10 of the best Dorset coastal walks

Coastal, Walking, The Great British Outdoors

Posted by Ruth on 7th September 2020

Dorset coastal walks

From wandering along giant cliffs studded with fossils to rambling across golden sands as the glittering turquoise sea laps the shore, Dorset provides some of the most breathtaking settings for coastal walks. There are plenty of options for the keen walker as the South West Coast Path runs along the county’s entire south coast; walks in Dorset are abundant, varied and simply unforgettable.

Whether you’re searching for Dorset cliff walks where you can admire the panoramic sea views or want to leave footprints along the sandy shore instead, there are so many options that it can be hard to choose which walk is right for you. We’ve narrowed it down to ten of our favourite Dorset coastal walks to give you some inspiration for your next holiday in the great outdoors.

Plus, if you’re searching for cosy cottages where you can soothe aching feet after a day roaming the trails, you can take a look at our full collection of coastal cottages in Dorset by clicking the button below. 

Coastal cottages in Dorset


Chideock to Charmouth

Chideock to Charmouth

If you’re hoping to find some fossils on your trip to Dorset, this Jurassic Coast walk will be just the ticket. Begin in Charmouth and take the bus to Chideock, where you can walk back along a very hilly cliff-top route following the South West Coast Path. At the foot of the cliffs is where you’ll find your historic treasure, but exercise caution as they are prone to landslips. This walk also has the option to detour via Golden Cap – the highest point in southern England – but if you want to save your legs for another day simply enjoy the meandering trail through flowering heathland, across windswept open fields and along high cliffs.

Distance: 5.4 miles.

Difficulty: Moderate.

Facilities: Parking and a pub in Chideock; toilets, parking and a pub in Seatown; parking, toilets and places to eat and drink in Charmouth.

Good to know: An almost complete skeleton of a small herbivorous dinosaur known as the Scelidosaurus Harrisoni was found along this stretch of coast.

Stay nearby: Lyndale, Lyme Regis | sleeps 5


Golden Cap

Golden Cap

If you have your heart set on conquering Golden Cap but you don’t have all day, this short walk courtesy of the National Trust is a great option. Beginning in Langdon Hill, simply follow the waymarked path to the top. While the trail is only 3 miles long, you’ll need to set aside a disproportionate amount of time to scale this peak due to the steepness of the terrain. However, once you’re at the top, which sits 627ft above sea level, you’ll be rewarded with views stretching as far as Dartmoor, around 50 miles away.

Distance: 3 miles.

Difficulty: Moderate.

Facilities: Parking and playground at Langdon Hill, more facilities in nearby Seatown and Chideock.

Good to know: The peak got its name from the golden coloured sandstone found at the top, that formed in the Cretaceous Period around 100 million years ago.

Stay nearby: Guard House Cottage, Seatown | sleeps 6


West Bay to Burton Bradstock

West Bay to Burton Bradstock

A breathtaking walk along the Jurassic Coast, this circular route will take you on high cliffs above golden sands. Begin in West Bay harbour and walk slightly inland along Station Road, passing behind the holiday park, before arriving in Burton Bradstock, where you could stop for a pick-me-up in the pub. From here, the path heads down towards the coast by Hive Beach and back along the high sandstone cliffs via the South West Coast Path towards West Bay. Make sure you take in the sensational views from the top.

Distance: 5.3 miles.

Difficulty: Easy.

Facilities: Parking, toilets and places to eat in West Bay and Burton Bradstock.

Good to know: You may recognise the golden cliffs as the setting for ITV’s Broadchurch.

Stay nearby: West Bay Harbour View | sleeps 2 + 2 dogs


West Bexington

West Bexington

A brilliant walk for nature lovers, this short walk along the Jurassic Coast path goes along the coast of Chesil Beach and through the West Bexington Nature Reserve. It’s beautiful any time of year, but autumn is really when it comes into its own. Listen out for the sound of yellowhammers and keep your eyes peeled for wild kale and sloe berries. Begin at West Bexington Beach before following the South West Coast Path east, listening to the sounds of the waves crashing on Chesil Beach. The walk then heads inland past Labour-in-Vain Farm and a former limekiln before ending back at West Bexington.

Distance: 2.5 miles.

Difficulty: Easy.

Facilities: Parking and a restaurant at West Bexington beach.

Good to know: Pick up some goodies at Tamarisk Farm Shop en route – as well as local produce, you can find undyed organic knitting wool courtesy of the local herds of sheep.

Stay nearby: Cross Trees Farm Cottage, Litton Cheney | sleeps 7


Weymouth to Portland

Weymouth to Portland

Take this linear walk from Weymouth town centre, across the edge of Chesil Beach out to the spectacular Isle of Portland to explore some of the most diverse scenery in Dorset. Beginning at Weymouth train station, head out to the Rodwell Trail which follows a disused railway line which is now teeming with wildlife. As you reach Portland Harbour you’ll see Henry VIII’s Sandsfoot Castle, built as a coastal defence. Keep going until you reach Church Ope Cove, Portland’s only beach, which is an excellent place for a dip. If you don’t fancy the walk back, catch the number 1 bus instead which runs right into Weymouth.

Distance: 6 miles.

