Weymouth to Bournemouth
The White Jurassic Coast
An energetic hike high on the cliffs and ridges of the spectacular white limestone rocks of the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site, where the views take your breath away quite as much as the gradients! As well as the sweeping bays with their dramatic arches and headlands there are numerous fascinating snippets of history, from fascinating fossils through prehistoric forts and Roman temples to medieval abbeys, Tudor castles and deserted villages. The high chalk grasslands are full of vivid wildflowers and rare butterflies, and many different species of seabird nest on the limestone ledges. Look out for puffins and dolphins.
Leaving the Georgian resort of Weymouth, the Coast Path passes the tranquil bird reserve at Lodwell and climbs to the grassy uplands high above the cliffs, giving fantastic glimpses of the shining white coastline ahead. Constable spent time painting here, and there is a sense of space and solitude as you pass through remote rural pastureland dotted with the remnants of medieval villages and field systems. The soaring cliffs at White Nothe are among Dorset's highest, and they give wonderful views of the amazing rock formations at Bat's Head and Durdle Door.
There is more astounding geology at Lulworth, and a rare fossil forest. Passing through the MoD firing range on Bindon Hill you get wide-ranging views inland across woods and fields to the vast area of water around Wareham and Poole; while down below the limestone cliffs rise majestically from limestone ledges and beaches, with chains of islands and offshore rocks strung along the shoreline. After the eerily deserted village at Tyneham and the spectacular Iron Age fort at Flowers Barrow you turn into Kimmeridge Bay with its marine centre and a handful of boats.
Now the smugglers' beaches give way to the quarries and caves of a landscape sculpted by people as well as by the sea, as you travel below the patchwork fields of Purbeck, bounded by ancient stone walls, and on around Durlston Head. After the easy walking along Swanage promenade you climb steeply to Ballard Down and catch your first glimpse of journey's end, at Bournemouth, with the white chalk headlands at Old Harry in the foreground, and the stunning offshore Pinnacles. The three miles of golden sand from Studland to Shell Bay are backed by heathland crammed with wildlife, before a short ferry crossing takes you to Bournemouth.
Day 4: Swanage to South Haven Point (ferry crossing) – 7 miles (plus another 5 mile walk or bus from Poole harbour ferry (the end of the path) to the railway station.