Walk - Legacy Trail 6 - Around Verne Nature Reserve and West Weares

2.8 miles (4.5 km)

Portland Castle - DT5 1AZ Portland Castle

Moderate - There is a steep climb up the Merchants’ incline to join the Merchants’ railway, which then follows the contours to Priory corner. There is a steep climb down the West Weares.

Enjoy parts of the South West Coast Path as this Legacy trail walk follows in the footsteps of the quarrymen and their wagons of stone on the route of the original Merchant's Railway. There are terrific views of Chesil Beach, Portland Harbour and the Ridgeway. 

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.


Turnstones is an elegant Victorian House, close to the path on Portland, providing first class bed and breakfast accommodation for walkers.

Sweet Hill Farm Campsite

Farm-style site with sea views On the edge of Southwell village; 10 minutes' drive from Chesil Beach. Equestrian activities available; half mile to Path

Harbour Lights Guest House

Lovely house with views of Portland harbour/Chesil beach. Bus to Weymouth/Portland every 15 mins. 15 min walk to Brewers Quay, 3 mins Rodwell Trail. Parking on site. 4 star Visit England silver award.sit en

Alexandra Hotel

Family run Georgian hotel ideally located on Weymouth's Esplanade. Perfect for walkers.

The Wadham

Comfortable Guesthouse perfectly located in the Harbour of Weymouth to enjoy all the fantastic local amenities & restaurants

St Johns Guest House

Lynne & Andy welcome you to St John’s Guest house – a well appointed B&B in Weymouth, providing a luxurious experience just 60 yards from the beach and the SW coast 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.

Fine Foundation Wild Chesil Centre

Visit our family-friendly visitor centre to discover more about the famous Chesil Beach and Fleet Lagoon which are of national and international importance for wildlife.

Interactive Elevation

Route Description

Follow the Legacy Trail along the Coast Path from Portland Castle to the start of the Merchant’s Incline.

This walk follows in the footsteps of the quarrymen and their wagons of stone on the route of the original Merchant's Railway. It was constructed purely to transport stone.

Portland Harbour with its sheltered position and breakwater of Portland Stone has long been used by ships and was occupied by the Navy until 1996.Portland Castle and Sandsfoot Castle, (now a ruin) on the Weymouth side of the harbour, were built as coastal defences by Henry VIII.

  1. Start climbing up the incline stretching straight ahead and rising steeply.

The Merchant's Incline built in 1826 enabled the transportation of stone using no power operated machinery or engines. The weight of the laden trucks descending to Castletown pulled the empty ones up using a chain on a drum. The tramway stone sleepers can still be seen in places in the path along the route.

Teams of horses were used to transport the stone at either end of the incline and along the railway around Verne Hill and over to Priory Corner-the route this walk takes.

  1. Cross East Weare Road and up to the top.

You are rewarded with fantastic views of Chesil Beach, Portland Harbour and across to the Ridgeway. Hidden behind the grassy slopes the Verne Citadel, originally built as a concealed army barracks, is now a prison. In spring and summer, the longer grass attracts skipper, marbled White and blue butterflies.

  1. Pass under the road and skirt Verne Hill. Take the middle path around the hillside, which  follows the route of one of two original tramway tracks that ran around this hill.

Ahead is the Verne Yeates incline, with three bridges across it. This was built to transport stone from Kingbarrow and adjacent quarries down to the Merchant's Railway. This area of grassland and scrub is part of the Isle of Portland Site of Special Scientific Interest and is important for its rich diversity of plants, butterflies and moths. You may want to climb up to the edge of the grassy slopes to see the deep moat. Look out for kestrels hovering over the grassland looking for small mammals and beetles.

  1. Leave the Coast Path and follow the Legacy Trail signs to Verne Hill Road. At the road turn right and continue down the road crossing over the first of the three bridges.
  2. After the bridge, continue to a footpath on the left. Follow this, the old Merchant’s railway line, across Old Hill. Continue along this path to an access road and down a footpath on the right to cross the main road. You’ll see a model of a Derrick crane at Priory Corner and the Spirit of Portland stone carving ahead.

Speckled wood butterflies love the dappled shade along this footpath. This was near the start of the Merchant's Railway where the wagons were loaded with stone from quarries across the Island including Tout Quarry beyond Priory Corner. This quarry is well known for its sculptures, including ‘Still Falling’ an Antony Gormley, set within the landscape and is well worth a visit. Circular walk 7 explores the quarries.

From here you could stop off at the Heights Hotel for refreshments and to enjoy the view overlooking Chesil Beach and the Fleet. This is a perfect place for refreshment whilst enjoying a stunning view of Lyme Bay and the World Heritage

  1. Follow the Coast Path signs from the crane, through a wall and down the west weares.

To your left there are dramatic views of the west coast cliffs, part of the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site. It’s very dynamic with landslides creating the landscape you see today. Quarries at the top of the cliffs are hidden from view. Vast quantities of waste stone have literally been thrown over the edge here. Many plants, butterflies, moths and birds live on the West Weares, including a plant unique to Portland and super fast Peregrine falcons.

Below is the John Maine sculpture (1993). Made from dry stone wall of local stone, it pays tribute to the quarrymen and masons who have worked with Portland stone for generations. The five wave-like terraces represent the five layers of stone as they occur naturally in a Portland quarry.

Chesil Cove gets the full force of the Atlantic and is the site of many shipwrecks. It lies at the end of Chesil Bank, the great storm beach or ‘tombolo’ connecting Portland to the mainland which stretches for 17 miles. Here the beach is at its highest with the largest pebbles. Out in the Cove, it has been described as an underwater fairyland with abundant marine life.

  1. From Chesil Cove follow the Coast Path signs to Victoria Square roundabout and then signs to Portland Castle.

Public transport

Buses- First summer service 501 serves the castle direct. At other times South West Coaches service 210 & First service 1 pass close by.

The nearest train station is at Weymouth 4.5 miles away.


The free car park is located 10 meters from the front entrance of Portland Castle and has 40 spaces and 10 disabled bays. There is a pay and display car park located on Chiswell Beach, roughly 5 minutes walk from the start of the walk.

Nearby Events

  • Macmillan Mighty Hikes - Jurassic Coast

    4 September 2024  |  Organised by Threshold Sports on behalf of Macmillan

    Join Macmillan at the Jurassic Coast Mighty Hike where you'll take in famous sights such as Durdle Door and Lulworth Cove along the stunning Dorset Coast, England's first natural World Heritage Site, all whilst supporting Macmillan's work

Nearby Walks


Walk Finder


Postcode, placename or click the icon to use current location

Click/hold and drag the map to set the centre point of your search location under the red crosshair

from this location


Length (miles)



Find somewhere to Eat & Drink, Sleep or Do


Postcode, placename or click the icon to use current location

Click/hold and drag the map to set the centre point of your search location under the red crosshair

from this location

Interactive Map


Latest news