Feel like fleeing the crowds summer? Then it’s good to know you don’t have to head thousands of miles away to find your escape. Here’s Andy from 501 Places with a wild and wonderful getaway to our very own Dorset shores…
If you want to leave the crowds behind and enjoy an active holiday in a beautiful part of the English countryside, why not spend a few days along the Jurassic Coast in Dorset? It’s perfect for those who like a walk with plenty of fabulous scenery to reward their efforts.
Here’s an outline of a two day hike along a particularly scenic section of the South West Coastal Path that allows you to indulge in good food and burn off the calories as you walk.
Day 1: Weymouth to Lulworth Cove (10 miles)
A very traditional British resort town, Weymouth looks fabulous on a sunny day and grim in the rain. Thankfully this coastline does get a fair amount of sunshine and the local micro-climate means that it’s often bright here when it’s raining just a few miles inland.
Head eastwards along the sea front and out of town. Soon beyond the Waterside holiday park you’re into open fields and the first hills are a gentle warm-up for what’s to come.
As with any good walk, there’s a well-placed pub on the route. The Smugglers Inn at Osmington Mills is not quite the halfway point, but it’s a good place to stop, recharge and grab a bite and a drink before facing the hills. They do an excellent range of bar nibbles (including wasabi snacks if that takes your fancy!).
After this stop it’s a stiff mix of steep climbs and rapid descents as the Dorset coastal scenery starts to open up. The undulating cliffs make for a superb backdrop and you’ll be snapping plenty of photos; they also ensure that a certain level of fitness is required to make the repeated ascents of the grassy slopes and well-marked paths.
A mile or so before reaching Lulworth you’ll see the impressive sight of Durdle Door, a natural limestone arch jutting out into the English Channel. The favoured backdrop of most Dorset calendars and posters, it can boast a starring role in several major movies as well as music videos by Cliff Richard (Saviour’s Day), Billy Ocean (Lover Boy) and Tears for Fears (Shout).
Your final destination for the night is Lulworth, a small village set above a beautiful cove. You’ll find most visitors hanging around the cove (in good weather at least) and it’s here where you can rest your weary feet with a drink in hand and congratulate yourself on a good day’s walking.
Day 2: Lulworth Cove to Corfe Castle (10 miles)
If you thought the first day’s scenery was good, the second day offers even more outstanding coastal views. The climbs are as steep if not steeper, but the paths are good and the views at the crest of each cliff top do provide ample reward for the effort. And of course you’ll probably be walking off a full English breakfast. Bring water and snacks as there are no pubs along this section of the walk.
Stop by at the Fossil Forest just beyond the cove to learn a little more about the geology of the Jurassic Coast. A while later at Worbarrow take the inland route to explore the village of Tyneham. Forcibly abandoned in 1943 as it was in an inconvenient location for the nearby firing ranges, residents were never allowed to return. You can wander through the old church and schoolhouse (limited opening times) and see the ruins of the remaining homes. It’s an eerie place with a sad but fascinating story.
From Tyneham head up and inland to walk along the ridge of the Pirbeck Hills towards the lovely town of Corfe Castle, your final stop.
Dominated by its ruined castle (well worth a visit if you still have the energy) it has a generous selection of pubs, restaurants, cafes and ice creams.
And what better way to end a tiring but highly enjoyable day on the Jurassic Coast?
Practicalities: You can reach Weymouth by direct train from London Waterloo in around 2.5 hours. From Corfe Castle you can take a number 40 bus (hourly) to Poole and from there catch the train to London (2 hours).