Walk - Highlands End - Seatown to Charmouth

4.5 miles (7.2 km)

Highlands End Holiday Park - DT6 6AR Highlands End Holiday Park

Moderate - A rollercoaster ride of a walk, with an optional detour around the highest peak of Golden Cap for those who consider the rest of the walk to contain enough ascent and descent, this route travels high (and sometimes low!) along the edge of cliffs carved and sculpted by rain and sea over millions of years.

At the foot of the cliffs nestle treasure troves of fossils brought down by frequent rockfalls, and scientists have been able to use these to give dates to various geological events, as well as piecing together fragments of dinosaur bone to draw a picture of one of the monsters roaming here in prehistoric times. Inland there is a pastoral landscape of medieval fields and farms.

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.

Lucerne

Comfortable and friendly B&B only a few minutes walk in to Lyme Regis. All rooms ensuite and recently upgraded. A large, tasty full English breakfast. Holiday apartment available.

Westley B&B

Small friendly B&B with 3 rooms en-suite. Village location on bus route to Axminster Railway station and Jurassic Coast. Single occupancy usually available.

Lyme Barn Holidays

Luxury one bedroom self catering accommodation only minutes from the Jurassic Coastal Path in West Dorset.

Hedgehog Corner

2 fully equipped 1 bedroom self-caterings: own private Hot Tub & Breakfast Basket. Live online booking.

Dorset Seaside Cottages, Seatown

Two stylish 4* gold self catering cottages, 20 minutes walk from the beach at Seatown with numerous walks on the doorstep.  Cottages equipped to a high standard.

Chideock House

Thatched wisteria clad house, built 1465 is full of charm and character. The dining room is oak beamed, rooms are fully equipped and we are 10 mins walk from the Coast Path.

Mervyn House

A comfortable and spacious B&B, situated in the centre of the village near the Coast Path.  Click the picture to see details and visitor comments.

Broadlands B&B

Friendly family run B&B. Kingsize ensuite room with bath/shower and stunning views of sea and Coast Path. Close to main bus route & pubs.

Interactive Elevation

Route Description

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. Alternatively you could catch the bus from Bridport Bus Station to Chideock Bridge and walk down Sea Hill Lane to Golden Cap Holiday Park.

  1. From the Golden Cap Holiday Park, take the road northwards, towards Chideock, and turn left onto the South West Coast Path, following it across the field, through the copse, and steeply uphill through the open heathland on the seaward side of the next field.
  2. Emerging from the bushes onto open ground, fork left and carry on along the Coast Path as it crosses to the left-hand corner at the top of this open ground and starts climbing towards Golden Cap. However, if you want to avoid the steep ascent and descent going over Golden Cap, you can fork right here instead, taking a series of left-hand turns around the hill to head back towards the sea and join up with the Coast Path as it drops downhill again.
  3. If you are carrying on along the Coast Path over the top of Golden Cap, the path goes through the gap in the hedge and curves briefly around the back of the hill before it climbs to the summit, where another path leads back to Langdon Hill. Again stay with the Coast Path as it summits and then zigzags down towards the valley.

At 626 feet (191 metres), Golden Cap is the highest point on the south coast of England. Its name comes from its yellow capping of weathered Upper Greensand, a kind of sandstone typically deposited in marine environments like the one here in Jurassic times. Originally it was more golden, but the colour has been dimmed by an increase in vegetation cover over the years.
Author FJH Darton, writing "The Marches of Wessex" in 1922, said of Golden Cap: "It is always of long-established peace, to me, that Golden Cap whispers. So high, so far, so lonely, you cannot be in the world. Why, the very gulls and daws that are floating below you are yet five hundred feet above land... Inland there is only a glowing ember of the earth's old fires: one of those flushing forests of the fire that hold shepherds and sheep and trees and all pastoral delights. The smooth roundness of Langdon Hill is red with heather and warm with golden gorse: the dark firs are unburnt coal: and there are ... shining flecks of cold ash-white rabbits at large upon the green and purple: and dead gorse standing for calcined coal. Far off there brood two great beasts, the slow ruminant backs of the Cow and her Calf, as sailors used to name the shapes of Pilsdon and Lewsdon Hills."

