Walk - South Dorset Ridgeway

17.1 miles (27.5 km)

South Dorset Ridgeway South Dorset Ridgeway

Easy - Moderate

The South Dorset Ridgeway is part of the South West Coast Path National Trail and was the original route to be designated (the route around Portland was only added in 2003). It runs from West Bexington to Osmington Mills, decreasing the total distance of the South West Coast Path by 25 miles (40 km). Although it is some distance from the sea, it is part of the National Trail as it offers stunning views of the Jurassic Coast.

The route also provides the opportunity to explore one of the UK’s most significant ancient ceremonial landscapes. The South Dorset Ridgeway has been important to local people for millennia as shown by the extraordinary number of lumps and bumps - or historic monuments - that can still be seen along the ridge. From long and bank barrows constructed around 6,000 years ago in the Neolithic period, stone circles and 4,000 year old Bronze Age round barrows, to Iron Age hillforts, the area rivals the more well known sites of Stonehenge and Avebury. The footpath passes close by to some of these monuments, particularly the round barrow groups at Bronkham Hill and Bincombe Down. Be careful not to trip over the stone circle at Hampton which also lies alongside the path You can find out more on the South Dorset Ridgeway website.

The Ridgeway not only offers fantastic views of the Jurassic Coast, but also of the inland scenery of river valleys, chalk downland, villages and farmland, and it provides access to some of Dorset’s famous landmarks, including The White Horse and Captain Hardy’s Monument. The South Dorset Ridgeway was well known to another famous Hardy - Thomas Hardy -  who captures this enigmatic landscape in several of his stories. The Ridgeway continues to be of inspiration to writers and artists alike, and we are sure that you too will be inspired by the glorious landscape around you.

Interactive Elevation


  • Chesil Beach: This extraordinary natural ridge of pebbles extends for over 17 miles from West Bay to Portland and is thought to be between 4000 and 7000 years old. Many ships have been lost along this stretch of coast, which was renamed ‘Dead Man’s Cove’ by Thomas Hardy who was born in Dorset.
  • The views over the Fleet Lagoon: at 8 miles (13 km) long, this is the largest tidal lagoon in Britain and a Site of Special Scientific Interest due to the extraordinarily rich variety of wildlife found here, including 150 species of algae and underwater meadows of eelgrasses. All this vegetation supports a vast number of birds, especially in the winter.
  • Abbotsbury Castle: Iron Age hill fort.
  • The Hardy Monument: this impressive structure was built to celebrate the life of Admiral Thomas Masterman Hardy, who is probably best known as the Captain of HMS Victory at the time of Lord Nelson’s death at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. The panoramic views from here are truly spectacular.
  • Bincombe Church: the small Holy Trinity Church dates from the 12th century. and not far from here is Bincombe Hill which is said to be the very hill that The Grand Old Duke of York instructed his 10,000 men to march up and down!
  • Views of the remains of medieval strip systems.
  • The White Horse: above the seaside town of Weymouth sits a famous Dorset landmark, the White Horse, which was constructed to commemorate the holiday visits of King George III to the town. The King is depicted astride the horse.
  • Osmington and Osmington Mills: this area of Dorset was visited by the great landscape painter John Constable, who actually stayed in Osmington during his honeymoon. A painting of the Bowleaze Cove hangs in the National Gallery (click here to see a copy). You will find a few welcome stops offering refreshments. You could try the 13th century Smugglers Inn which was the headquarters of the famous French smuggler Pierre Latour, known locally as French Peter, or the cliff top cafe which has spectacular views.
  • Arriving back at the sea and enjoying the views across Weymouth Bay to Portland and along the Path as it leads eastwards along the Dorset coast.

Places of interest

  • The historic village of Abbotsbury: there is much to see and do here, including taking a walk round the Abbotsbury Sub-Tropical Gardens, browsing the art and craft galleries and exploring the great Tithe Barn and ruins of the Abbey.
  • West Bexington Nature Reserve: the scrub and reed beds are visited by many varieties of birds, including Cetti's warblers, corn buntings, grasshopper warblers, snipe and water rails.
  • Maiden Castle hill fort: this is one of the largest and most complex Iron Age hill forts in Britain and is well worth the detour north.

Longer option

This is a long walk, with few facilities along the way or further ahead, and so we suggest you end the day around Osmington.

Nearby refreshments

There are very few opportunities to find refreshments along the route, so be sure to stock up on supplies at the beginning of the day. During the summer (April-October) there is mobile catering van at the Hardy Monument where you can get free range, local burgers, sausages, bacon, homemade cakes, and ice cream. After this the next option are the pubs and cafes in Osmington and Osmington Mills.

Public transport

South West Trains run regularly between Dorchester and Weymouth. There is also a mainline train station in the cathedral city of Exeter. The X53 bus service runs from Exeter to Abbotsbury, stopping at Swyre which is just north-west of West Bexington. The X53 also runs from Osmington to Weymouth, where you can pick up trains to Dorchester. For timetable information, zoom in on the interactive map and click on the train station and bus stop symbols, visit Traveline or phone 0871 200 22 33.


West Bexington, Abbotsbury, the Hardy Monument, and you may find parking around Osmington and Osmington Mills.


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