South West Coast Path : Abbotsbury to West Bay walk

Ridge walk, then coast and beach walk overlooking the majestic sweep of Lyme Regis Bay

Length 9.3 miles (15.0 km) with 850 feet (275 m) of height gain
OS Maps OS Explorer 15 (Purbek and South Dorset)
Toughness 4 out of 10
Walk Notes

This is an easy coast walk along the sweeping curve of Lyme Regis Bay, with great views, great swimming and great beach cafes! It starts with a ridge walk with fabulous view over the curve of the bay and back to the Isle of Portland. The route then descends to the beach and low cliff tops, and follows the South West Coast Path ("SWCP"), still with lovely views of the sweeping bay passing serveral remote beaches. You can swim in many places.

The walk starts in Abottsbury (Swannery, Subtropical Gardens, the start of the Chesil Beach spit) with a short but recommended out-and-back detour to climb a small hill with St Catherine's chapel (viewpoint, free if open). After returning to the town, it then climbs onto the downs above it, and follows the ridge for 4km (the 'South Dorset Ridgeway') above the coast with fine views over the curve of the bay. It then drops down to the beach, from where the route follows low cliff tops or the beach for the remainder of the route.

Starting at Wext Bexington beach (upmarket beach cafe), you pass Cogden Beach (remote), Hive Beach (gastro beach cafe and a hotel pub), and Burton Cliff before reaching a small river (the Bride). You can paddle across at low tide, or take a 400m out-and-back detour inland to a bridge.

Burton Freshwater beach has a caravan park, from here is 2km to West Bay, a small seaside town with a harbour, and the setting for the Broadchurch TV series. It has a pub, cafes, several shops and eateries, and a bus stop.

Travel is easy, there is a regular coastal bus service, which links to Weymouth and Axminster stations.

The ridge top route at the start is a little close to a road in places, but its views more than make up for it. If you prefer, there is a peacefull beach level alternative along the official SWCP.

Walk Options

Visit St Catherine's Chapel

1 mile longer, and a hill : Do make the short out-and-back detour near the start to visit the iconic St Catherine's Chapel, on a small hill above the town, with views of the Chesil Beach spit.

SWCP along Chesil Beach

Same distance, but avoids most of the ascent. : The ridge top start is nicer, but involves climbing the ridge and some road noise. An alternative start is to follow the official SWCP route instead, down to Abbotsbury's beach (passing the Chapel), and following the beach path. This option joins up with the main route after a couple of miles of beach walking at West Bexington beach.

Short Circular Walk

Start with the ridge route to West Bexington beach,, and return along the beach route, stopping off at West Bexington's beach cafe, Chesil Beach, the Subtropical Gardens and St Catherine's Chapel along the way.


Trains go from London Waterloo to Dorchester / Weymouth (on one route) and Axminster (on another), and take about 3 hours. If you need to return from the other 'route', consider Advance Singles rather than a period return instead. There are (were?) occasional SWT Promotions, e.g. £15 day trips in summer 2014.

X53 Bus : Weymouth (station) - Abbotsbury - West Bay - Bridport (inland, change for Dorchester) - Charmouth - Lyme Regis - Axminster (station). This Jurassic Coast bus serves the entire route. Much more frequent in summer. [2019] Week tickets, and Group day tickets good value. Adult day tickets expensive.

Take the X53 bus from Weymouth to Abbotsbury.

From West Bay, either return to Weymouth by the X53 bus, or continue to Bridport (2 miles inland from West Bay), and change for Dorchester (quicker, if its a good change).

Car drivers: Park in Abbotsbury village (free) or West Bay (use the car park just outside the town on Station Road, £2/day)


Abbotsbury at the start has 2 nice pubs - The Swan, and the Ilchester Arms

West Bexington Beach

  • The Club House - upmarket beach cafe, same owners as the Hive Beach Cafe, just behind the beach, limited cafe parking, or large pay beach car park.

Hive Beach

  • Hive Beach Cafe - upmarket beach cafe with terrace slighly above the beach with a stunning view. popular, and deservedly so. Seafood Mains £15 - £85! But you can just have a cake and a coffee on the terrace. National Trust pay parking.
  • The Seaside Boarding House hotel, has a bar and terrace, and some free parking on cliff road.

West Bay at the end has many places. The Watch House Cafe is the only one right on the beach (same owners as the Club House and Hive Beach cafe above).


Abbotsbury is a picturesque historic village with some special tourist attractions:

  • Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens - very highly recommended. DT3 4JT. £12.50. Free with HHA membership. 2-4-1 with Gardener's World annual scheme.
  • The Swannery
  • St Catherine's Chapel - idyllic location on a small hill with stunning views. All that remains of a dissolved Abbey. English Heritage. Free entry (when open), but worth a visit for the view alone.
  • Chesil Beach - the town's beach is at one end of the 10 mile long Chesil Beach spit (or shingle bar). Continue on past the tropical gardens to the car park DT3 4JT. Cafe (summer only). Parking £3 when the cafe's open. The spit is closed Apr-Aug (so open Sep-Mar). Chesil Beach : [wikipedia] [geology] [nature reserve].


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By Car

Start Abbotsbury, Dorset Map Directions

Finish West Bay, Dorset Map Directions


National Rail: 03457 48 49 50 • Travelline SE (bus times): 0871 200 2233 (12p/min) • TFL (London) : 0343 222 1234



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