Walk - Tom's Field to Swanage

5.6 miles (9.0 km)

Tom's Field Camp Site - BH19 3HN Swanage Bus Station

Moderate - A relatively gentle stroll into Swanage, where you can catch the bus back to Langton Matravers.  

The South West Coast Path travels along above cliffs quarried and carved by man and sea, with some spectacular limestone formations as you approach Swanage and some equally fascinating ornaments placed on the cliffs at Durlston Head by Victorian businessman George Burt. Take time out to stop off in the Durlston Country Park and National Nature Reserve, with its huge tallies of wildlife species, where you can watch nesting seabirds on the webcam and listen to dolphins and porpoises underwater on the hydrophone.

There are a range of wonderful places to lay your head near the Coast Path for a well-earned sleep. From large and luxurious hotels, to small and personable B&B's, as well as self-catering options and campsites. The businesses that support the Path, where you've chosen to visit, are listed here.

YHA Swanage

Shared and private rooms available. Self-catering and meals available. on

Tom's Field Campsite & Shop

Traditional. rural camping in beautiful Isle of Purbeck. Just 20 mins walk from South West Coast Path and Dancing Ledge.

Chiltern Lodge

Chiltern Lodge is a detached house in Dorset's Worth Matravers, ideal for coast walks or lazing in the garden. Relax, rejuvenate and re-capture life in the slow lane. Wifi offered.

Weston Farm Campsite (The National Trust)

Our wildlife-rich campsite, just one mile from the South West Coast Path offers a tranquil overnight setting. Please check opening dates on website .

Alford House B&B

Very friendly B&B situated in a beautiful village. We can pick up/drop off to the path.

What is on your list of things to do when you visit the Path? From walking companies, to help you tailor your visit, with itineraries and experts to enhance your visit, to baggage transfer companies and visitor attractions there are lots to people and places to help you decide what you'd like to do. The businesses that support the Path, where you've chosen to visit, are listed here.

Swanage Information Centre

Delivering a wealth of ideas, enthusiasm & information to visitors & residents of Swanage & Purbeck areas including heritage, coastal & countryside walks. We’re accessible & dog friendly & offer our ‘miles of smiles’ welcome to our enchanting seaside town

Interactive Elevation

Route Description

  1. From Tom's Field Campsite take the footpath heading east from just outside the campsite (almost opposite the shop, on the right-hand side on the campsite exit) and follow it to the field beyond. Turn right here and walk through the fields to the track beyond.
  2. Crossing the track, go through the gate almost opposite, slightly to the right, to pick up the track which continues in the original direction (southwards) towards the coast. Bear left at the track to Seaspray and, ignoring the quarry on your left a short while later, continue to where the path forks again, a little way beyond.
  3. Take the middle path here and with it head diagonally downhill in a southeasterly direction, through the bushes and then over the open heathland to drop directly down to Dancing Ledge.

Dancing Ledge was one of may local quarries used to provide high-quality limestone for building (see the Dancing Ledge Walk). There is a small swimming pool cut into the rock by the quarrymen at the start of the twentieth century, so that local schoolchildren could swim here.

  1. At Dancing Ledge turn left on the South West Coast Path and follow it along the coast.
  2. Ignoring the path heading left inland a short while later, carry on along the Coast Path as it makes its way to Anvil Point.

In spring the cliffs along this coast are home to many nesting birds, including puffins, razorbills and guillemots, as well as fulmars, kittiwakes, shags and cormorants.

When you reach Anvil Point, the path inland to the left here will lead you to Durlston Country Park and National Nature Reserve.

Part of the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site, Durlston is 280 acres of richly varied habitats which have enabled a wide diversity of different species to thrive here. These nationally important wildlife habitats include sea-cliffs, downs, ancient meadows, hedgerows, woodland, and dry-stone walls. More than 570 species of wildflowers here have attracted 34 different species of butterflies and no fewer than 650 species of moth! Over 250 species of birds have been recorded here, as well.

