South West Coast Path: Exmouth to Poole

With its 250-million-year-old red cliffs, iconic rock formations and nature-rich freshwater lagoon, the Jurassic Coast boasts some of the South West Coast Path’s most diverse walking. Climb to the highest point on England’s south coast at Golden Cap, hunt for fossils in the quaint village of Charmouth and gaze out over Purbeck’s captivating white chalk stacks. Discover the true beauty of East Devon and Dorset on this epic walk through time.

Take on 95 miles of the South West Coast Path with an unforgettable nine-day trip to the world-famous Jurassic Coast. As England’s first UNESCO designated natural World Heritage Site, you’ll soon discover why this stretch of coast attracts visitors from far and wide. Starting in the historic seaside town of Exmouth – western gateway to the Jurassic Coast – walk through 185 million years of the Earth’s history. Explore the fascinating Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods, that make up the time when dinosaurs and giant reptiles walked the Earth. Get to know the many charming towns and villages on the way, that are ready to refuel weary walkers with award-winning food, unique local ales and a restful night’s sleep. Discover the magnificent Undercliffs National Nature Reserve – the closest thing to a tropical rainforest in England. Search for your very own fossils at world-famous sites like Lyme Regis and Charmouth, where you might find your very own prehistoric souvenir. Breath in the fresh sea air as you climb to the highest point on the south coast at Golden Cap and walk along the golden cliffs of West Bay and gaze upon iconic rock formations like the arch of Durdle Door.

Tour Overview

Distance

153 km

Number of Days

9

Grade

Easy to Challenging

Theme

Geology / Nature / Coastal

Landscape Type

By Water / Historic Earth / Birdwatching

South West Coast Path: Exmouth to Poole

This undeveloped stretch of coast provides a mixture of easy, high open walking and some fairly strenuous climbs up and down steep slopes and steps to reach beautiful coves. The daily distances vary considerably, and some involve several hundred metres of ascent and descent, so don’t underestimate the time/effort required.

Itinerary

Day 1 - Exmouth to Sidmouth

The South West Coast Path offers gentle walking out of Exmouth as it enters the East Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The Geoneedle at Orcombe Point marks the beginning of the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site. An easy walk along the promenade sets you up for more variety ahead, including crossing the River Otter at the Otter Estuary Nature Reserve (a good place for bird watching), open field walking, woodland and high cliffs, culminating in a descent to the Regency town of Sidmouth, with its attractive Esplanade, shops and restaurants. 20.1 km /12.5 miles

Day 2 - Sidmouth to Seaton

Leave the red cliffs of Sidmouth as you set off along this rugged section of the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site, crossing 250-million-year-old rocks. In spring and summer time you will see numerous butterflies enjoying the masses of wild flowers on top of the red cliffs at Branscombe. The red Triassic earth gives way to striking white chalk around Beer before you arrive at the mouth of the River Axe and the rich red cliffs leading into the town of Seaton.  16.6 km / 10.3 miles

Day 3 - Seaton to Seatown

A walk of contrast awaits as you leave the town of Seaton behind and embark on a journey through rich vegetation, over wild, crumbling cliffs and through pretty seaside settlements. The Coast Path descends into the dense woodland of the Undercliffs National Nature Reserve. The Undercliff, which is formed entirely from active coastal landslides, is humid and sheltered, providing a perfect habitat for ferns, fungi, orchids, wild clematis and insects. Later you’ll emerge into open fields, where you’ll find yourself at Lyme Regis with its historic harbour known as ‘The Cobb’, shops, refreshments and ammonite-shaped street lights. Continue inland slightly then drop back to the sea at Charmouth before making the climb up to the spectacular Golden Cap, finally arriving in Seatown. 22.9 km / 14.2 miles.

Day 4 - Seatown to Abbotsbury

Start your day with some steep climbs before easing out to a level walk beyond Burton Bradstock. Look out for soaring peregrines at Burton Cliff then continue on the Path to the 18-mile pebbly sweep of Chesil Beach – a Site of Special Scientific Interest at its very best in spring and summer.  The hundreds of mute swans at Abbotsbury Swannery make for an extraordinary sight at the end of your day and there is a small selection of welcome refreshments in the historic village of Abbotsbury.  20.3 km / 12.4 miles

 

Day 5 - Abbotsbury to Ferrybridge

From the historic village of Abbotsbury, pass through woodland and rolling fields before descending to follow the Path along the shores of the Fleet Lagoon to Ferrybridge. At the heart of Dorset’s Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, this section offers truly unique views of Chesil Beach and the Fleet. Stories of a past of smuggling and wrecking add another level to the rich history of the area. Continue along the edge of the Fleet to the charming old port of Weymouth – the beginning of the route across to the rugged Isle of Portland.  17.5 km / 10.9 miles

Day 6 - Isle of Portland

Follow either the road from Ferrybridge or the shingle ridge of Chesil Beach to join the Coast Path that will take you around the Isle of Portland, world famous for its building stone. This is a walk of dramatic, rugged cliffs, rare plants, hidden coves and stunning views. The Path offers fairly easy walking along old quarry tracks with some short, steep ascents and descents in places. Take time to enjoy the sculpture park and impressive views from Portland Bill before walking the east coast to Ferrybridge.  20.9 km / 13 miles

