Walk - Dancing Ledge and Seacombe Bottom

4.5 miles (7.2 km)

Spyway Car Park - BH19 3HG Spyway Car Park

Challenging - There is some steep ascent and descent, and the paths can be slippery, so good footwear is essential.

A moderately strenuous walk around some breathtaking coastal scenery, with fascinating glimpses of the caves and quarries of Purbeck's limestone formations, and an insight into their importance to stonemasons, geologists and fossil-hunters. A fine walk in springtime, when cowslips nod around ponds shimmering with frogspawn and sometimes puffins can be seen nesting on the sliffs. This is an area where dinosaurs once roamed freely, although the huge fossilised footprints they left behind are on private land, and older children who can cope with the distance will love the walk.

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.

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 .

YHA Swanage

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

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 Spyway Car Park, head up Durnford Drive towards the main road for a short distance until you come to a turning circle with a path leading off to the left. Follow this path and at the end of the field, before you reach Tom's Field Camp Site, turn left and walk through the fields to the track at the end.
  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. Going over the stile immediately ahead of you at the bottom will take you to Dancing Ledge itself.

Dancing Ledge is one of the many quarries in the region worked for the Purbeck limestone, which was used for building work here as well as much further afield. Stone from Dancing Ledge was transported by ship direct from the quarry, the water here being deep enough to permit the ships to approach the ledge, and it is so named because the platform remaining from the quarrying is roughly the size of a ballroom floor. Ramsgate Harbour, in Kent, was built using limestone from this quarry.

The stone in this part of the Dorset coast was laid down in layers, or beds, over the course of many millions of years. Kimmeridge Clay was the first layer to form, during the late Jurassic geological period (see the Kimmeridge Walk), and the Portland Sands were laid down on top of this, with the Portland Beds on top again.

After this, in the early Cretaceous period – approximately 155 million years ago – the Lower Purbeck Beds were deposited in shallow seas, brackish lagoons and freshwater. From fossils found in these rocks, geologists and palaeontologists have been able to work out that shellfish, shrimps and insects lived around the swampy marshlands at that time. Later, there were fish, amphibians and reptiles; and after them came the Purbeck Mammals. Over 100 different species of small vertebrates have been found in fossils in the Purbeck Beds, most of them the size of a shrew or a rat.

The limestone quarries around Purbeck are important to geologists, because many of them show how the layers of limestone were laid down. The Swanworth Quarries, just to the north of Worth Matravers, show the most complete section of the different rocks on the Isle of Purbeck, from the Portland Sand on the quarry floor, to the Lower Purbeck Beds at the top.

  1. From Dancing Ledge facing inland, turn left onto the South West Coast Path and follow it around the coast. At Seacombe the Coast Path heads inland, around an inlet that is almost completely cut off from the sea, and starts up the combe (a dry valley) known as Seacombe Bottom.
  2. When the Coast Path heads off to the left a little way up the valley, leave it and carry on along the path up Seacombe Bottom. (The small path to your left a short way beyond will drop you back down onto the path).
  3. A little way up the valley the path forks. The right-hand fork will give you a short-cut back to Tom's Field Campsite (turn right on the track at the top and then follow the directions from 9, below), but for this walk fork left and carry on uphill, bearing left through the hedge and going straight on ahead here, crossing the combe and then climbing steeply to follow the path between the bushes to the field beyond.
  4. Continue in roughly the same direction, along the edge of the field, to go over the stile in the wall beyond. Crossing the track and heading slightly to your right, pick up the path which continues in your original direction (roughly westwards) across the open ground to the houses on the far side. Go along the lane beyond, to come out on the road through Worth Matravers.
  5. In Worth Matravers turn right and carry on up through the village, forking right and uphill past the Square and Compass Public House, until you come to the footpath leading into the fields on your right just after you leave the village.
  6. Go over the stile to pick up this footpath and carry on to the far right-hand corner of each of the two fields, to come out on the track beside Eastington Farm.
  7. Ignoring the tracks and paths leading away to right and left just after the farm, carry on in the same direction (eastwards) along the Priest's Way, ahead, for about half a mile, going on past the tracks which cross yours between two quarries and the one beyond to the left which leads past Blacklands.

The Priest's Way follows an old track, winding its way to Swanage, which was the route taken by the local priest as he trudged back and forth between his church here and the other church in his care in Swanage.

As a part of its role as land owner, the National Trust is also involved in the future of the quarries around Acton. Some of these are nearing the end of their useful lives, but there is still plenty of the valuable Purbeck limestone around them, so the Trust plans to infill the old quarries and reseed them with grass as it opens new ones, preserving the landscape while continuing to provide stone for building projects. It is also paying attention to the preservation of wildlife. The small pond near the Priest's Way is home to a population of rare great-crested newts, and there are equally rare greater horseshoe bats in the old quarries.

Also being preserved in the local area are another famous and fascinating feature revealed as a result of quarrying: fossilised dinosaur footprints! Most of these are of Megalosaurus and Iguanodon (both small fry at around 10 metres long), but at nearby Keat's Quarry, footprints were found which were a metre in diameter themselves, belonging to a 30-metre, 30-ton Diplodocus.

  1. At the end of the field after Blacklands, when you come to where the track runs through the hedge, take the footpath to the left, and follow it northwards, along the hedge, to the lane ahead. Carry on up here, to the end of the buildings.
  2. Pick up the footpath heading east, on your right. Taking this across the field will bring you out at the top of the Tom's Field Campsite. Continue walking east back across the field, turn right onto Durnsford Drive and walk a short distance back to the car park.

Public transport

There are regular buses between Swanage and Poole, that stop at Durnford Drove in nearby Langton Matravers. For timetable information, zoom in on the interactive map and click on the bus stops, visit Traveline or phone 0871 200 22 33.


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