Section 7. Worth Matravers to Poole - Jurassic Coast Path Walking Holiday
Distance 14.5 miles - Grade - 6.5 miles Strenuous and 8 miles Moderate to Easy - What these grades mean.
Distance based on rejoing the coast path at Winspit
Highlights: St Aldhelm’s Head, Durlston Park, Old Harry’s Chalk Stacks, Golden Sand beach and dune finish.
Your first climb today along the Jurassic Coast brings the wild protrusion of St Aldhelms Head, passing en route an isolated and poignant little memorial garden to The Royal Marines where you are invited to “Rest awhile and reflect that we who are living can enjoy the beauty of sea and countryside”... and you will from here. The views are outstanding from the headland, back to Portland one way and now as far as the Isle of Wight the other. Fulmar, Kittiwake, Razorbills and even the odd Puffin can be spotted up here, as well as dolphin in the waters below the huge cliffs. At the top you encounter the stark 12thC St Aldhelms Chapel with its Norman vaults and tremendous buttresses and pillar. Originally it was the isolated abode of a solitary priest who said daily prayers for the safe passage of ships below and lit a nightly beacon above the Coast Path.
Beyond this the walking is superb on a high level cliff top path traversing the occasional hanging valley, look out for the rare Lulworth Skipper Butterfly amongst patches of chalk milkwort and spider orchid. The remains of Winspit Quarry are the first of several on this route. This area is so remote that rock drawn from the mines and quarry face by horse power was then lowered down the huge cliffs to waiting barges. Any boat in this area was taking risks, at Headbury Quarry you can see a canon lying far below you, marking the resting place of the Halsewell which sunk here on its way to India with 168 lives lost in 1786, the bodies buried close to the path in a mass grave..
Approaching Swanage you enter the Durlston Country Park passing nautical Daymark towers and the lighthouse at Anvil point (open for guided tours). You will encounter the square cut holes of the Tilly Whim Caves, cliff face limestone quarry shafts that became welcome holding sites for smuggler's hauls after the quarries shut in 1815, and these days they are the roosting holes for the rare Horseshoe Bat.
At Durlston Head you reach the bizarre 3m diameter globe, made from Portland Stone, weighing a mere 42 tonnes and somehow sited just inland of the Dorset Coast Path in 1887. It illustrates a very Victorian view of the world, inscribed with scriptures, geological data and quotes from the great poets. The viewing platform here is one of the best spots for seeing Peregrine Falcons and Dolphins. For those who need it you can pause here for refreshments at the Lookout Cafe in the splendid Victorian folly of Durlston Castle which is also now the new 'Gateway Information Centre' for the Jurassic Coast Path.
You then descend to the Promenade to walk through Swanage with its attractive Victorian Pier. You may want to take a day out here to visit nearby Corfe Castle.
Ballard Down has its own chalk loving flowers and butterflies, including the Adonis Blue, and takes you to the final headland of the entire South West Coast Path at the impressive white stacks of Old Harry. These towering pinnacles of chalk are the remains of what was once a continuous ridge that linked to the Isle of Wight, its famous needles being the mirror end of this formation. Have your camera ready, the towering stacks are beautifully white, sheer and very memorable.
Passing pretty Studland with its fine Saxon Church, you reach Fort Henry. Here, in 1944, Montgomery, Mountbatten, Churchill and Eisenhower met to watch the preparations for D Day on the beach below.
You now end your journey with a superb contrast in the walking on three miles of soft sandy beach, bringing the Dorset Coast Path adventure to a pleasing and reflective close. Offshore, keep looking if you are yet to spot a bottlenose dolphin on this trip. Inland is the rough grass, dune and heath of the Studland Heath Nature Reserve, housing everything from roe deer and nightjars to sand lizards and the rare smooth snakes.
Much fun is made of the well known Nudist beach (which is the last obstacle or attraction depending on your point of view) before reaching the ferry at South Haven Point. You can choose to avoid the naked by taking the National Trust’s thoughtfully provided heather walk through the dunes. Either way, from here your South West Coast Path journey ends with a boat ride across the largest natural harbour on the UK’s south coast at Poole.
Finishing at Bournemouth
The South West Coast Path ends at the Sandbanks Ferry - this is still over 4 miles from the centre of Poole and we can help with advising on the options (walk, taxi, bus). Many people prefer, however, to travel on to Bournemouth which is about the same distance but is easier to get to with more buses. In addition Bournemouth provides a much wider range of accommodation, easy access to onward travel and with all its facilities and activities can be a more inspiring end to your Dorset Coast Path walk. We can provide accommodation in either location and help advise on the best option - just ask.