As autumn arrives with buoyant colour, the landscape transforms into a kaleidoscope of orange, red and yellow tones. While Dorset holds a unique beauty throughout the year, the arrival of autumn brings a special magic with it. We think it is one of the best times of the year to take to the coast path, explore ancient woodlands and visit historic parks. We have picked some of the best walks in Dorset that will refresh and invigorate the whole family this October half term, from the toddlers and teenagers to grandparents and four-legged friends. Dive in and be inspired.
Rich in history and wildlife, walking on the National Trust’s Brownsea Island is like stepping into another world. This easy 1-mile walk is an enjoyable amble that will reveal stunning views to the Purbeck Hills and peaceful spots to watch the comings and goings in Poole Harbour. Seek out the red squirrels as they scamper on a carpet of rich red leaves, search for wildlife in the lily ponds, discover old ruins or forage for sweet chestnuts.
Distance: 1 mile
Dog-friendly? No dogs
Grab your walking boots and head for the hills, this varied route takes you from the striking castle ruins of Corfe Castle towards the iconic chalk formations of Old Harry Rocks before following the coast path to Swanage. Enjoy impressive autumnal views over Poole Harbour, Swanage and towards the Isle of Wight. Why not jump aboard the Swanage Railway or take the number 40 bus to return to Corfe at the end of your rewarding walk?
Distance: 9.5 miles
Dog-friendly? Dogs welcome under close control but be aware that cattle and sheep graze the meadows and hilltops.
This rewarding Dorset coastal walk from Worth Matravers on the Isle of Purbeck takes you on a discovery of the naturally formed limestone caves, platforms, cliffs and coves. Your efforts will be rewarded on reaching the wild beach of Chapman’s Pool, where a stream trickles down a ravine carved through the high cliffs and into the sea. During quieter times, it may just be you and the waves here so don’t rush away, why not pack a picnic and a few blankets and enjoy the fresh autumnal air on this secret beach?
Distance: 5.9 miles
For even more fantastic coastal walks, take a look at even more of our favourite coastal walks in Dorset.
Walk in the footsteps of Thomas Hardy, the great English novelist and poet and discover his home and birthplace, hidden away in a remote setting in beautiful Thorncombe Woods. Visit Stinsford church, the resting place of Hardy’s heart and his two wives; Rushy Pond, mentioned in ‘The Withered Arm’ - a short story he wrote in 1888; and on to Hardy’s cottage itself, which is open from March until the end of October. Hardy’s Birthplace Visitor Centre offers displays, café, shop and a hub of activities for families and children to explore.
Distance: 7 miles
Dog-friendly? The woodland walk is dog friendly but you cannot take dogs into Hardy's cottage or the garden.
The iconic Beech Avenue in Kingston Lacy was first planted in 1835 by William John Bankes, a former owner of the Kingston Lacey Estate, as a gift for his mother, Lady Bankes. The mile-long avenue has an impressive visual appeal, which is particularly impressive in autumn when the trees are drenched in an amber glow. It’s not difficult to see why this one road in Dorset is popular among photographers. This colourful route takes you to Beech Avenue and back along the outskirts of the beautiful Kingston Lacy parkland.
Distance: 3.8 miles
Heading through a rich habitat, this woodland trail is perfect for wildlife enthusiasts and one of our favourite circular walks in Dorset. Pack your binoculars and stop by the bird hide, keep a close eye on the forest floor for all kinds of reptiles and insects and if you’re lucky, when looking up, you may even spot deer. During the autumn breeding season, listen out for the call of the sika stag. This easy and short route is ideal for children too, so why not download some printable spotting sheets and engage their interest in the world around them?
Distance: 1 mile
Dog-friendly? Please check with the National Trust.
Not only does this route take in both the Dorset coast and countryside, it brushes the edge of Bridport, giving you the chance to explore the market town too. You will enjoy some of the best views on the Jurassic Coast and soak up the beauty of the meadows bordering the river that runs between Bridport and West Bay. If you prefer a shorter amble, this route can be broken down into smaller loops.
Distance: 6.2 miles
Where to stay in Dorset?
This large country home in Worth Matravers is the perfect retreat for a family holiday. Against a backdrop of beautiful countryside close to the coastal path, the property offers plenty of space for you all to spread out and for children to play. The house offers a bright and colourful interior design, while outside, the beautiful gardens with a summerhouse, lawns and trampoline certainly steal the show.
This charming thatched cottage is a cosy base for two, offering a mix of traditional and contemporary styles. Located in Wool, a quintessential village with lots of character, the property overlooks a duck stream and a quaint pub can be reached via a short walk. It’s the perfect base for a romantic break away from the hustle and bustle.
Browse our full collection of cottages in Dorset to find the perfect cottage for October half term.
We hope we have helped inspire your autumn break in Dorset and if you explore any of these magical Dorset walks, we would love to see your photos on Instagram – don’t forget to tag us @dorsetcoastalcottages