Walk - Thorncombe Beacon & Doghouse Hill
Walk information provided with help from Natural England. Map reproduced by permission of Ordnance Survey on behalf of HMSO. © Crown copyright and database right 2020. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100022021.
- Pick up the South West Coast Path on the right behind the Eype Mouth beach car park to climb towards Thorncombe Beacon.The route follows the Coast Path as far as Seatown and is waymarked accordingly.
Eype gets its name from the Old English, meaning “a steep place”. The coast to the west of the rivermouth at Eype is noted for its rare beetles, including two species that are not found anywhere else in Britain. Both Thorncombe Beacon Mouth and Eype Mouth are popular places for fossil-hunting, and frequent finds here include starfish, and ammonites. If you go fossil hunting on these beaches, make sure you do it on a falling tide, so that you are not cut off at high tide.
There are four Bronze Age burial mounds on the northern side of Thorncombe Beacon, which appear to be lined up towards Colmer's Hill, the highest hill in the district and a couple of miles north. A fifth barrow on Eype Down, also to the north, straddles the line between these ancient sites.
According to local legend, the various mounds around here and neighbouring Langdon Hill were made by the devil as he bounced around when the Abbot of Forde Abbey kicked him out to sea. They are sometimes known as the "Devil's Jumps" for this reason.
In 1588, a chain of beacons was built along the south coast to warn of the approach of the Spanish Armada, which had been sighted off Plymouth, and Thorncombe Beacon was one of these.
- From Thorncombe Beacon the path falls and then rises briefly again over a smaller hill before dropping on the approach to Doghouse Hill. Ignore the small paths heading inland along the way, and the one you pass as you climb Doghouse Hill.
In 2009, archaeologists working for the National Trust found evidence that suggests that Doghouse Hill was West Dorset's oldest human settlement. Finds here include a stone hearth and a fire pit, as well as pot shards, from the Bronze Age (2500 - 1000 BC). There were also traces found of human habitation during the Mesolithic Age (10000 - 4000 BC). At that time the hill would have been over a mile inland. Since then the continual wash of the sea has eroded the cliffs on its southern side, but even in the Mesolithic Age it would still have afforded far-reaching and strategically important views across the surrounding landscape.
- After descending Doghouse Hill there is more ascent and descent at Ridge Cliff, before the path finally drops to sea level at Seatown.
As well as walking on the South West Coast Path, here you are walking on the Monarch's Way. This 615-mile long-distance path traces the route of King Charles II's flight to France, following his defeat at the hands of the Roundheads in the Battle of Worcester in 1651.
- At Seatown the Coast Path turns inland on the road uphill towards Chideock. Walk up the road to the entrance to the holiday park, on the right.
Apart from Golden Cap Holiday Park, Seatown consists of just a handful of cottages and the Anchor Inn. The inn is said to have been the stamping ground of a band of nineteenth century smugglers known as “The Chideock Gang”. Maybe the customs men based in the coastguard cottages immediately above the inn thought they really were just fishermen!
- Turn right on the road past the holiday park's Reception/Shop and take the lane on the right immediately afterwards (Mill Lane), running around the caravan site. Ignoring the first bridlepath on your right, a moment later, take the next, just before the buildings. On entering the field follow the bridlepath, bearing left and going gently uphill.The bridlepath then bears right towards the back of Ridge Cliff and rejoins the Coast Path at 3 near the two fingerposts. Cross the field to the second post and take the left hand path around the back of Doghouse Hill keeping the fence and hedge immediately on your left to go through the gap in the hedge ahead and take the path on your left immediately afterwards, following the hedge around the back of Doghouse Hill. Keeping the hedge to your left, carry on along the path past three lightly wooded hillocks to where the hedge turns abruptly left and another hedge crosses your path.
- Go through the gap in the hedge ahead before climbing steeply uphill to the top left-hand corner of the next field. Bear slightly right and ignore the waymarked path to Eype Down. Follow the path through the woodland beyond to come out on Down House Lane.
- Follow the lane leftwards past a couple of houses, and go into the field on the right to take the small path alongside the right-hand hedge. Carry straight on ahead towards the middle of the field and when the path forks take the left hand fork towards a gate in the thickly hedged corner. Keep the next hedge to your left, going through into the field on your left to continue in the same direction on the other side of the hedge, coming out by Lower Eype Farm.
- Turn left to walk around the farm buildings, bearing right to walk behind them, turning left onto the farm drive. Reaching the road turn right and take the footpath on your right by the postbox. At the bottom turn right to take Mount Lane back to the beach car park at the start of the walk.
Pubs in Eype and Seatown