Walking the Jurassic Coast in Dorset
The south west county of Dorset is not only one of the most beautiful counties in any area of England, it is also one of the most appealing to those who love nothing better than slipping into their sturdiest boots and go walking. With coast and country walks all around the county, it is easy to see why those who love to stride out in the great outdoors flock to Dorset.
South West Coast Path
The ultimate walk for all enthusiasts is the The South West Coast Path which includes the full 23 miles of the spectacular Jurassic Coast. This designated UNESCO World Heritage Site gives walkers a unique insight into over 250 million years of history and takes in some of the most spectacular views you will see anywhere. Dramatic sheer cliff faces and rock formations that have eroded into outlandish shapes over the millennia are just two of the many highlights.
In total, the South West Coast path stretches for 630 miles and encompasses the Atlantic coastline of North Devon, down and around Cornwall and back up the Devon coast which lies on the English Channel before ending in Dorset. The Dorset section runs for a total of 75 miles between Lyme Regis and Poole, allowing those hardy walkers who travel the full length to take in a plethora of exquisite towns, villages and beaches en route.
The drama begins when the path does as the ancient port of Lyme Regis which boasts the famous high cliffs of Golden Cap. These in turn give way to the pebbled ridge that is Chesil Beach followed by the Fleet Lagoon's tranquil shores. Carry on along the path and you will be treated to such sights as coves that have been sculpted by the sea and arches and stacks of stone shaped over centuries by the elements.
There is then a sharp drop the sandy dunes and beaches of Studland Heath until you finally arrive at the inlets and tidal flats that tell you that have arrived in Pole Harbour. Some of the most famous rock formations along the way include Durdle Door, Dancing Ledge and Old Harry Rocks.
The path also passes through Bridport, an old market town as well as the picture postcard villages of Lulworth and Burton Bradstock. You will also walk through Tyneham, a deserted village, as well as Abbotsbury, best known for its outstanding medieval swannery.
The Dorset section of the South West Coast Path also takes you through the Lulworth Army Ranges. These are usually open to visit over Easter and the spring and May bank holidays, most of the summer and the majority of weekends. It is worth checking they are open however if your walk will take you through the ranges and your accommodation should be able to easily find out for you, if they don't know already.
Speaking of accommodation, whether you are coming for a short break to take in one or two walks or longer if you want to tackle the full 23 miles, you will need somewhere to stay. There is a range off accommodation options along the Jurassic coast to suit all budgets and comfort levels.
The larger towns such as Poole and Lyme Regis offer hotels and guest houses, the smaller town and villages have guest houses and inns and there are also several self catering options in form of caravan parks and camp sites as well as stunning Dorset cottages all along the coastline.
Bear in mind that this is an incredibly popular area for all holidaymakers, not just walkers, and while it may seem very romantic just walking along and staying where you want, you may find that there is no room at the inn when you get there so booking well is advance is highly recommended.
As for the walks themselves, well, where you go and how far you travel is entirely up to you. A nice easy one that runs for 2.5 miles is the Lulworth Cove and Durdle door walk. This short walk allows you to take in two of most stunning sights on the Jurassic coast and is a pleasant walk which is slightly uphill.
For those who really want to stretch their legs, the 6 mile walk starting at the village of Abbotsbury and taking in the castle and Chesil beach is both scenic and invigorating. This section has a moderate rating and there cannot be a more lovely starting point for any walk than the stunning thatched cottage of Abbotsbury. This walk also takes you through the St Peter's Abbey remains, Abbotsbury Gardens, Chapel Hill and the swannery.
A 10 mile walk along the Purbeck Coast will certainly put colour in your cheeks. Striding along the cliff tops taking in everything around you may make you need to allow longer for this walk that it would normally take you to cover 10 miles, but with all there is on offer this is a walk that shouldn't be rushed.
There are over 20 designated walks along the South West Coast Path, and while these are great if you have never been before, there are many walkers who just set off and see where their legs take them. Whether you want a gentle stroll or fancy taking on the full 23 miles, you will be hard pressed to find a better place to walk anywhere than along Dorset's Jurassic Coast.
Review date - 13th November 2013 - Author Paul