The Visitor Centre is well worth a visit, with its displays and lists of recent wildlife sightings. There are also live pictures from the seabird colony on the cliffs and sound from an underwater hydrophone.

Like most of the buildings in the area, Anvil Point Lighthouse was built of local limestone and was completed in 1881. Initially it was illuminated using a paraffin vapour burner, and it wasn't until 1960 that it was electrified. In 1991 it was fully automated and is now under the central control of Trinity House. It is sometimes open to the public.

  1. For this walk, carry on along the Coast Path as it starts to pull northwards, climbing past Tilly Whim Caves towards Durlston Head and ignoring the paths heading inland.

Tilly Whim Caves were one of the many quarries along this coast, providing Purbeck limestone for building projects during the eighteenth century. This stone was used extensively during the Napoleonic wars for building fortifications along the entire southern coast of England. The demand for the stone slumped at the end of the wars, however, and the caves have not been quarried since 1812. In 1887, Swanage businessman George Burt opened Tilly Whim Caves as a tourist attraction for the Durlston estate, which he owned at the time, but they were closed to the public in 1976, amid public sadety issues. They are now a roost for bats and a nesting ground for seabirds.

A "whim" was a special type of wooden crane, used to lower the finished stonework from the quarry ledges to the boats below.

Also in 1887, Burt built Durlston Castle, ahead – not a castle at all, but a restaurant for his estate. He also commissioned the Globe, a 40-ton limestone sphere engraved with a world map of the 1880s. Other engravings commissioned by Burt are on plaques dotted around the cliffs, and include quotes from Shakespeare and the Bible.

Burt delivered local stone to London, and the ballast he picked up in the capital for his return journeys can be seen throughout Swanage. Numerous bollards were obtained in this way, as well as the entire facade of the Town Hall, which started life as the facade of the Mercer's Hall in London. Perhaps his prize acquisition, though, was the Wellington clock tower, originally built as a memorial to the Duke of Wellington but such a poor timekeeper that when it was realised that it was obstructing traffic around London Bridge in 1860, London was only too pleased to send it down to Swanage in one of Burt's ships!

  1. The Coast Path makes its way around Durlston Head. As you turn northwards on the far side of the headland, ignore the first turning to the right, which is a dead end into a quarry, and take the second. Follow the path through woods high above Durlston Bay for a little under half a mile, until you come to the diversion put in place after a massive rockfall. Turn left along the path here, to go on to Durlston Road.
  2. On Durlston Road turn right. From here you can either make your way straight to the bus station along the streets ahead, or you can carry on with the Coast Path around Peveril Point and then head for the bus station.

To go straight to the bus station, carry on along Durlston Road to Bon Accord Road, and turn left, taking the second road on the right, Taunton Road, and following this all the way to the High Street. On the High Street turn left, and then take the second on the right again (Kings Road East). At the T-junction beyond, turn right onto Kings Road West, and you'll find the bus station at the top.

Alternatively, to carry on along the Coast Path, walk about 185 yards and then turn right again, onto Belle Vue Road. Follow the road west and then northwards to make your way onto the green space of Peveril Point beyond.

This is one of the most dangerous areas for shipping on the Dorset coast, and strong tides and underwater rock ledges have led to the loss of many ships over the years. The national coastwatch lookout was built to keep a watch over these waters, and is manned by volunteers.

Other coastal watchers, with a different purpose, also had their base here in times gone by. The coastguard cottages on Peveril Point were built for the customs men charged with the task of finding and catching the smugglers who operated all along this coastline during the nineteenth century.

  1. On the far side of the point take the road past the pier and follow it westwards, forking left on the High Street, then taking the next right onto Kings Road East. From here follow the instructions above to reach the bus station.

Public transport

The Wilts & Dorset No 40 bus runs regularly between Swanage and Poole, stopping at Durnford Drove in Langton Matravers. Pick it up at Swanage Bus Station. For details visit Traveline or phone 0871 200 22 33.


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