Day 7 - Ferrybridge to Lulworth Cove

A walk of contrasts; from the hustle and bustle of Weymouth, to the quiet rural paths leading to high chalk cliffs on the way to Lulworth Cove. Take your time on some particularly steep ascents and descents on the way to Lulworth Cove, and admire the breathtaking views of the limestone arch of Durdle Door, and back towards the high cliffs of White Nothe, Weymouth Bay and Portland beyond. A good selection of restaurants and pubs await your arrival after a long day on the Coast Path. 23.3 km / 14.5 miles

Day 8 - Lulworth Cove to Worth Matravers

Expect spectacular views on this isolated stretch that roller-coasters along the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site. Walkers are rewarded with staggering views of sweeping bays, folded cliffs and richly coloured limestone-loving wildflowers and butterflies. After exploring the Kimmeridge Marine Centre, continue carefully along the Kimmeridge Ledges and onwards to Houns-Tout cliff, which stands at 490 feet (150 m) above sea level and enjoy the views from St Aldhelm’s Head. Finally, take the short walk inland to the pretty village of Worth Matravers where you can find refreshments at the end of a long but exhilarating day.  20.9 km / 13 miles

Day 9 - Worth Matravers to Poole

High, level cliff walking to Durlston Head is followed by an easy amble along the promenade of the seaside town of Swanage. On the open grassland and woodland around Studland, take time to enjoy the beautiful seasonal wildflowers and butterflies and the spectacular views of the chalk stacks of Old Harry and look out for bottlenose dolphins offshore. Take in the views across Poole Bay to Bournemouth and the Isle of Wight, then, just before the ferry to Sandbanks, a blue steel sculpture at Shell Bay marks the end of your journey and the end of the South West Coast Path.  19.8 km / 12.3 miles

Accommodation

There are a range of comfortable pubs, inns, hotels and hostels to lay your head near the South West Coast Path for a well-earned rest, from large and luxurious hotels, to small and personable B&B’s, as well as self-catering options and campsites. There’s ample choice in the many towns en route with smaller village gems to discover along the way.

Travel

Air / Rail

Fly to Exeter or to Bristol then train to Exeter. From there you can get bus and rail services (the Avocet line) to Exmouth to start your trip.  For timetable information, visit Traveline or phone 0114 22 11 282. You can also fly to Bournemouth airport and go by bus to Shell Bay ferry offices, Studland (change at Bournemouth Lansdowne).

From Studland, either catch a bus into Bournemouth and then a train or plane home from there, or a bus into Swanage and catch a steam train to Norden followed by a bus to the main line train station at Wareham.

If you want to shorten this walk the Jurassic Coaster and other bus services run parallel to sections of the coast calling at Exmouth, Sidmouth, Beer, Lyme Regis, Seaton, Charmouth, Bridport, Abbotsbury, Weymouth, Wool, Wareham and Poole. You can download the Jurassic Coaster travel app here to access more information about times and routes.

Advice

SAFETY

The Jurassic Coast is constantly eroding. This erosion has created the beautiful coastline that we see today, but it’s important to remember that rock falls and landslides are part of this process, and can happen at any time.

Please use common sense and caution:

  1. Always stay away from the cliffs (top and bottom) – and keep your dogs on a lead near the edge
  2. Beware of mud flows which may extend across the beaches
  3. Never ignore a warning sign – they are there for your safety
  4. Check tide times if walking across beaches
  5. If looking for fossils, follow the Fossil Collecting Code of Conduct

Find out more here: www.jurassiccoast.org/enjoysafely

MILITARY RANGES DAY 8 Guidance

The path across the Lulworth Ranges is one of the highlights of the Jurassic Coast, but can only be used when the range is not in use. To avoid missing out on this it is recommended you plan your walk to get here when the ranges are open – most weekends and holidays. Visit https://www.southwestcoastpath.org.uk/walk-coast-path/trip-planning/military-training-areas for more details. As live ammunition is used, you must not stray off the paths which are clearly marked by yellow posts, and do not pick up any metal objects lying on the ground.

If firing is taking place, red flags are flown and the gates are locked. The alternatives are either a 13 mile detour around the ranges (partly on roads) or a more attractive option is to catch a bus (see Traveline) from West Lulworth to Corfe Castle and then walk along the ridge (which has great views) to the road near Great Wood and then descend down to re-join the Coast Path at Kimmeridge. Details of the Corfe Castle to Kimmeridge walk can be found here https://www.southwestcoastpath.org.uk/walksdb/584/

DIVERSIONS DAY 3 SEATON TO SEATOWN – Path diversion at Charmouth due to landslip

Movement of the coastal landslip to the east of Charmouth leading up to Stonebarrow Hill has led to the loss of a short section of the Coast Path. There is an official diversion in place, which is around 1.5 miles. For more information visit https://www.southwestcoastpath.org.uk/walk-coast-path/trip-planning/route-changes/17/

Food & Drink

With their mild climates and fertile soil, East Devon and Dorset are home to some of the best local produce. Pubs, cafes and restaurants alike serve up top quality dishes that will make your trip truly memorable. Taste some of the freshest seafood around and sip ales and local ciders from one of the many welcoming and characterful pubs. Find out more here www.dorsetfoodanddrink.org

 

Maps, Guidebooks and Merchandise

The official guidebook and map for the Trail are available from the National Trails Shop along with a wide range of gifts and other merchandise.

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