Wonderful walks in dreamy Dorset

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Posted by Clare Willcocks on 2nd February 2020

Walker pausing to take in the views over Lulworth Cove

 

There aren’t many places where you could discover Jurassic fossils, take in iconic coastal views, wander through Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, amble around chocolate-box villages and happen across ancient monuments all in the same week, but Dorset is one of them.

The best walks in Dorset are the ones which grab you with a sense of wonder and well-being: the feeling that there’s nowhere in the world you’d rather be.

The county encompasses an astonishing array of landscapes which are best explored on foot. A tangle of Dorset footpaths criss-crosses the county and takes you on an adventure fuelled by fresh air and glorious views. Pull on your old faithful walking boots and take a tour with us as we reveal our favourite Dorset walks.

Each of our Dorset walks is rated for difficulty and links to the route description where you’ll find all the essential information you’ll need before you step out. If you’re looking for places to stay nearby, we’ve included an assortment of cottages close to our favourite Dorset hiking routes to help you plan your perfect walking holiday.

At a glance:

Durdle Door and White Nothe walk

The iconic arch of Durdle Door

 

  • Distance: 7 miles
  • Difficulty: Challenging
  • Parking: Lulworth Cove car park (pay and display): BH20 5RS

Good if you’re looking for Lulworth Cove walks.

As Jurassic Coast walks go, this one is arguably the most breathtaking. Taking in Dorset’s most iconic sight, the majestic sea arch of Durdle Door, it traces its scenic way along high coastal paths above sparkling turquoise waters and photogenic beaches. It takes in the glorious white cliffs, stacks and coves from Lulworth Cove car park to White Nothe which is worth the slight detour for the unmissable views. The route doubles back inland through fields, making it the perfect circular route for a day’s walking.

Stay nearby: Cajun Cottage (sleeps 5 + 2 dogs)

 

For more inspiration on beaches and coves to visit in Dorset, take a look at our guide to Dorset beaches.

Old Harry Rocks walk

Stunning aerial view of Old Harry Rocks

 

  • Distance: 3.5 miles
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Parking: South Beach car park, Studland: BH19 3AU

Good if you’re looking for Bournemouth walks, Studland walks or Purbeck walks.

 

Another of Dorset’s must-visit natural attractions, the grass-topped white chalk stacks of Old Harry Rocks are a sight to behold as they rise like leviathans from the tip of Handfast Point. This circular walk follows the edge of the coast, allowing you to admire Old Harry Rocks from several angles, as well as enjoy panoramic sea views. Keep your eyes peeled for sea birds, including the great black-backed gull, the largest of our gull species. You may also be lucky enough to spot a peregrine falcon circling above.

The route heads back through the Glebeland Estate and farmland, coming to an end where you began in Studland, where the Bankes Arms awaits with a hearty meal and a pint to reward your efforts! One of the most scenic pub walks in Dorset!

Stay nearby: Braeside (sleeps 8)

 

For more inspiration, take a look at our guide, Discover Dorset.

The Two Rivers walk

Pretty Wareham at the centre of the Two Rivers walks

 

  • Distance: 2.25 miles (Frome to the Piddle) or 3.25 miles (Pigs and Piddle)
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Parking: Long stay car parks in Wareham at Streche Road (BH20 4QF) or Connegar Lane (BH20 4NQ).

Good if you’re looking for Wareham walks.

If you’re looking for circular walks in Dorset, the Two Rivers Walk is perfect, offering not one, but two loops to choose from. You can combine them in a figure of eight fashion, or if you’re pushed for time or energy, just choose the one which suits you best! The two rivers are the Frome and Piddle which flow through Wareham into Poole Harbour, creating a variety of interesting habitats to take in during your walk.

The Pigs and Piddle loop includes Wareham Common which is a haven for wildlife and you’ll often find cattle or horses here, as well as birds such as house martins and swifts. It follows the walls around Wareham where it joins the Frome to the Piddle circle which includes the wetlands of Wareham Meadows and views over the salt marshes and mudflats of Poole Harbour.

