These are just few ways to explore the adventure, culture and history of Dorset’s coast. We’ve put them together in groups that would make great days or half days. They could be joined up to form a long weekend or picked apart if you want to skip the snorkelling and head straight for the outdoor cinema.
Where: Symmondsbury, Golden Cap, Lyme Regis
How long: Half day
Best for: Hiking
Begin at one topographical extreme with a hike along a holloway. The sunken roads, also known as shutes, bostels or grundles in various parts of the county, are a specialty of Dorset. Thought to have been pathways that were worn down below ground level by cattle drives and heavy traffic, they now make for some eerie but beautiful walks. Hell Lane is a great example and you can access it from the Symondsbury car park. Then it’s time for the other extreme. Head to Langdon Hill and scale Golden Cap, a yellow wedge of rock that’s the highest point on the south coast, with incredible views in every direction. If you’ve still got some energy left, then head to Lyme Regis and stroll the sea wall known as The Cobb, before heading into town for a pint.
Where: Maiden castle and Chesil beach
How long: Half day
Best for: Taking a step back in time
Maiden Castle is the largest Iron Age hill fort in Europe. It’s the size of 50 football pitches and the rings of defensive earthworks are still clearly visible. So yes, it’s just a series of mounds, but English Heritage have put together a downloadable podcast that brings the history to life. Round out your cultural day by heading down to Chesil Beach. As well as the setting for a heartbreaking book, it’s also an incredible wildlife area with numerous bird species flocking to The Fleet, a lagoon between the beach and mainland. The beach is more for walking than swimming, but the seemingly endless strip of shingle has a haunting beauty.
Where: Kimmeridge Bay, Worth Matravers
How long: Full day
Best for: Those in search of Dorset's wilder side
Pick a good weather day and prepare to get wet. Take your pick of kayaking and coastal foraging with Fore Adventure at Studland, take the snorkel trail in the shallow, crystal clear waters of Kimmeridge Bay. The underwater trail starts from the Fine Foundation’s Wild Seas Centre and will let you know what to look out for. Once you’re back on dry land, a walk up to Clavell Tower gives you incredible views along the coast and will put a keen edge on your appetite if your marine exertions haven’t done that already, with the perfect place to satisfy it just ten minutes down the road. The Square and Compass is a quirky pub that serves drinks through a hatch. It only sells pies and pasties but they’re both worth the visit and you can explore their log version of stone henge once you’re done.
Where: Furzebrook, Worbarrow, Lulworth
How long: Full day
Best for: People who want to see a bit of everything
The Blue Pool, on the Furzebrook estate near Wareham, is an old clay pit whose waters shift through an amazing spectrum of blues as the light changes. Although not safe for swimming, it’s a lovely spot for a hike and a picnic, as the surrounding woods are full of trails. After brunch at the pool, head west to Tyneham, a ghostly village that was completely evacuated in WWII and has remained deserted ever since. It’s open to the public most weekends and on public holidays, but is often closed as it’s rather fittingly part of the Army Ranges. If it’s open, take the short walk (20 minutes at a normal pace, less if you’re being chased by a tank) to swim at the deep cove of Warbarrow Bay. Accessible only on foot, it’s often wonderfully quiet. Finish the long day with a film at the outdoor cinema on the Lulworth Estate. In season they show classics and blockbusters on a giant screen with the majestic castle as a backdrop.
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