From Lulworth Cove, follow the obvious path heading steeply uphill behind the car park. It’s a long climb with some steps, so if you need a breather look backand enjoy views over Lulworth Cove.
As you climb over the brow of the hill you are rewarded with stunning views of the South West Coast Path snaking along the edge of the bright white limestone cliffs as far as the Isle of Portland, which stretches out on a spit from Weymouth harbour. Back towards Lulworth, on Bindon Hill, you can make out the ramparts of a huge Iron Age hill fort.
Head downhill and down steps. Go through a gate and look down into Man O’ War Bay. Walk on for Durdle Door – a natural limestone arch, created as a result of softer rocks being eroded behind a hard limestone cliff. Eventually the arch will collapse and leave a solitary sea stack, while the sea will slowly eat into the chalk ridge and the entire bay will merge, leaving an offshore reef. The arch is reportedly the most photographed landmark in Dorset, so expect crowds in summer.
The coast is made from five types of rock, each formed underwater and tilted when the tectonic plates shifted and continents collided. Look out for the four rocks protruding from the sea, named the Bull, the Blind Cow, the Cow and the Calf. These mark the line of the coast 10,000 years ago. To look further back in time, see if you can spot several large holes in the sea stack, fossilised remains where cycad trees once grew 147 million years ago.
Walk back up to the coast path and follow it along the edge of the cliff-tops. Many visitors head back after Durdle Door so you should find this section quieter. The path dips downhill into Scratchy Bottom, before climbing steeply to Swyre Head. Go through a gate and continue along the coast.
Take a detour along Bat’s Head, a great picnic spot with views back towards Durdle Door. Carry on as the path dips and climbs along the coast, dropping down to Middle Bottom and passing a stone marked Ringstead 2. Walk over West Bottom, passing below the beacon. After 400m you reach a National Trail stone marker pointing inland to Dagger Gate.
Turn inland and follow the left-hand fence line. Bear right with the path and take the line across fields between the two beacons. Go through a gate and head straight ahead, ignoring a left turn. After another gate, bear right over fields towards the caravans. Follow the path along the top of the hill, walking a field’s width behind the caravan park. Go through a gate and walk along a track until you reach barns and a lane.
Back to the cove
Bear right with the lane, then turn right at the road and walk through Newland’s Caravan Park. As the road bears right towards the sea, turn left through a gate and follow a footpath over Hambury Tout. Go through another gate and walk over the hill, bearing right to rejoin the coast path. Follow the path left back to Lulworth Cove.
Click on the map below for an interactive version of the route.
Main image ©Getty