Walking Dorset’s Jurassic Coast

In Dorset, Walking
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After arriving in Wool by train from Poole, it’s around eight miles of undulating walking through woodland, heathland and sheep pasture via the Hardy Way route to Lulworth on the ‘Jurassic Coast‘.

Looking inland from the summit of Hambury Tout, between Durdle Door and Lulworth Cove.
Sunset over Chesil Beach and Portland
The path to Lulworth and its cove

The coastal path east of Lulworth crosses the military firing ranges of Lulworth Camp. Range walks are open all summer and most weekends, with other access times posted publicly online. This is no nanny statist pseudo ‘health and safety’ exercise — the ranges are used for live firing practice by tanks and other vehicle-mounted heavy weapons.

When open, walkers are probably best advised to heed the warnings to stick to the footpaths and not to stray beyond yellow pole markers in order to avoid encountering unexploded ordnance with potentially life-altering results.

Looking back to Hambury Tout
Lulworth Cove from the range walks just after sunrise
This section of the path has steep and strenuous descents and ascents over twisted rock strata below
The hulk of a defunct tank used for target practice hides in the middle ground
View west from Rings Hill
Worbarrow Bay

At Brandy Bay, the path diverges to offer two eastbound options. I chose to leave the coast and continue along the ridge above Kimmeridge, following it up Smedmore Hill to Swyre Head, which overlooks the Encombe estate, near the village of Kingston.

View back along the coast above Kimmeridge. The Clavell Tower folly, now restored as accommodation, is just visible on the shaded headland in the near distance

At Kingston, the Scott Arms pub garden has an uninterrupted panorama of Corfe Castle and the downs forming the northern ridge of the Purbeck Hills. From here, the 40 bus runs hourly to Wareham and Poole or Swanage.

On the other side of the Encombe valley, a footpath runs from Kingston to Houns Tout cliff, a massive cap of Portland sandstones. From here, one can continue a rollercoaster journey east along the coast path via Chapman’s Pool and St. Aldhem’s Head to Swanage, Studland and beyond.

The wooded valley ending at ‘Freshwater Steps’, from the footpath to Houns Tout
Encomb House and estate
West from Houns Tout to Freshwater Steps, Rope Lake Head and the now distant Isle of Portland
Softer sands and clays in cliffs erode, causing regular falls of sandstone boulders and shale and revealing the rich fossil contents of this part of the Jurassic Coast

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