Best walks in Dorset
There are many words one could use to describe Dorset – quaint, picturesque, scenic. However, none of them quite manage to capture the county’s charm. If we had to sum up Dorset’s rolling hills, spectacular cliffs, and secret coves in one word, it would have to be ‘unspoilt’. To truly appreciate all this unspoilt beauty, there’s no better way than on foot.
With over 300 miles of trails and paths, Dorset is a walker’s paradise. Both coastal and inland walking routes provide plenty of opportunity for you to really get away from it all. We’ve compiled some of our favourites from these walks, all within driving distance of one of our four Dorset holiday parks. Better yet, the county is known as one of the most dog-friendly regions in the country, so we’ve made sure to include some of the best Dorset walks for your pooch to join in too.
1. Lulworth Cove to Durdle Door, coastal walk
Distance: 1.5 miles (each way)
This walk connects two of the most famous natural attractions on Dorset’s Jurassic Coast: Lulworth – an almost perfectly circular cove, backed by high white chalk cliffs – and Durdle Door – a natural limestone arch over the sea that has become the symbol of Dorset’s coastal walks. It’s easy to see why this is one of the most photographed spots in the county.
You can do the walk in either direction, but our preference is to start and finish at Lulworth Cove as the Lulworth Cove Inn makes the perfect venue for a post-walk meal. The starting point is round the back of the Lulworth Cove Car Park. From there you’ll need to follow the signs for the South West Coast Path towards Durdle Door. The route is well marked, but it can be a fairly steep climb due to the up and down nature of the cliffs.
2. Isle of Portland, circular walk
Distance: 8 miles
This circular walk in Dorset around Portland is very achievable, if slightly long for your average walker. The coastal route offers wonderful views out to sea on a clear day. You can start at sea level, where the tidal island of Portland meets the famed Chesil Beach.
From the Olympic rings, head in an anti-clockwise direction and you will pass a number of historical points of interest including Blacknor Fort, Portland Bill Lighthouse, and Rufus Castle. We recommend stopping off for a drink and a bite to eat at the Lobster Pot Cafe where the crab sandwiches are a speciality. Take care as the path can get narrow in places and there are some sudden drops near the cliffs.
3. West Bay to Golden Cap
Distance: 4 miles
Starting in the pretty fishing town of West Bay – a 30-minute drive from Haven Littlesea Holiday Park – this short but challenging walk along the South West Coast Path will take you across farmland and cliff tops. From the dramatic golden cliffs of West Bay, you’ll be treated to wonderful views over the starting point of Chesil Beach and, if the conditions are right, you might be able to observe paragliders who use the cliff top for landing and take-off.
There are two steep uphill stretches on this walk – the first up Thorncombe Beacon, then to Golden Cap itself, the highest point on the South Coast. This can be a little tough on the legs, but there is the excellent Anchor Inn between the two, and the views at the peak – all the way along Chesil Beach to Portland in the east and across Lyme Bay to Lyme Regis in the west – make your efforts worthwhile.
4. Poole Cockle Trail
Distance: 1.5 miles
Not only is Poole’s famous Cockle Trail a great opportunity to explore the history of the town, but it's also one of the best dog walks in Dorset. The route begins on the site of the “Fish Shambles”, just a couple of miles from our Rockley Park Holiday Park. From there you can follow a series of numbered, brass cockle signs that will guide you around Poole’s sites of historic interest.
You'll uncover all sorts of stories on the trail, from the town’s involvement in the D-Day landings, to the notorious smuggling gangs that once operated in the area. The walk is suitable for anyone, from the elderly to kids and canines.
5. Corfe Castle
Distance: 1.5 miles
Found at the heart of the Isle of Purbeck, Corfe Castle village is famed for its ruined castle and scenic countryside. There are plenty of trails starting from the village including a 12-mile walk to Swanage, from where you can get the steam train back to Corfe. However, for those looking for a more casual stroll, there's a dog-friendly route that loops around the ruins of the castle.
Let the kids’ imaginations run wild as they explore the ruins and enjoy the lovely scenery on offer around Corfe Common. There’s a National Trust car park nearby which can be reached in under 45 minutes by car from any of our Dorset holiday parks.
6. Old Harry Rocks walk
Distance: 2.5 miles
Old Harry Rocks, located in the Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, is a very common walking destination from both Swanage and Studland. We recommend the latter for an easy-going out-and-back walk that takes in the highlights. The famed chalky headland is owned by the National Trust and lies a mile or so directly east of Studland. Ready your phone as there will be plenty of breathtaking photo opportunities en route, making it one of the best walks in Dorset. As the path is relatively flat, it’s suitable for a wide range of ages and fitness levels; dogs are also welcome but must be on a leash.