This Dorset walk leads mainly through the large Lulworth Estate, owned for centuries by the Weld Family, initially through the Thomas Hardy Country of rolling pastures, large woods and dairy farms, then – on a choice of routes – through remote, scenic coombes to a fascinating stretch of the Jurassic Coast, with its steep chalk cliffs, rock stacks rising out of the sea, natural limestone arches, caves and beautiful coves.
The stretch around Durdle Door and Man o’ War beaches can be very busy with day-trippers but the route then follows quieter coastal paths to the fascinating coves of Stair Hole and its larger – and geologically older – cousin Lulworth Cove for lunch in West Lulworth. Having had the Purbeck Hills in view for a while, stretching out to the East, an optional afternoon extension then routes over one of them – Bindon Hill.
All walk routes climb up steeply from West Lulworth to the ridge separating the Dorset Plain from the Coast and descend through a very pretty coombe past Bellhuish Farm and then lead along Lulworth Park, before meandering along permissive routes through the park to Lulworth Castle (possibly the most beautiful castle in the South) and its tearooms and church, and back through Bowling Green Wood.
Coombe Heath Nature Reserve and Haredene and Cole Woods lie ahead en route back to Wool.
Note 1: Lulworth Park & Castle are closed to the public after 17.00 hours, all day Saturdays and on selected other days. At those times the afternoon shortcut avoiding the park will have to be walked.
Note 2: This is a long walk with an option to make it even longer. It is therefore well suited to be broken at the halfway stage with an overnight stay in Lulworth Cove or West or East Lulworth.
Several buses connect Wool (and Weymouth) to Winfrith Newburgh (6.9 km into the walk), while also calling at Durdle Door Park (a little off route, 15.0 km into the walk) and in Lulworth Cove (16.4 km into the walk): Purbeck Breezer 30 (late May-late Sep: daily, but weekdays only most of June); X54 (Oct-Mar: Mon-Fri, Apr-Sep: daily); 55 (summer weekends only, but daily during Dorset summer holidays).
A Variation in the morning leads to the Coast Path on a different route, via Dagger’s Gate to Swyre Head, closer to Lulworth than The Warren.
An Extension after lunch in Lulworth Cove leads along the cove’s beach and over Bindon Hill to West Lulworth (adds 1.1 km and 132m ascent).
A Shortcut avoiding Lulworth Park in the afternoon cuts 3.7 km/2.3 mi. [Lulworth Park & Castle are shut after 17.00 hours, all day every Saturday and on selected other days, in which case you have to take this shortcut. Check https://www.lulworth.com/ for details.]
A Diversion avoiding the Permissive Route pastHome Farm is described, should the route be closed.
The route through Coombe Heath with its tumuli and barrows can be cut by 820m and 23m ascent.
There are two finishes described into Wool: one through a bluebell wood (mud-prone after rain) and one through open pastures.
Early (the pubs are 640-900m off route)
The Countryman Inn East Knighton, Dorset, DT2 8LL (01305 852 666). Lunch served 12.00-14.30. Located 900m off route, 7.3 km/4.5 mi into the walk.
The Red Lion Inn Winfrith Newburgh, Dorset, DT2 8LL (01305 852 814). Lunch served all day. Located 640m off route, 7.5 km/4.7 mi into the walk.
The Sailor’s Return Chaldon Herring, Dorset, DT2 8DN (01305 854 441). Lunch served 12.00-14.00 Wed-Sat and all-day Sun. Located 670m off route, 9.4 km/5.8 mi into the walk.
Normal (from 16.0 km/10.0 mi to 17.2 km/10.7 mi into the walk)
The Boat Shed Café Main Road,West Lulworth, Wareham, Dorset, BH20 5RQ (01929 400 810). Open every day (weather-dependent) 09.30-16.00 (-17.00 in summer). Lunch served 12.00-14.30.
The Beach Café and Kiosk/The Old Boat House Main Road,West Lulworth,Wareham, Dorset, BH20
Rudds Restaurant Main Road,West Lulworth, Wareham, Dorset, BH20 5RQ (01929 400 552).
Lulworth Lodge Hotel & Bistro 38 Main Road,West Lulworth, Wareham, Dorset, BH20 5RQ (01929 400 252).
The Doll’s House.
Jakes Café Main Road,West Lulworth,Wareham, Dorset, BH20 5RQ (07935 247 208). Open to 17.00.