Difficulty: Moderate.

Facilities: Parking, toilets and places to eat in Weymouth and on the Isle of Portland.

Good to know: Church Ope Cove has a colourful history. having been the scene of a Viking attack, lots of smuggling activity and WWII anti-invasion tactics.  

Stay nearby: Seascape, Weymouth | sleeps 4


Lulworth Cove to Durdle Door

Lulworth Cove to Durdle Door

We’d argue that this is the prettiest walk along the Dorset coastal path, and certainly the most photographed! Beginning on the cliffs above the glittering sea found in the seashell-shaped Lulworth Cove, this linear walk follows the South West Coast Path west to Durdle Door where you’ll find the famous sea arch – possibly the most iconic Dorset landmark. Spend the day on the beach or walk straight back again to enjoy a pint in the charming pubs of Lulworth – the choice is yours.

Distance: 3 miles.

Difficulty: Easy.

Facilities: Parking, toilets, pubs and places to eat in Lulworth.

Good to know: Over 200,000 walkers a year take this route, making it the busiest stretch of footpath in the South West – so time your visit accordingly!

Stay nearby: Cajun Cove, Lulworth Cove | sleeps 5 + 2 dogs


Tyneham Village

Tyneham Village

One of the most unique Dorset coastal walks, this 4-mile ramble begins in Tyneham, a village unlike any other. It was evacuated in 1943 during WWII and has never been returned to, so the entire place is preserved in time. After leaving the village, you’ll come across Flower’s Barrow, an Iron Age hillfort which offers breathtaking views over the coastline – the surrounding area is not developed at all and so in spring and summer it’s a riot of wildflowers. Then, follow the path down to Worbarrow Bay – a dog-friendly cove surrounded by craggy cliffs – the perfect spot for a paddle!

Distance: 4 miles.

Difficulty: Moderate.

Facilities: Parking in Tyneham, but little else in the way of facilities at this abandoned village.

Good to know: The area you’ll walk in is owned by the Ministry of Defence so check access on the day you wish to visit, and don’t deviate from the yellow waymarked paths.

Stay nearby: Castleview Cottage, Isle of Purbeck | sleeps 6 + 2 dogs


RSPB Arne

RSPB Arne

RSPB Arne is a wonderfully diverse nature reserve close to the calm waters of Poole Harbour and is a brilliant place for a walk for anyone who loves wildlife. Expect to see a wide range of birds on your walk, such as tits, siskins and nightjars, and the reserve is also home to all six species of native reptile. This walk runs across Coombe Heath and out to Shipstal Point near Arne Bay. Complete the circuit to arrive back at your start point.

Distance: 3.9 miles.

Difficulty: Easy.

Facilities: Parking, toilets, visitor centre, shop and café at RSPB Arne.

Good to know: If you have limited mobility and want to explore Arne, there is an off-road mobility scooter to hire.

Stay nearby: The School House, Arne | sleeps 6


Scratch Arse Ware and Dancing Ledge

Scratch Arse Ware and Dancing Ledge

We couldn’t write a guide to the best coastal walks in Dorset without including this fantastically named route! One of our favourite circular coastal walks in Dorset, this route takes in the stunning coastal views at one of the most popular points in the area – Dancing Ledge. Begin in Langton Matravers and head through fields and kissing gates to Scratch Arse Ware, which is an area of land used for rough grazing. Then join the South West Coast Path to walk along the clifftops through Dancing Ledge, a flat area of rock close to the sparkling sea. Finally, head back inland to Langton Matravers where you began.

Distance: 3.5 miles.

Difficulty: Moderate.

Facilities: Parking and places to eat in Langton Matravers.

Good to know: Keep your eyes peeled for the sculpture of a Limousin cow on the way.

Stay nearby: Marblers, Acton | sleeps 6 + 2 dogs


Old Harry Rocks

Old Harry Rocks

This is one of the best-loved coastal path walks in Dorset and takes in the famous Old Harry Rocks, a formation of large chalk towers out at sea. Beginning at South Beach, take the path signposted for Old Harry and follow it along the sheer cliff edge, keeping an eye out for gulls and Peregrine falcons soaring overhead. At Handfast Point you will be able to see the rock formations, including Old Harry – the final stack out at sea. Then follow the coast path around Ballard Point, across Ballard Down and back into Studland. This circular coastal walk is also dog friendly too – just keep a close eye on your four-pawed pal near those steep cliff edges!

Distance: 3.5 miles.

Difficulty: Easy.

Facilities: Toilets, parking and places to eat at South Beach, Studland.

Good to know: Local legend says that the devil used to sleep on the stack of Old Harry.

Stay nearby: Heathland Cottage, Studland | sleeps 6


Dorset coastal walks on a map


Need more inspiration?

If you can’t wait to explore Dorset on two feet, why not read our other guides to get you even more in the holiday mood?


Stay with us in Dorset

From cosy thatched cottages with roaring fires to sleek and stylish apartments overlooking the glistening sea, we have a wide range of coastal cottages in Dorset waiting for you to come and relax in them after a long day adventuring on two feet. Take a look at our full collection below to find your perfect coastal bolthole. 

Coastal cottages in Dorset


Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.