Stay nearby: The Cart House (sleeps 10 + 2 dogs)

Abbotsbury walk

Breathtaking panorama of Chesil Beach from Abbotsbury Hill

 

  • Distance: 7.5 miles
  • Difficulty: Challenging (one long climb)
  • Parking: West Bexington car park: DT2 9DG

Good if you’re looking for Weymouth walks, Dorchester walks or West Bay walks.

Starting from West Bexington, this walk strikes out along a beautiful section of Dorset coast before turning inland to explore the idyllic village of Abbotsbury. Abbotsbury Hill affords unparalleled views of Chesil Beach and Fleet Lagoon. Just before you get to Abbotsbury, if you’ve got time, take a detour down to the right to visit the swannery, otherwise press on towards the ruins of Abbotsbury Abbey and the pretty St Nicholas Church beyond.

Abbotsbury is an ideal spot to indulge in a rest and a homemade snack in the tearoom, or a pub lunch if you’d rather.

Stay nearby: Shearwater (sleeps 8 + 2 dogs)

Brownsea Island walk

St. Mary's Church on Brownsea Island

 

  • Distance: 1 mile
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Parking: Brownsea Island is reached by ferry from Poole Quay or Sandbanks Jetty

Good if you’re looking for Brownsea Island walks or Poole walks.

This peaceful woodland walk loops from the church into the centre of Brownsea Island, with plenty of opportunities to spot wildlife, including the red squirrel who is most often seen in autumn. If you’re lucky, you may also catch a glimpse of Europe’s tiniest bird, the goldcrest which lives up in the tops of the trees.

The trees themselves are captivating here – Brownsea is home to over 100 species! See if you can identify the most common which are pine, oak, beech, rowan and hazel. The route passes through a former daffodil plantation, which still produces shoots which are nowadays munched on by the island’s deer. Back where you started, you might be able to tick off a final creature, the peacock, which was introduced to the island for ornamental purposes.

Stay nearby: Woodridings, Poole (sleeps 8)

Cerne Giant walk

The iconic Cerne Giant

 

  • Distance: 6.8 miles
  • Difficulty: Easy – moderate
  • Parking: Kettle Bridge picnic area (free): DT2 7GY

Good if you’re looking for Cerne Abbas walks or Dorchester walks.

The highlight of this countryside walk is the huge Cerne Giant, the chalky outline of a naked man carved into a hillside. Shortly after starting off, the walk leads through the village of Cerne Abbas, a place which is worth dedicating some time to for further exploration.

En route, you will enjoy panoramic views of the bucolic landscape and come across several points of interest, including two impressive stately homes: The Manor House at Up Cerne and Minterne House. Just before you reach the end of the walk, there is a viewing point for the Cerne Giant. The origins of the colossal artwork are unclear, but the earliest known mention of it dates back to the late 17th century. Some believe it to be a form of political satire, however, over the years it has become associated with fertility and some eyebrow-raising folklore!

Stay nearby: Abbey Cottage (sleeps 5 + 2 dogs)

Godlingston Heath walk

The mythical Agglestone rock

 

  • Distance: 3 miles
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Parking: Middle Beach car park, Studland (National Trust): BH19 3AX

Good if you’re looking for Studland walks or Purbeck walks.

If you’re looking for circular walks in Dorset with incredible views, this one is for you. The panoramas extend right across to Little Sea and Studland Bay, and the geographic features, including the Agglestone, are fascinating.

The walk heads out from the village of Studland, past orchards which produce local cider and onto Godlingston Heath. Climb uphill onto Black Down Mound where your efforts will be rewarded by views of the Agglestone and Studland Heath. Legend has it that the 400-ton ironstone is the devil’s cap, which he threw in an attempt to destroy Corfe Castle, but it fell short.