Lulworth Cove Inn Main Road,West Lulworth, Wareham, Dorset, BH20 5RQ (01929 400 333). Open every day 11.00-22.30. Food served every day 12.00-21.00. A Hall & Woodhouse pub.
The Coffee Bar, Lulworth Cove Visitor Centre Open 10.00-17.00 daily.
Finley’s Café and Ice Cream Parlour Main Road,West Lulworth, Wareham, Dorset, BH20 5RQ (01929 400 711).
The Castle Inn Main Road,West Lulworth, Wareham, Dorset, BH20 5RN (01929 400 311). The Castle Inn is located 150m off route.
In East Lulworth:
The Lulworth Castle Tearoom East Lulworth, Wareham, Dorset, BH20 5QS. Lulworth Castle is located 7.5 km/4.7 mi from the end of the walk. Open 10.30-16.30 when the castle is open (i.e. daily Easter to December, but closed on Saturdays! and on selected other days).
The Weld Arms East Lulworth,Wareham, Dorset, BH20 5QQ (01929 400 211). The Weld Arms is located on a loop off the main route, 7.3 km/4.6 mi from the end of the walk. This pub is currently closed but slated for a re-opening soon.
Past and Presents The Old School, 1 Cockles, East Lulworth, Wareham, Dorset, BH20 5QN (01929 400 637). Past & Presents Gift & Coffee Shop is located on a loop off the main route, 7.3 km/4.5 mi from the end of the walk. Open 09.00-17.00 every day (closed in core winter).
Black Bear High Street, Wool, Wareham, Dorset, BH20 6BP (01929 405 541). The Bear is located 300m before the train station. Open all day. Food served 12.00-21.00 daily (-15.00 Sun).
Ship Inn Dorchester Road, Wool, Wareham, Dorset, BH20 6EQ (01929 462 247). The Ship Inn is located 400m beyond the train station. Open all day. Food served 10.00-21.00 daily.
The village lies at a historic bridging point on the (Dorset) River Frome, half-way between Dorchester and Wareham. Woolbridge Manor, a 14th century building, is a prominent feature just outside the village and the location of Tess's honeymoon in Thomas Hardy's Tess of the D'Urbervilles. To the east of the village are the ruins of Bindon Abbey (Cistercians, 12th century). Demolished in the Dissolution, its stone was used to build castles in Portland, Lulworth and Sandsfoot. Access to the area is by permission of the current tenants only.
The place-name 'Wool' is first attested in Anglo-Saxon writs from 1002 to 1012, where it appears as Wyllon. The name means 'springs' in the sense of the related word ‘wells’ and refers to the spring-fed stream walked along twice, towards the start and the end of the route.
Purbeck Way (West Route)
The Purbeck Way West Route is an up to 18.9 km (11 ¾ mi) waymarked extension of the popular Purbeck Way, although not directly linked with it (see below). It begins in West Lulworth on the Jurassic Coast and heads north west to Winfrith Newburgh, east to Coombe Keynes and then either back to West Lulworth or north east to East Stoke.
To combine it with The Purbeck Way, use the South West Coast Path (when the Lulworth Range Walks are open) or the X54 bus to Wareham to link the two routes.
The name derives from the river Win, which runs through the village, combined with Newburgh, the name of the medieval Lords of the Manor (the Lordship was bought in 1641 by the Weld Family, who are still residing on the nearby Lulworth Estate).
Winfrith is most famous though as the site of the Winfrith Atomic Energy Establishment, or AEE Winfrith. It was set up on Winfrith Heath to the north east of the village in the 1950s in order to test a variety of new nuclear reactor designs with the intention of selecting a new design for power generation and other tasks. All the reactors have now shut down and the last ones are being de-commissioned.
South West Coast Path
The SWCP is a 1,014 km (630 mi) linear waymarked long-distance footpath and the longest National Trail in the UK. It follows the coastlines of Dorset, Devon, Cornwall and Somerset from Poole Harbour to Minehead and is considered to be one of the more challenging trails as it rises and falls crossing every river mouth.
The path originated as a route for the Coastguard to walk from lighthouse to lighthouse patrolling for smugglers. As a result, the path closely hugs the coast providing excellent views.
