Dorset coastal walks holiday cottages

Dorset coastal walks

You simply can't come to Dorset without experiencing some of our beautiful coastline and countryside by foot. With over 300 miles of walking routes, you will be treated to the best that the Jurassic Coast has to offer - across hills and farmland, along marked trails and footpaths, and through nature reserves - not forgetting the spectacular sights that will greet you from the South West Coast Path.

If you like a bit of history on your travels, Dorset is also home to one of the most famous monuments in the UK, Corfe Castle, whose imposing keep rises dramatically over the picturesque village of Corfe below. Visit the Abbotsbury Swans at The Fleet and George, Burt's Great Globe at Durlston Country Park, and don't forget the amazing marine and wildlife on offer all along the coastline.

Here are some of our favourite walking areas in Dorset - we hope you enjoy them as much as we do!

Maiden Castle

maiden hill dorset

One of the most spectacular hill forts in Southern England, Maiden Castle offers a breathtaking trip back in time. Great for walking, running, dog walking, picnicking, kite flying or just soaking up a piece of history. Best of all it’s free! As locals, we treasure Maiden Castle as one of the best locations for nearly every outdoor activity you can imagine. Simple and beautiful with fantastic views, a visit to Maiden Castle can be whatever you want it to be.

On a clear day, an early morning walk or run will allow you to see the surrounding countryside in all its glory but a cool misty day can be equally as enjoyable. When the wind is howling or the fog is so thick you can barely see in front of you, the site’s 4000 year history seems to emerge from the ramparts and ruins, in particular the excavations in the 1930’s that uncovered the bodies of 38 Iron Age warriors. The sheer size of Maiden Castle and the huge effort it must have taken to build it cannot fail to impress, and even better, when it snows it turns into a giant ski park!

people walking

Walk essentials:

Directions: 2 miles South of Dorchester, off the A354, north of bypass.

Parking: Lots of spaces with access to the hill fort directly from the free car park.

Dogs: Yes but on a lead as sheep regularly graze on different parts of the site. Dog waste bins provided on site.

Access: Straight up a hill to start so may prove challenging with uneven ground and grass paths.

Watch Out For: Information panels that guide you around the hill fort and illustrate its long history.

Printable, step by step instructions for walks can be found here.

Swanage and Durlston

George Burt's Great Globe

This wonderful coastal walk takes you through two great Dorset beauty spots - Durlston Country Park (now a nature reserve but once earmarked for George Burt’s grand country estate) and Tilly Whim Caves. You will love Swanage too - there are some wonderful cafes and pubs to suit all tastes and budgets. A must-see is St Mary the Virgin’s Church and Mill Pond; this historic church dates from 1860 and has since replaced the medieval building although some of the original monuments were transferred and the 14th-century tower remains. Don't miss George Burt’s Great Globe - construction of this huge ball took place in 1887. Made from Portland Stone, it weighs 40 tonnes, is 10 feet in diameter, and the continents and countries of the world are carved into the stone surface.

Situated within the grounds of Durlston Country Park, Anvil Point Lighthouse is built from locally quarried stone and was completed in 1881. The lighthouse is operational 24 hours a day and is positioned to give a waypoint for vessels on passage along the English Channel Coast. Last but not least are the Tilly Whim Caves. Formed in the 18th century through the extraction of Purbeck Stone, these old quarries are no longer open to the public but provide a wonderful look out point for bird and marine life.

Anvil Point Lighthouse

Walk essentials:

Time: 3 hours.

Distance: 4 ¾ mile (7.5km).

Type: Steady ascent out of Swanage, otherwise fairly easy with a downhill return.

Dogs: Good. Dogs must be kept on leads in parkland.

Start/Finish: Shore Road Swanage near Victoria Avenue(Grid Ref: SZ031792).

Printable, step by step instructions for walks can be found here

West Bay and Shipton Gorge

west bay dorset

There's lots of opportunity to visit some lovely parts of the Dorset Coast on this walk. The delightful market town of Bridport has an exciting range of independent shops, cafes, and a wide range of fresh, local produce to try and buy. Wednesdays and Saturdays are market days. The views are second to none - make sure you take your camera. On a clear day, returning along the second ridge, you will be able to soak up the wonderful coastal vistas over Lyme Bay to Devon.

Less well-known than other parts of West Dorset, Shipton Gorge is a pleasant, quiet village with a wonderful pub managed and run by the local community. The historic building dates back to the 19th century when it was originally built as a stables. The devoted local community have made the pub the perfect place to stop for refreshments and food whilst navigating the lovely countryside.

dog in pub beer garden

Walk essentials:

Time: 4 and 1/2 hours.

Distance: 7 miles (11.25km).

Type: Not too strenuous if you take your time on the ascent out of Bothenhampton. Ridge walks are easy.

Dogs: Good. Dogs on leads in fields (there are lots of sheep and lambs around) and on roads.

Start/Finish: West Bay car park, West Bay Road. (Grid Ref: SY465905).

Map: OS Landranger Sheet 193.

Public Transport: First Jurassic Coast Line X53 and 253.

Refreshments: A wide selection of cafes in West Bay. Plenty of fish and chips kiosks around the harbour.

Printable, step by step instructions for walks can be found here.  

Fleet and Langton Herring

fleet lagoon dorset

Made famous by J. Meade Faulkner’s smuggling novel Moonfleet published in 1898, the village of Fleet lies close to the lagoon of the same name and is especially picturesque. In 1824, parts of Moonfleet village and most of the Old Fleet Church were destroyed by a huge storm. What was left of the church remains standing today, tiny but pretty, with a few gravestones in the churchyard. Langton Herring is one of only 13 ‘Doubly Thankful’ villages scattered across Great Britain. These are places that survived both world wars without a single life lost in combat. With no war deaths to remember there is, of course, no war memorial in the village. However, there is a horse chestnut tree planted in the centre of St Peter’s churchyard in memory of Sir Winston Churchill. On it is a small plaque bearing the words, ‘We shall never surrender’.

