One of the benefits from the strange year 2020 turned out to be, has been seeing more of what the UK has to offer. Dorset’s Jurassic Coast is a 95-mile long World Heritage Site and is nothing short of spectacular.
After coronavirus scuppered our planned overseas trips for May and June 2020, my friend and I decided to take chance a book a few days in Corfe Castle for the first week the hospitality sector was predicted to reopen. Lucky for us it did and we had an excellent few days staying in Corfe and visiting its ruined castle, as well as exploring other parts of the Isle of Purbeck region.
We were keen to do a walk along the Jurrasic Coast and decided to go for the Lulworth Cove to West Bottom circular route. It’s 10km with some pretty challenging uphill climbs in places, so I’d recommend decent boots and hiking poles if you find them helpful. I like the fact they take pressure off your knees on uphill and downhill walking. After they were a lifesaver for me in Patagonia, I got some handy folding poles that are easy to carry.
Lulworth Cove is a pretty, almost circular, bay surrounded by cliffs. I remembered visiting here as a kid with my family, but it’s changed quite a bit now with a big car park, tourist shops and cafes. But that at least meant it was easy to park and the walk, which we followed from the Countryfile website, starts by heading uphill behind the car park. It’s quite steep with some steps, but the Jurassic Coast views offer the perfect excuse to stop, take a breath and look back. First at the Cove and then a bit further on at the South Coast Path meandering along the white cliffs.
After a while you start to head downhill and can see Man O’ War Bay before getting to Durdle Door, a limestone arch, created as a result of softer rocks being eroded behind a hard limestone cliff. It’s a pretty iconic spot so you won’t be the only ones there taking photos, but its well worth seeing, particularly as it will eventually collapse into the sea. It reminded us of Australia’s Great Ocean Road, but it’s a lot closer to home!
Lots of people turn around here and head back to Lulworth, but our walk took us on along the cliff top, going down to the marvellously named Stratchy Bottom and up to Swyre Head. Then you come to Bat’s Head which is a little scary to walk along and look down. But again the reward is some pretty stunning cliff views.
I think it was a bit further on from here that we started to spot a couple of large boats on the horizon. After a while when more came into view we realised they were cruise ships. Because of coronavirus, cruise ships had to stop sailing and here were six anchored in deep waters off the coast of Weymouth.
After a while the walk takes you inland and then back around to return to Lulworth on a flatter route. You can still see the sea but there are a few cows for company and it’s a much easier and quicker walk back. Eventually the directions take you through a caravan park which has excellent views and then back to Lulworth Cove.
It think it took us about 3.5 hours and we were definitely ready for some lunch. There is a variety of places at Lulworth, some of which looked better than others. We were lucky to nab a table at the Boat Shed right next to the cove. They were only doing take out sandwiches, but it was just what we needed.
After lunch we took a quick look at Lulworth Castle which was closing soon, but looked worth a visit another time. Then we decided to head back to Corfe via Kimmeridge Bay, another cove that is a popular spot for rockpooling and snorkelling. It was late afternoon when we got there so there was hardly anyone around and felt like quite a special place. It also rather randomly had a Mexican food truck in the car park. We were very up for a empanada snack but sadly he had no veggie fillings left!
The following day, after a morning visit to Corfe’s ruined castle, we drove back to the Jurassic Coast to take a look at Swanage. It’s the only ‘resort’ in the Isle of Purbeck and still has quite a nice old-fashioned feel with Victorian houses and a restored pier.
After a quick look round some of the town’s shops we headed for lunch at the 1859 Pier Cafe & Bistro. It’s a nice spot and walking along the pier after lunch the views of the bay and the beach are great. Swanage has a lovely sandy beach which I’m sure gets quite popular in the peak summer season.
About 10 minutes drive from Swanage is Old Harry Rocks, another stunning rock formation that marks one end of the Jurassic Coast. It can be reached by walking from Studland village which we didn’t have time for that day. But we did visit Knoll Beach, one of Studland Bay’s lovely stretches of golden sand. There are four miles of beach at Studland Bay, stretching from Old Harry Rocks to Shell Bay which is where you can also hop on the chain ferry to Sandbanks and drive on to Poole or Bournemouth.
Knoll Beach is backed by stunning sand dunes perfect for exploring, though walking through them can be quite hard going on the legs! There’s also a cafe and a National Trust shop at Knoll as Studland was bequeathed to the National Trust in 1981 along with Corfe Castle and Kingston Lacy. You can read more about our stay in Corfe Castle village and visit to the castle in my earlier post.
The fact that I’ve written two blog posts about a three night trip shows just how much Dorset has to offer. It feels like it might have been a bit overlooked in favour of its better known South West neighbours Devon and Cornwall. But I think Dorset is so lovely that I went back again two months after this visit. So look out for more posts coming soon!
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