After continuing on the ridge, the route descends on the other side of the Agglestone and passes through wet heathland which is a habitat for a variety of flora and fauna. The final stages are through woodland, past an old brick kiln and back to your starting point.

Stay nearby: Heatherview – Studland (sleeps 6)

Corfe Castle walk

Enchanting Corfe Castle

 

  • Distance: 8.7 – 9.5 miles
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Parking: Castle View Visitor Centre (BH20 5DR)

Good if you’re looking for Corfe Castle walks.

Steeped in over 1,000 years of history, the romantic ruins of Corfe Castle have inspired artists and writers for centuries, including Enid Blyton for whom it is thought to have been the inspiration for Kirrin Castle in the Famous Five books. What better way to appreciate the castle than by walking through the ancient landscape which surrounds it and admiring it from various angles?

As if views of the castle were not enough, you can also enjoy impressive coastal panoramas, including a glimpse of the Needles on the Isle of Wight on a clear day. Towards the end of the walk, before following the coast path into Swanage, you can admire the chalk stacks of Old Harry Rocks.

In Swanage, catch a train or the number 40 bus to take you back to Corfe.

Stay nearby: Well Court – Corfe Castle (sleeps 11 + 2 dogs)

Dancing Ledge and Langton Matravers walk

Visitors enjoying the sunshine at Dancing Ledge

 

  • Distance: 4.9 miles
  • Difficulty: Challenging
  • Parking: Spyway Car Park: BH19 3HG

Good if you’re looking for Corfe Castle walks, Swanage walks or Studland walks.

This wonderful green walking trail makes you feel at one with the great outdoors. Passing through verdant meadows and grasslands where flowers bob in the breeze, you should keep an eye out for puffins and bats en route, as well as dolphins who sometimes surface within sight of the craggy cliffs.

The path follows well-trodden lanes where crumbling stone boundaries tell of hundreds of years of history. If only walls could talk, here they’d tell tales ranging from smuggling to the filming of TV series such as Dr Who. The Dancing Ledge is a former limestone quarry, now home to a puffin colony. You can still see the ballroom-sized ledge which was used to load up the ships with stone.

Halfway through this circular route, you’ll be treated to spectacular views of Corfe Castle which is built from the local limestone. The final section of the walk is along Priest’s Way, so-named because it was the route the Priest would have taken from between the churches in Swanage and Worth Matravers.

Stay nearby: Hill View Cottage (Sleeps 5 + 2 dogs)

Lambert’s Castle walk

Atmospheric view from Lambert's Castle

 

  • Distance: 5 miles
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Parking: Lambert’s Castle car park (National Trust): EX13 5UW

Good if you’re looking for Axminster walks or Charmouth walks.

Breathtaking valley views await on this, one of the best Jurassic Coast walks. It takes in not one, but two ancient castles, the first being the 2,500-year-old Lambert’s Castle. The area around the iron-age hill fort is now teeming with wildlife, including treecreepers and yellowhammers, as well as nightjars which are sometimes heard on summer evenings. 

Following the Wessex Ridgeway, you’ll then reach Coney’s Castle before heading through the little hamlet of endearingly named Fishpond Bottom. You’ll pass the pond from which it earns its name, before rambling on to Lambert’s Common and back to the beginning of this circular route.

Stay nearby: Wytch Green Cottage (sleeps 6 + 5 dogs)

 

For more information about National Trust places and properties, take a look at our Dorset National Trust guide.

Map view of all walk start points

Planning a holiday in Dorset?

Top: The Harbour Penthouse, bottom left: Seaforth and bottom right: Cowslip Corner.

 

Perhaps you’re looking for a coastal escape, or searching for an idyllic rural cottage for exploring the beautiful countryside of Dorset? Whatever your idea of the perfect holiday, you’ll find self-catering accommodation to suit you amongst our stunning selection of Dorset cottages.

Your four-legged friend will love the selection of walks on offer, and with a wonderful array of dog-friendly holiday homes, the family pet is more than welcome to join you on your Dorset adventures.

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.