The Jurassic Coast in Dorset has some of the most stunning scenery in the UK with natural arches, limestone stacks and towering cliffs. Here are 6 short Dorset walks to help you see the best of the coast.


The South West Coast path is one of the most iconic trails in Britain. Stretching 630 miles along the south west of the country, the route collects everything from stunning beaches to historic castles; cream teas to comfy country pubs.

A small section of the path contains Dorset’s Jurassic Coast. Here, jagged white cliffs plunge into the ocean and huge arcs of golden beaches frame the English Channel. In our opinion, it contains some of the best scenery Britain has to offer and some great things to do as well. You can find all our highlights of the area in our guide to the Jurassic Coast.

But beautiful coastal walks in Dorset are just part of the story. These trails collect iconic cliff tops, stop at natural arches, sample local ales and discover homey cafes with exceptional views. And, the good news is you don’t need to traverse the entire 630 miles to get a taste of this stunning part of the country. Each walk is only 1 to 3 hours long, not too difficult and well and truly capture the spirit of the Jurassic Coast.

So grab your walking shoes and explore some of the best short walks in Dorset.

BEST SHORT WALKS ON THE JURASSIC COAST


1 / OLD HARRY ROCKS

An easy clifftop walk to iconic white limestone stacks

2 / ST ALDHEMS CLIFFS WALK

A rugged circular walk around a quiet attractive headland

3 / LULWORTH COVE TO DURDLE DOOR WALK

Simply the best clifftop walk on Dorset’s Jurassic Coast

4 / BOWLEAZE COVE TO SMUGGLERS INN

Beautiful undulating walk with a great local pub in the middle

5 / WEST BAY TO HIVE BEACH CAFE

A circular walk around strange rippling golden cliffs

6 / GOLDEN CAP

A short but steep walk up the highest cliff on the south coast

1 / OLD HARRY ROCKS

An easy clifftop walk to iconic white limestone stacks

Old Harry Rocks was once two white limestone rocks standing proud at the eastern end of Dorset’s Jurassic Coast. Unfortunately Old Harry’s Wife crumbled into the sea at the end of the 19th century. Old Harry remains – joined by other white stone monoliths that have now been carved out along the coast. It’s one of the most impressive stretches of coastline in the UK with dazzling white chalk stacks assembled like a jig saw puzzle waiting to be completed.

This clifftop circuit from Studland Village along the Old Harry coastline is a great way to take in the splendour of the natural scenery in the area. In addition, the grasslands near the rocks are awash with unusual wildflowers and an abundance of butterflies.

The walk starts at the car park at the Bankes Arms pub in Studland. You can either do a quick walk from the pub to Old Harry Rocks and back (25 minutes each way) or complete a loop via Ballard Point (2 hours). You can find more detailed information on the South West Coast Path website.

Another great thing about this walk is that it begins and ends at a pub selling local Jurassic Beer.


Distance: 2.2 miles there and back, 3.8 miles for the loop | Difficulty: Easy | Our Tip: Don’t stand too near the edge of the cliffs when taking photos.

2 / ST ALDHEMS CLIFFS WALK

A rugged circular walk around a quiet attractive headland

The St Aldhem’s Cliff walk passes a rugged section of the Dorset coastline that is unfairly under-visited. This is a great walk to admire the harsh realities of the battered coastline and get off the beaten track a little.

The walk passes the 13th century St. Aldhelm’s chapel and has excellent views of the carved out bay of Chapman’s pool. Since the path is so close to the edge, it also gives you dramatic views of the beaches below framed by stacks of crumbling rock.

Start the St Aldhem’s walk from the car park just west of Worth Matravers. Head south across the fields and bend west to the chapel. There is then a short steep 200ft descent and ascent after which the path follows the cliffs and crosses another field before returning to the car park.

The walk takes around 1 hour and 30 minutes and all the detailed information can be found here.


Distance: 2.8 miles round trip | Difficulty: Easy | Our Tip: Wear walking boots after rain as it can get muddy walking across the fields.

3 / LULWORTH COVE TO DURDLE DOOR

Simply the best clifftop walk on Dorset’s Jurassic Coast

One of the many fun facts about Great Britain is that we drink around 60 billion cups of tea a year. If you’ve spent too much time in quaint, cosy tea rooms and only have time for one walk, this is the one.

Over the course of an easy one hour stroll you’ll pass dramatic towering white cliffs; the iconic stone arches of Durdle Door and arcs of sweeping golden sand. It rightly deserves its reputation as one of the most beautiful stretches of coastline in the country.

