Walk: Eggardon Hill, Dorset
Trace the contours of an Iron Age fortification high on a Dorset hill, later a beacon used by an infamous 18th-century smuggler as a signal for his contraband-carrying ships
The anvil wedge of Eggardon Hill cuts through the roll of West Dorset like the upturned bow of a ship in a swollen sea; steep slopes that would have offered supreme natural defence for the Iron Age fortifications that remain largely intact upon the peak.
A walk here is untaxing but the ground can be uneven and slippery so watch your feet – especially when distracted by the views.
Eggardon Hill walk
1.6 miles/2.5km | 1 hour | easy–moderate
1. Plateau path
From either of the roadside parking spots (P) follow the footpath signs to the entrance of the fort and then take the path that hugs the southern side of the dividing fence and leads on to the main plateau. Part-owned by the National Trust, Eggardon is used for grazing by local farmers, so dogs, although welcome, must be kept on leads when livestock is present.
2. Suggler’s inn
Alongside the well-preserved earth-workings is a curious eight-sided form that has a more recent history. Isaac Gulliver, a notorious 18th-century smuggler, owned a local farm and planted trees in the octagonal enclosure to act as a signal to his boats out at sea. Gulliver is also believed to have used buildings at the Spyway Inn as a store for his contraband; the small snug bar in the pub is a perfect place to swap smuggling tales on a dark autumn evening.
3. Distant views
Views from the western ramparts are spectacular. On a clear day, it’s possible to follow the line of Lyme Bay from Golden Cap through into Torbay and as far as Start Point in south Devon, while the bulges of Pilsdon Pen and Lewesdon Hill (Dorset’s highest point) stand proud among the weave and folds to the north-west.
4. Bell Stone
Cross the wooden stile to walk out to the rock-strewn seam to the west. Here can be seen a sarsen known as the Bell Stone, a source of local folklore and mythology.
5. Life on the hill
Returning to the stile, head south along one of the worn footpaths along the top of the ramparts. In autumn, the grassland habitat is slightly yellowed from the sun, but remains dotted with the soft blue petals of harebells and the deeper mauve of autumn gentians. When the breeze softens, these southern slopes can be full of butterflies. The final flights of small copper, Adonis blue and clouded yellow can light up an autumn walk here, while migrant birds such as wheatear, whinchat and even ring ouzel – a member of the thrush family – can be seen, alongside the resident skylarks, linnets and corn buntings.