholme Holiday Park

Sandyholme occupies a rural location in the quiet village of Owermoigne. You will need a car to make the short journey to the coast, but once you arrive the possibilities are endless. Take some time to explore this geographically important area of the Jurassic Coast and visit iconic beauty spots such as Lulworth Cove, Durdle Door, Old Harry Rocks and Kimmeridge Bay. The walk will also provide you with the opportunity to visit harder to reach areas such as Chapmans Pool and Dancing Ledge.

Holiday Park facilities

Our 5-star parks have excellent facilities to ensure you have an enjoyable stay. If you’re bringing your own motorhome, touring caravan or tent you will have access to our clean and modern shower facilities and laundrette. caravan holiday home and lodge guests can enjoy a good night’s sleep in our luxury accommodation and a comfortable base to rest and recuperate at the end of the day.

Guests staying at Highlands End can refuel at Martins Bar and Restaurant and rest aching muscles in the Leisure Club’s sauna and steam room. Highlands End and Golden Cap both have Spar convenience stores, so you can stock up on essentials and pack snacks to enjoy throughout the walk.

All of West Dorset Leisure Holidays Parks are dog friendly. Bring your four-legged friend for a holiday on the Jurassic Coast and enjoy some of the best dog walks in the country along the South West Coast Path. Many of the beaches in Dorset are dog-friendly all year-round, however some do have restrictions during the Summer months. Be sure to check our dog-friendly beaches guide and any signage on the beaches themselves before letting your dog off the lead.

If you do stay with us on holiday – be sure to share your photos with us using the hashtag #WDLH for a chance to win £250 off your next holiday. Find out more about our annual photo competition here.

Places to eat near the South West Coast Path

There are many fantastic pubs, restaurants and cafes you can stop at on your walk along the Dorset stretch of the path. Here are some of our favourite places to stop at along the way:

Lyme Regis: Swim, The Whole Hog, The Royal Standard

Charmouth: The Royal Oak, Charmouth Fish Bar

Seatown: The Anchor Inn, Martin’s Smoky Fire Truck

Eype: Martin’s Bar & Restaurant, Downhouse Farm Cafe, The New Inn

West Bay: The George, Rise, The Station Kitchen

Burton Bradstock: The Hive Beach Cafe, The Three Horseshoes, The Anchor

West Bexington: The Club House, The Manor House

Abbotsbury: The Old Schoolhouse, The Ilchester Arms, Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens

Portland: The Lobster Pot, The Boat That Rocks

Weymouth: Nicetta, The Crow’s Nest In The Square, The Dorset Burger Company

Lulworth: The Lulworth Cove Inn, Finley’s Cafe

Kimmeridge: Clavells Restaurant

Swanage: Castaways, The 1859 Pier Cafe & Bistro, Sea Breeze

Looking after the South West Coast Path

The South West Coast path is enjoyed by over 9 million visitors each year, and latest studies estimate that it brings over £500 million each year to the local economy. The South West Coast Path Association is the charity that looks after and maintains the path and ensures that it is safe and accessible. In November 2020 there was a substantial landslide at the end of Highlands End Holiday Park, resulting in tens of thousands of tonnes of rock being displaced and a significant stretch of the South West Coast Path falling into the sea below. We worked with them to quickly re-route the path through the end of the holiday park. We are now pleased to have partnered with them and become Way Makers, meaning we are helping support the organisation and all the important work that it does.