The southern county of Dorset boasts some of Britain’s most awe inspiring scenery. With majestic coastlines, rolling chalk downland, and ancient wooded glades, this is a place that seems almost built for lovers of the outdoors.
If you’re a keen walker, Dorset’s footpaths and bridleways offer a splendid way to see the heart of this historic county. Here’s a sample of some of the most popular routes:
The brooding ruins of Corfe Castle stand on an elevated position guarding the main route through the Purbeck Hills. Few of Britain’s castles are more evocative than the ruins of Corfe, which had stood intact and inhabited until Roundhead soldiers systematically destroyed it during the civil war. Today its ruins leave a fascinating history to the area, and the nearby village is a delightful place to spend an afternoon.
Melbury Down straddles the counties of Dorset, Hampshire and Wiltshire and was the main rural inspiration for most of Thomas Hardy’s novels. These ancient landscapes remain essentially unchanged, and you can still walk through the Melbury Downs and sample the far reaching views to this day from the vantage point at Melbury Beacon.
With Kingfishers visiting the medieval fishpond, and glancing views to the coast from Lambert’s Castle, this is a fine walk that takes in Dorset’s iron age past. Head down to the famous Bottle Inn for a much deserved beverage at the end of a hard day’s walk!
Old Harry Rock
Sea erosion was responsible for forming the iconic chalk stack of “Old Harry” and “his wife” – possibly named after an old pirate from Poole. Now a UNESCO protected site, the headland offers stunning views to Poole harbour and beyond, and even across to the Isle of Wight. This isn’t a taxing walk, and takes in some interesting early Celtic farming remains and iron age barrows along the way.
Right in the centre of Poole’s busy harbour, Brownsea Island is one of the shorter walks here. Wildlife abounds on the island: You’ll have a good chances of catching glimpses of anything from deer, right down to red squirrels and endangered lizards. This is a bird watchers paradise too, with many rare breeds nesting in the surrounding foliage.
Brownsea Island is home to the Baden-Powell Outdoor centre, taking its name from the scouting leader who’s national institution was born here.
With an ancient sycamore that was reputedly used as a hangman’s tree, through to tales of smuggling and piracy, the area around Dancing Ledge is an atmospheric, evocative place that’s a real hidden gem for walkers. Following natural limestone cliff and gorse grassland, this walk takes in the old favourite of the Ship Inn and ends close to Swanage, a beautiful seaside town.
So there you have it: A range of walks taking in some of Dorset’s most iconic scenery. If you’re interested in spending a holiday in this lovely part of Britain, make sure you book early, as http://www.characterholidays.com, a boutique holiday accommodation site explain: “Our Dorset properties always book up fast during peak season, and this really is a popular place for stay at home holidays”. So get planning now, and sample everything Dorset has to offer for yourself this summer!
Wendy Lin is a successful entrepreneur and professional traveller. She enjoys exercising and activism work.