Section 5. Weymouth to Lulworth Cove - Jurassic Coast Path Walking Holiday
Distance 11 miles Grade - An easy start becomming Moderate then Strenuous walking - What these grades mean.
Leaving Weymouth by the sea wall you head back to the countryside passing Lodmoor Country Park, an important RSPB salt marsh bird reserve, a network of intricate lagoons and reed beds holding the largest common tern colony in the South West. Just off the route are the remains of the 4thC Jordan Hill Roman Temple as well as old Earthworks at Black Head. Look inland here to spot King George 3rd as he departs Weymouth (literally on horseback) in mighty style as a huge chalk image carved on the hillside above you. The fact he was depicted riding out of the town upset many of the locals here in 1815.
At Osmington Mills you can pause for a drink at the rather iconic 13th Century Smugglers Inn where the infamous smuggler Pierre Latour or French Peter was caught by Customs men craftily hiding up the chimney! At this point, those who took the inland DORSET RIDGEWAY option, rejoin the main South West Coast Path and head into the heart of The Jurassic Coast Path Heritage Site on the way to Durdle Dor and Lulworth.
Walking now through bushes and scrub to the cliff tops pass old pill boxes and machine gun points at Bran Point, the wreck of The Minx (1929) visible on the rocks below and on a calm day oil can be seen rising from the seabed here - part of a natural rock seep. Impressive woodland takes you to the old mounds of Ringstead an abandoned Medieval village, burnt and destroyed it's said, by bands of French Pirates... though the arrival of the Black Death in Weymouth is a more likely cause. As you pass, the eerie mounds of the cottages and streets can still be made out.
The Dorset Coast Path now picks up in its challenges and geological wonders, passing the bizarre Burning Cliff, so called after the cliff literally combusted during the 19C, becoming a major tourist attraction as it burnt for a year and smouldered for much longer, a reaction of the Iron Pyrites and the oil shale that forms here.
Pause at the tiny church of St Catherine’s by the sea, barely much more than a wooden hut but, according to Thomas Hardy, its real purpose was a store for smuggled goods.
Finally you reach White Northe where the South West Coast Path route narrows to become even more dramatic along mighty sheer chalk cliffs, some over 500ft deep.
Look out now for wild deer and rare butterflies attracted by the chalk lands. The roller coaster really takes hold now with three big ascents and descents from here to Lulworth Cove, each one more stupendous than the last.
First, the isolated triangular spur of Bats Head which has is own less famous rock arch, before an immediate toil back up to Swyre Head - this climb bringing the rewards of the first views of the stunning rock arch at Durdle Dor beyond your amusingly named descent into Scratchy Bottom.
Durdle Dor (meaning Pierced opening) is one of the South West Coast Path's most memorable highlights, a breathtaking geological sea archway, 200ft high and the most iconic image of the Dorset Coastline. Descend steps to reach the beach as you can’t miss this location for a paddle or better still, for the brave, a once in a lifetime swim beneath this towering natural wonder. Ahead now the views open up to reveal legendry Lulworth Cove, its perfect azure blue bay circled by chalk hillside to give a natural coliseum , a sheer sided auditorium. Just before you reach this rather heavenly spot is Stair Hole. Here, go to the viewing platform to take in the impressive collapsed cave systems and rock arches, surrounded by cliffs of folded rock strata know here as the Lulworth Crumple.