Chesil Beach is a striking, 18-mile shingle beach, which protects a shallow lagoon (known as The Fleet) from the ravages of the sea, creating a truly beautiful and peaceful place to walk while enjoying an abundance of wildlife. The waters of the Fleet are tidal, being filled and partially emptied twice each day by the sea, making the water brackish. The Fleet is most famous as the home of a very large mute swan colony, which can be visited at the Abbotsbury Swannery. However, it is also a great place to come and see Dark Bellied Brent Geese, Common Greenshank, Little Egrets, Common Pochard, Red-breasted Merganser and Common Coot. The Fleet also supports substantial populations of fish, including bass and eels. No fishing is allowed and most boats are banned unless you have a licence. Swimming is not recommended!

Swans at Abbotsbury Swannery

Walk essentials:

Time: 3 1/2 hours.

Distance: 4 3/4 miles (6.75km).

Type: Easy. Ascending lane out of Fleet, easy descent to Fleet’s Coast Path, then mostly level.

Dogs: Good (on leads on fields with livestock and on roads).

Start/Finish: Holy Trinity Church in Fleet (Grid Ref: SY634805).

Map: OS Landranger Sheet 194.

Printable, step by step instructions for walks can be found here

Corfe Common History Walk

corfe castle

This gentle short walk explores Corfe Common, a sandstone ridge south of the picturesque village of Corfe Castle. Look out for signs of the human activity that shaped this interesting archaeological landscape over thousands of years, and enjoy the wide range of wildlife which now makes its home here. There are spectacular views on this walk as the imposing keep of Corfe Castle rises dramatically over the village. William the Conqueror began building the castle in 1086 - it was then destroyed in 1646 by Parliamentarian forces during the Civil War. Corfe Common is Dorset’s largest area of common land and is an important place for acid-loving flowers and grasses. It's the best spot in England to find the rare wild chamomile and the bright yellow blossom of gorse can be seen from May to October. Once used as a fuel for bread ovens, you’ll notice its strong coconut aroma as you walk past.

In the 18th century, smugglers carried contraband such as fine French brandy and ladies’ silk gloves across the common on their way from the Purbeck coast to London. Some villagers still have common rights and graze their cows or horses on the common for an annual fee. Each year a Hayward (someone who, in the Middle Ages, oversaw the harvesting of crops) is appointed to collect the fee and to make sure the animals are well cared for.

corfe castle village

Walk essentials:

Distance: 1.5 Miles (2.5 km) 30 minutes.

Start/Finish: Corfe Castle ticket office, grid ref: SY961821.

Map: Explorer OL 15.

Facilities: National Trust Car Park with toilets and cafe at Castle View. Other refreshments and facilities in The Square, Corfe Castle Village.

Printable, step by step instructions for walks can be found here

West Bexington

west bexington

This lovely walk will take you through some varying countryside and terrain which can be enjoyed by all the family. The footpath down to Chesil Beach and the South West Coast Path will take you across some open farmland alongside dense hedgerows with an abundance of flora and fauna. The pretty hawthorn flowers at this time of year are simply beautiful, with petals falling to the ground like confetti in the sea breeze coming up from the coast.

The downhill slope makes this fairly easy going, the total descent for the walk is about 90 metres (nearly 300 feet) which means that this will need to be climbed back up again in the walk back to the starting point. As you descend to the sea the view just inland from the famous Chesil Bank is just awe-inspiring, you get the feeling that the sea is higher than the beach and the fields you are walking on. You will also come to a footpath that leads you into a Nature Reserve which is run by Dorset Wildlife Trust. Here the tall reeds are a haven for a wide variety of bird and insect life. 

chesil beach

Walk essentials:

Terrain: Some rough terrain – can be muddy and slippery after rain, pebbles on the beach.

Map: OS Landranger 194 & Explorer OL15.

Facilities: Food and facilities are available at The Bull Inn, Swyre, The Manor Hotel, West Bexington, The Crown Inn, Puncknowle. There is a quaint cafe in West Bexington right by the beach car park where you can get ice cream and drinks. There are also public conveniences down by the car park.

How to find: Park up opposite the church in Swyre. Or take the X53 Jurassic Coast Bus to reach The Bull at Swyre. Just to the right of the War Memorial is a footpath sign to Chesil Beach and Coast Path.

Printable, step by step instructions for walks can be found here

Also try:

Bridport Railway - a great walk is coming soon!

new bridport railway walk

Did you know that Bridport used to be connected to Maiden Newton via rail? It even extended down to West Bay at one stage (1884-1930) but the entire branch closed in 1975. This walk allows you to go along the old line route. Much of the line can be walked and an exciting project is underway to open up the entire route (wherever possible), offering a 10-mile traffic-free path for the benefit of cyclists, walkers and wheelchair users.

There is currently a good circular walk from Powerstock that takes in large sections of the disused railway with superb views of Dorset’s coastline, a range of wildlife and flowers, plus the option of various pub stops on the way.

Come to Dorset!

When weary limbs need somewhere to rest, we have a wonderful selection of holiday cottages along the superb Dorset coastline. Retire to a couple's retreat where you can warm your walking boots in front of the fire, or something larger if you are on a walking holiday with friends. Don't forget the family pooch either as we have lots of dog-friendly properties that will welcome four legs as well as two.

Whoever you come to Dorset with, one of our properties with hot tubs will provide an extra-special treat, relaxing tired muscles ready for the next day's route. Have a look at our portfolio of properties along the Dorset Coast - we are sure we will have the perfect one for you.

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