What it's like
Dorset’s coastline – a magnet for walkers – was England’s first natural World Heritage site. Known as the Jurassic Coast, you can walk over rock that records 185 million years of the earth’s history.
Covering the final stretch of the South West Coast Path, this area is littered with geological oddities that rival anything you’ll find in the Lake District or Scotland.
Walk out onto the headland above Swanage and you’ll come face to face with the impressive chalk sea stack of Old Harry’s Rock. A day’s stroll round the coast you’ll find the neat horseshoe inlet of Lulworth Bay and the limestone arch of Durdle Door. Between them are a bewildering number of secret beaches, caves, quarries, and even a man-made swimming pool blasted out of the rocks. For paleontologists amongst you there’s a fossil forest near Lulworth. For the more purile… a place called Scratchy Bottom.
Coastal walking can quickly rack up an impressive ascent and, more than any other landscape, the weather really dictates the experience. So while one trip might offer the seductive calm of Mediterranean blue, the following week you can fully expect gales, an inky petulant sea and a salty wilderness experience.
Head away from the coast and Arne offers wood and moorland that’s home to all six of the UK’s native reptiles. You can walk through a slice of history at the Iron Age hill fort of Bradbury Rings near Kingston Lacey. Or why not head to Cerne Abbas where you can’t fail to be impressed by the 180ft chalk rendering of a naked man with an eye-watering erection.
- Swange to Corfe Castle Drop your car in Corfe and catch the steam train to Swanage. Then head out of the town in the direction of Durlston. From here follow the coast to Worth Matravers then return to Corfe via Kingston.
- Weymouth to Lulworth Catch the train to Weymouth and then follow the coast east to Lulworth. If you’ve got energy left, follow the ridgeway back to Corfe Castle where you can pick up public transport.
- Cerne Abbas Giant Walk A short walk that starts out of the village of Cerne Abbas and takes in the Benedictine Cerne Abbey before taking you past the ‘Rude Man’ himself.
Must see and do
- Ride the steam train The restored steam rail line that links Swanage and Corfe Castle is great for families and it’s a good way to link walks. www.swanagerailway.co.uk
- Birdwatch in Arne It has a fantastic bird hide with views across Poole Harbour and you’re almost guaranteed to see a little egret. http://tinyurl.com/6nglzc
- Visit Hardy’s Wessex Dorchester has Roman origins it was the location for Judge Jefferies Bloody Assizes and the trial of the Tolpuddle Martyrs. It was also the ‘location’ for many of Thomas Hardy’s books.
Destination County : Dorset