Walk - Highlands End - Chideock Inland Walk
Walk information provided with help from Natural England. Map reproduced by permission of Ordnance Survey on behalf of HMSO. © Crown copyright and database right 2022. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100022021.
To get to the start of this walk, drive to Golden Cap Holiday Park (DT6 6JX) and park your car in the beach car park (chargeable). Or you can walk about 2 miles westwards along the South West Coast Path to Seatown. Alternitively you could catch the bus from Bridport Bus Station to Chideock Bridge and join the walk at (11).
- Starting from the beach car park, walk up Sea Hill Lane to Golden Cap Holiday Park. Walk past Reception to the north-easterly corner of the field, go through onto Mill Road and take the footpath opposite, leading through the field alongside the Holiday Park, and follow it to the end of the field and around the water treatment plant, to come out on a lane. Carry on here to where it meets another lane. Going over the stile on the opposite side of this lane into the field beyond, follow the waymarker pointing left towards the houses in the distance and cross the stream via the footbridge. Carry on along the hedge and then the lane on the left, to come out on the A35 road beyond.
- Turn right on the main road and walk about a hundred yards to the road opposite. Cross over to go up this road and follow it to the right and then the left around the barn, emerging on a footpath travelling uphill through the field, with the woodland on your right.
- At the top of the hill the path comes out on a track. Turn right on the track and and travel a short distance to pick up the footpath on your left heading leftwards (northwards) around the back of the copse ahead. This will lead you onto open heathland. Still heading almost due north, aim for the far left-hand corner of the heath, travelling downhill.
- Going into the trees in the corner, you come to Quarry Cross, where a path joins from the left and another from the right; while the path you want carries straight on ahead along the ridge.
- After about half a mile, another track joins from the right. Carry straight on past it, also ignoring the footpath dropping down into the fields on your left. With the track having joined from the right, you are now on the Monarch's Way.
The Monarch's Way is a 615-mile long-distance footpath retracing the steps of King Charles II in his flight to France after being defeated by the Parliamentarians at the Battle of Worcester in 1651. There was a reward of £1000 offered to anyone who captured the king, and the risk of summary execution for treason to anyone who helped him escape. Nonetheless, Catholics throughout the country had nearly a century's experience of aiding and abetting those who continued to practise the Catholic faith (see below), and they helped his flight through the land from Worcester to Shoreham-by-Sea in Sussex, where he took a boat to France.
Follow the waymarkers for the Monarch's Way as they take the next footpath on your left, a couple of hundred yards later, when you reach the V of Henwood Copse on your right. Don't follow the track straight downhill: your path pulls away to the right, exiting this field through the hedge ahead of you and curving around to the left along the hedge beyond, cutting through the trees and into the next field before it descends to the stream in the valley below. Cross the stream and go straight across the next field and left onto Venn Lane, walking past the farm entrance and on to the farm buildings ahead.
- Coming to Venn Farm, leave the Monarch's Way as it goes right, and instead turn left down the road and walk due south down it for about 300 yards, passing a footpath on your right, until you come to the footpath on your left, to Brighthay Farm
- Take this footpath and follow it to the corner of the field diagonally opposite, carrying on in the same direction to clip the corner of the next field and make your way across the last field to the farm drive. Turn right here and follow the drive around a left-hand bend to come out on Butt Lane beyond, at the top of North Chideock.
- Turn left on Butt Lane and follow it as it forks right to pass through a few buildings and then turns into a track. This is the lower end of an old track known as Hell Lane.
- Take the second footpath on your right, turning onto it just after the last building on your right, and walk straight ahead, passing a copse on your right-hand side. Turn abruptly right on the far side of this copse and walk to the far hedge, going through it into the field beyond.
- Follow the left-hand hedge here, carrying on around the corner of the field and then cornering again to continue in the original direction, and then go through into the field beyond.
You are now in Ruins Field, featuring the last overgrown remnants of the fourteenth century castle destroyed some three centuries later by the Parliamentarians who were responsible for the destruction of many buildings in this part of Dorset.
Chideock Castle was built in 1380 by John de Chideoke, whose family came from Bridport. Prior to the Norman Conquest, the Chideock estate had belonged to King Alfred, but William the Conqueror seized it within two years of landing on English soil, and subsequently it was transferred to Norman Barons. Edward II granted it to de Chideoke in 1312.
Although all that remains now of the castle are earthen mounds and trenches, it was once a stately building with a commanding position over the valley below. Surrounded by a deep moat, nearly twenty feet wide and eight feet deep, the castle was supplied with fresh water from a spring which rises at the foot of Quarry Hill. During the English Civil War, when the castle stood as a Royalist stronghold, this supply of fresh water made it possible for the defenders to hold out against attack, and the Parliamentarians had to place it under siege several times before they finally took it and destroyed it, in 1645.
The cross which stands in the middle of the earthworks is a memorial to the Chideock Martyrs. The plaque beside it reads: “During the reign of Elizabeth I and Charles I five men went out from here to die for the Catholic Faith. This cross is dedicated to their memory and two other martyrs from Chideock who also died for their faith.”
During this period the Lords of the Manor continued to hold mass within the castle, along with many of the villagers, who were also devout Catholics. At that time the law forbade Catholic worship, and the five men named on the plaque were caught participating in one of these masses in 1594, and were tried and condemned to death. Although they were offered their freedom if they would renounce their Catholic faith, all refused to do that, and they were executed.
Follow the path from the castle ramparts towards the houses, to go through the gate in the left-hand corner of the field and follow Ruins Lane down to the main road.
- Cross the road and go onto the footpath across the road, down the far right-hand side of the garden opposite. Follow the path due south between hedges, crossing the stream and coming out onto Mill Lane beyond and continuing along it, back to Golden Cap Holiday Park.
To get back to Highlands End you can either drive, walk back eastwards along the South West Coast Path or catch the bus at Chideock Bridge.
There are numerous restaurants, pubs and tea shops in Chideock as well as The Anchor Inn at Seatown.