The Jurassic Coast is a World Heritage Site stretching from Exmouth in Devon to Studland Bay in Dorset, a distance of about 154 km (96 mi). The site spans 185 million years of geological history, coastal erosion having exposed an almost continuous sequence of rock formations covering the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods. At different times this area has been desert, shallow tropical sea and marsh, and the fossilised remains of the various creatures that lived here have been preserved in the rocks. Natural features seen on this stretch of coast include arches, pinnacles and stack rocks. In some places the sea has broken through resistant rocks to produce coves with restricted entrances, and the Isle of Portland is connected to the land by a narrow spit. Landslides are common, and these have exposed a wide range of fossils, the different rock types each having their own typical fauna and flora, thus providing evidence of how animals and plants evolved in this region. The area around Lulworth Cove also contains a fossil forest, and 71 different rock strata have been identified at Lyme Regis, each with its own species of ammonite.
The highest point on the Jurassic Coast, and on the entire south coast of Britain, is Golden Cap at 191m between Bridport and Charmouth.
Durdle Door is one of the Jurassic Coast’s most iconic sights: a natural arch, formed from a layer of hard limestone standing almost vertically out of the sea. Originally a band of resistant Portland limestone ran along the shore (the same band that forms the narrow entrance to Lulworth Cove). In it, the rock strata are almost vertical and the bands of rock are narrow. At Durdle Door nearly all of the limestone has been removed by sea erosion, whilst the remainder forms the small headland which includes the arch, where erosion at the western end of the limestone band has resulted in the iconic looks. ‘Durdle’ is believed to derive from the Saxon ‘thirl’, meaning pierced hole/opening.
Lulworth Cove is one of the world's finest examples of a cove and is a World Heritage Site with about 500,000 visitors p.a., of whom about 30% visit in July and August. It was formed as a result of bands of rock of alternating geological resistance running parallel to the coastline. On the seaward side a narrow band of Portland limestone rock forms the shoreline, while the clays and sands behind it have been eroded away. At the back of the cove is a 250-metre-wide band of chalk, which is considerably more resistant than the clays and sands, but less resistant than the limestones. The narrow gap in the limestone bands has been formed by wave action and weathering and the unique shape of the cove is a result of wave diffraction (the narrow entrance causes waves to bend into an arced shape). Stair Hole, just to the west, is an infant cove which suggests what Lulworth Cove would have looked like a few hundred thousand years ago.
Bindon Hill is an extensive univallate Iron Age earthwork, with the main rampart and external ditch running for 2.5 km along an east-west ridge parallel to the coast. The cliffs to the south are up to 120m high. The large enclosed area (110 ha), lack of evidence of interior settlement, and the impossibility of effectively defending it, all suggest it was an enclosed pasture for domesticated animals, not a strategic tribal hill fort.
The more than 2,830 ha of the Lulworth Ranges are part of the Armoured Fighting Vehicles Gunnery School, an important training establishment of the Army and were established in 1917. They include the coast west of Kimmeridge Bay to east of Lulworth Cove, as well as the village of Tyneham and Worbarrow Bay. The ranges are used for static and mobile live-firing practice by tanks and other armoured vehicles and access is restricted to specific times (most weekends and holidays when no firing is taking place).
The Hardy Way is a 354 km (220 mi) circular waymarked long-distance footpath largely in Dorset (with a short stretch in Wiltshire). It is named for the writer Thomas Hardy and runs through his version of Wessex as portrayed in his books. http://www.thehardyway.co.uk/
The Lulworth Estate in central south Dorset has been owned by the Weld family since 1641. It includes Lulworth Cove, a stretch of the Jurassic Coast, Grade II listed landscaped gardens as well as Lulworth Castle, an early 17th century hunting lodge, originally built for a grandson of the 3rd Duke of Norfolk. It was home to the Weld family until 1929, when the interior was ravaged by fire. Rebuilt internally, it is now kept empty. In the grounds there are the 15th century St. Andrew’s Church and the 18th century St. Mary’s, England’s first freestanding Roman Catholic Chapel after the reformation (permitted on the condition that it “…must not look like a chapel.”). Several waymarked Estate Walks allow strolls through the park itself and through surrounding woodlands and pastures and to the estate’s lake.
Castle Opening Hours: Easter to December daily 10.30-17.00 (last entry 16.00) except Saturdays and during special events, Gardens also open Sunday to Friday in winter (check https://www.lulworth.com/).