From high above the sea, cows graze in lush green meadows – a dining room in an enviable location. Secret beaches appear tucked into coves and the waves of vertical cliffs extend into the distance. There is nowhere else quite like it.

Remarkably the walk is also easy. Start at Lulworth Cove and explore the folded limestone rocks of Stair Hole. Then head over the cliffs to photograph the arch at Durdle Door, one of England’s most iconic landmarks. From here you can stroll the sands of Man O’War beach or head even higher over the mighty crags of Bats Head. It’s a great few hours.

For more information see our detailed article.


Distance: 2.8miles to Stair Hole and Durdle Door and back | Difficulty: Easy | Our Tip: This walk can get very busy, try to be there early or late to avoid the crowds.

4 / BOWLEAZE COVE TO SMUGGLERS INN

Beautiful undulating walk with a great local pub in the middle

If your favourite walks involve a pub lunch in the middle like some of the fantastic hikes in the Cotswolds. This lovely walk rises over cliffs and down to beaches as it undulates through a very fine section of the Jurassic Coastal path between Bowleaze Cove and Osmington Mills.

It may not have the drama of Durdle Door or the towering limestone rocks at Old Harry but it does have our favourite local pub. Nestled beautifully between two cliffs in the tiny village of Osmington Mills, The Smugglers Inn is packed with character and feels miles from anywhere. Grab a locally brewed pint, recharge on traditional English pub food and contemplate the journey back.

Begin the walk at perfectly named Lookout Café just above Bowleaze Cove and follow the southwest coastal path for 2.7 miles to Osmington Mills. The walk takes about 1 hour and 15 minutes (one way) and return is via the same route. You can find all the information you need here.


Distance: 5.4 miles round trip | Difficulty: Easy-Medium | Our Tip: Don’t drink so much in the pub you can’t focus on the views when heading back.

5 / WEST BAY TO HIVE BEACH CAFE

A circular walk around strange rippling golden cliffs

We expected to be impressed by Durdle Door and Old Harry Rocks, but the cliffs of West Bay came as an unexpected surprise. The faces of the cliffs look like ripples on a lake and, being sandstone rather than limestone, their golden colour gleams in the early morning or late afternoon light. Standing proud over the polished pebbles of West Bay, they are a ethereal addition to one of the best beaches in the UK.

You can just park at the East Bay car park in West Bay and take a look, but it’s better to include them on a circular walk to Burton Bradstock and back. The loop begins at West Bay, heads across a golf course and fields before passing through Burton Bradstock. The hike finishes by dropping into the charming Hive Beach cafe. Recharge on local fish on the decked terrace before heading back along the cliffs to West Bay.

The circular walk is 5 miles, takes about 2 hours and has relatively little ascent and descent. You can find more detailed information here.


Distance: 5.3 miles | Difficulty: Easy-Medium | Our Tip: Make sure you take the time to walk on the beach under the cliffs.

6 / GOLDEN CAP

Short but steep walk up the highest cliff on the south coast

If like us, you have to get to the top of something, then this walk is for you. Golden Cap is the highest cliff on the south Coast standing at 191m (627 feet). From this position, it towers above the surrounding countryside. As a result, the views from the top are expansive.

Sea cliffs disappear off in each direction backed by a patchwork quilt of green fields. The view eastwards towards Thorncombe Beacon towering over the golden shingle beach is particularly lovely.

The path begins at the car park by the sea in Seatown. It’s just over 1 mile rising to the summit but the steep path will take you about 40 minutes. At the top you have a choice to head back the way you came, or complete a loop passing through Stanton St. Gabriel and Langdon Lane.

You can find all the information here or just use the information board in the car park.


Distance: 2.4 miles there and back or 4.5 miles round trip | Difficulty: Medium-Hard | Our Tip: It if has rained, wear walking boots and be particularly careful coming down.

MAP / BEST JURASSIC COAST WALKS IN DORSET

Below is a map of the walks mentioned in this post. Other bloggers have suggested the walk from Lyme Regis to Charmouth but erosion has meant that the Jurassic Coastal path now has to detour inland. It makes this walk much less enjoyable and does not make our list.

WHERE NEXT?

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Our complete guide to the Jurassic Coast has all the best things to do, as well as some suggestions for where to stay, get a local beer and have a great coffee.

Here are some of our other favourite hikes from around the globe:

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