Dorchester (South) Circular
Length: 24.1 km (15.0 mi) [shorter or longer walk possible, see pdf or webpage]
Ascent/Descent: 565m; Net Walking Time: 5 ¾ hours
Dorchester (South) to Portesham
Length: 25.5 km (15.9 mi) [shorter walk possible, see pdf or webpage]
Ascent/Descent: 823/827m; Net Walking Time: 6 ½ hours
Take the 08.23 Weymouth train from Waterloo (08.32 Clapham, 08. 56 Woking), arrives Dorchester South 11.04.
Return trains from Dorchester are on xx.13 and xx.33 to 19.33, then 20.22 and 21.22, journey time from 152 mins. The trains depart from Weymouth 10-13 earlier.
The bus from Portesham to Weymouth runs 15.17, 17.17, 19.09. There is also the 20.50 but this will miss the last train to London.
Buy a Dorchester Return for the Circular Walk, or a Weymouth Return for the Portesham Ending.
Strenous but rewarding expedition from the county town of Dorset through the pre-historic landscape of the Dorset Downs with splendid views out to the Jurassic Coast from the South Dorset Ridgeway.
, an ancient British henge earthwork converted by the Romans for use as an amphitheatre (the largest of its kind in Britain), is walked through early on. Then Maiden Castle
, the largest
– and one of the most complex – Iron Age hill fort in Europe
, with its up to four banks and three ditches and remains of a Romano-Celtic temple, is explored in detail. Settled from 4000 BC, it was one of the most powerful settlements in pre-Roman Britain, the Durotriges were the last tribe to have lived there.
From there the route follows the narrow South Winterbourne Valley
to lunch in Martinstown before a steady ascent up to the heathery Black Down
, crowned by the 22m-high Hardy Monument
(to Sir Thomas Hardy the Admiral, not the writer), with some stunning views to the Jurassic Coast and the Isle of Portland. Continue with views out to sea atop Bronkham Hill, with an interesting group of barrows and shakeholes
on its ridge. On the descent from it you pass more barrows, en route back to Dorchester.
A long extension adds more pre-historic highlights – the Valley of (Sarsen) Stones, one of the finest examples of a boulder ‘train’ in Britain, several impressive barrows and two stone circles – and leads through the very pretty Bride Valley.
plus plenty of options in Dorchester, a pub and a café in Portesham (while waiting for the bus) and lots in Weymouth. See the pdf for details.
, height profile
, photos, walk directions
and gpx/kml files