Dorset Walks – Portland Part 1 – South

Portland Bill Lighthouse

Dorset Walks – Portland Part 1 – South

Maps : OS Landranger 194 & Explorer OL15.

How to find: 

Distance: 5.5 miles

Facilities available: Parking and facilities at Portland Bill.

Terrain: Some steep climbs and rough terrain.

Recommended footwear: Walking boots

The Isle of Portland in Dorset is often forgotten when writing about Dorset, however it is rich in history, fabulous scenery, wildlife and great walks. To get here you will need a car or travel by the X-10 bus from Weymouth along the causeway which connects the island to the mainland – on one side there is the Fleet and Chesil Beach and on the other is Portland Harbour – which played host to the 2012 Olympic Sailing Event – more on this part of the island in a later blog.

The Isle of Portland is 4 miles long and 3/4 mile wide with “Portland Bill Lighthouse” at the southern tip. The lighthouse has been here guiding mariners keeping them clear of the savage rocks and hazards of the Shambles Bank for over 300 years.

This is where to park up as there are refreshments and facilities available here for the start and also the end of the trek.

As a circular walk you can go in either direction depending on the time of day and weather conditions.

SW Coast PathWalking from the car-park you will see the rough waters of Portland Race making this area of the English Channel look like a set white water rapids – well worth avoiding if you are at sea – but an impressive view from the shore as even on a still day you can see the meeting of tidal currents and the turbulent water.

Heading from the car-park up the western side of the island just inland of the MOD buildings climbing a gentle slope passing the Pulpit Public House, reaching the top of the central ridge at a place called Rocket Post. On reaching the old Coastguard lookout station which is now operated by volunteers from the National Coastwatch Institution (NCI) you will see The Old Higher Lighthouse which was the first lighthouse to use argond lamps and also the first in the world to use a reflector. It remain in service until it was superseded by the new Red and White Lighthouse in 1906.

Continue to walk north past Wallsend Cove, Southwell and Mutton Cove, eventually there will be a signpost to Weston, a field before the first houses of Weston, take this path (Barleycrates Lane) around the top boundary of the field follow then take the next right towards the road.

After crossing the main road walk about 350 yard along Weston Street take the next public footpath on your left (a track – Watery Lane) – At the top of the field turn right heading between more fields and on past Cottonfields Quarries. Having taken the right fork turn right at the junction of many paths this will take you around Perryfields Quarries and lead you to Pennsylvania Road.

Turning left and take the next right – Church Ope Road, next to The Portland Museum, go through the gate at the end of the road and along the footpath leading to the South West Coast Path, next to Rufus Castle. Before turning right take the time to take the weight of your legs and break out the thermos – enjoy the spectacular view.

Old quarriesNow take the steps down to Church Ope Cove, following the Coast Path signs, then climb out of the cove on the far side up the steep cliffs via a series of zigzags to the road above. Turn left on Southwell Road passing the quarries on either side passing the car park / picnic area of Cheyne Weares, just beyond which the Coast Path takes you left leading you south back towards Portland Bill through a series of shoreline quarries. These quarries eventually give way to open fields where you will see cranes, which were used to load quarried Portland Stone onto waiting barges from the tramways and rail tracks that brought the stone from the quarries. Now continue along the path towards the two lighthouses – The white lighthouse tower (now a bird observatory) was previously the lower lighthouse on the island. Beyond this there is a sea cave new the Red Crane with a blowhole. At certain states of the tide giant waves build up enormous pressure in the cave and a dramatic geyser explodes into the air with a massive roar.

Portland Bill Lighthouse 2The walk comes to an end back at Portland Bill where there is the new lighthouse visitor centre restaurant and toilet facilities.

Walk essentials

Distance : 5.5 miles (8.9km)

Easy going recommended walking boots and a drink

To book a fantastic break near simply click here to search for a wonderful Dorset Coastal Cottage.