  1. Halfway down the hill, a path leads away to the right, heading towards St Gabriel's Wood. A detour here gives a fascinating glimpse into a medieval settlement with a ruined chapel (see the Langdon Hill & St Gabriel's Chapel Walk), but for this walk carry on along the Coast Path as it continues to drop downhill to St Gabriel's Mouth.

St Gabriel's Mouth is a particularly good venue for fossil-collecting, but it is accessed via a very steep flight of steps and can be cut off by the tide, so if you decide to visit, approach it with caution.
The Jurassic clays along this part of the coastline were laid down in stagnant mud at the bottom of a deep tropical sea, an environment which led to the shells and bones of many prehistoric creatures being preserved as fossils. The frequent rockfalls bring down new fossils all the time, and palaeontologists have been able to use them as vital evidence in piecing together a record of the species which flourished here in prehistoric times. Of particular interest to scientists are the spiral fossils known as ammonites, because these evolved rapidly (in geological terms) and so can be dated more precisely than others, and no fewer than twelve different ammonite zones have been found here

The Jurassic Coast is famous for its dinosaur fossils, too. Bones found near here in 1858 by Charmouth quarryman James Harrison were matched with fragments found later by other collectors, leading to the assembly of an almost complete skeleton of a small herbivorous dinosaur which became known as Scelidosaurus Harrisoni. Thought to be no longer than 4 metres, and with hindlegs longer than its forelegs, Scelidosaurus probably reared up on its hindlegs to graze on foliage above, but the fact that its forefeet were as large as the hind ones suggests that it moved around on all fours.

  1. At St Gabriel's Mouth bear right to cross the stream and carry on along the Coast Path as it pulls gently over the foot of Chardown Hill.
  2. Just before Ridge Barn you come to a junction of paths. Take the left-hand one to continue on the Coast Path towards Charmouth, dipping into a small valley and climbing out again.
  3. At the top of this incline a path heads uphill to your right. Ignore it, and carry straight on, dropping to the next stream and crossing it, ignoring the path to the sea and the next one to Westhay Farm, on your right. Once again you start to climb, this time over the foot of Stonebarrow Hill as it stretches towards the sea.
  4. There are various paths leading away to your right along the slopes of the hill. Ignore them until you come to the one at the top where the Coast Path has been diverted. This is due to landslides making the cliffs unsafe. In 1922, according to Mr Darton, “If you come from the east shun the lower undercliff, which looks less arduous at first; here be quags and (in due season) serpents, as well as primroses and blackthorn and violets and blackberries.”

The landscape will have changed significantly since that time. This part of the coastline, known as Fairy Dell and Cain's Folly, is one of England's largest and most active landslide complexes. There were major landslides in 1942, 1968 and 2000, before the collapse in 2008 which caused the current diversion of the Coast Path.
The instability of these cliffs comes from a double dose of erosion. Rainwater seeps through the top layer of Greensand but cannot make its way through the impermeable clays beneath. Meanwhile the action of the sea is eating away at the base of the cliffs, so that they reach a stage where they are unable to hold up the extra weight of the accumulated water, resulting in a landslide.
Take this path to the right, where the Coast Path has been diverted, and continue northwards as it flattens out and heads over heathland, until you come to Stonebarrow Lane, leading from Stonebarrow Hill into Charmouth.

  1. Turn left on the track. After all this up and down from Seatown to here, you'll be pleased to know that it's downhill all the way now to Charmouth.
  2. Reaching the main road coming in from your right at the bottom of the hill, carry on in the same direction to join it as it turns, and walk along The Street until you come to the bus stop, on your right-hand side opposite the church.

From here you can catch the bus back to Chideock bridge to pick up your car or Bridport Bus Station and walk back to Highlands End Holiday Park.

Public transport

The Dorset First 31 bus runs regularly between Weymouth and Axminster, stopping at Charmouth Church, Chideock Bridge and Bridport Bus Station, and the X53 travels between Exeter and Poole, stopping at the same places. For details visit www.travelinesw.com or phone 0871 200 22 33

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