South West Coast Path Dorset, England

Shell Bay and the start of the southwest coast path in Dorset, England

The start/end of the 630 mile South West Coast Path in  Dorset at Shell Bay. See the map below.

Southwest Coast Path, Poole start

Get to the beginning of the path from either Poole or Bournemouth (100 mins by train from London) by bus to Sandbanks ferry. Don’t take the bus across the ferry, the walk starts immediately on the other side of the short crossing.

Alternatively walk the 5 miles or so from Bournemouth along the delightful promenade, past all the chines and onto Sandbanks, where the ferry runs across Poole Harbour entrance.

From Poole is also a fair walk; less scenic but quite interesting, around Poole Harbour – through Poole Park, Whitecliff, Lilliput, Evening Hill, past the board surfers and onto Sandbanks peninsula.

studland map, South West Coast Path Dorset

A Dorset council map of Studland with the South West Coast Path Dorset Path marked, starting  from the ferry across Poole Harbour entrance at top centre to Old Harry Rocks at bottom right (and on to Swanage etc. ).

Several miles of the first part of the walk will be on firm sand along Studland beaches before heading up to the clifftop at South Beach, along to Old Harry Rocks and around to Swanage.

Durdle Door, South West Coast Path Dorset

Durdle Door on the  South West Coast Path Dorset, England

dorset cows and dog, southwest coast path, England

Cow warning! Dogs and cows, especially when calves are present, are a dangerous combination. Cows will (and do, with deadly effect) attack if they feel the little ones are endangered, so carry small dogs and find another route with big dogs.

Isle of Purbeck map (not an island!), walks and sights. Numbers below appear on the map in red:

Map of South West Coast Path Dorset

Southwest Dorset, with coastal path as dotted line. The green parts are genuinely lush and lovely and the views awesome. Red number information below.

1. The start of Bill Bryson’s favourite British walk, from Swanage (a pleasant, old-fashioned seaside town) to Shell Bay ferry; along the beach or promenade and up onto the Ballard Down ridge above the town. 2. Old Harry Rocks, spectacular chalk cliffs with views across to Bournemouth. 3. Bankes Arms pub, an ancient and delightful hostelry loved by walkers and yachties anchoring in Studland Bay. 4. Shell Bay/Sandbanks Ferry at the end of the massive, soft sand and grassy dunes of Studland beach. 5. Sandbanks, one of the top five most expensive chunks of real estate in the world, with lively, pretty Poole Harbour on one side and powder sand on the Poole Bay side.

6. Parking for cars at the start of the Kingston-Kimmeridge walk. This is a mile beyond the Scott Arms pub. 7. Hikers can go either way but taking a lunch stop in Kimmeridge into account the Bugcrew went the longer way first, two hours via the southwest coastal path to Kimmeridge Bay (8), then up to the village for lunch (9). It takes about an hour to return to the start of the walk.

10. Strange and beautiful: Agglestone is a little-known short walk from a layby on the road from Corfe Castle-Studland, posted as Godlingston Heath (red dot on map below Agglestone). The walk is stunning, through a golf course, purple heather and massive, silent panorama over Poole Harbour. It takes about 30 minutes each way, then you get to climb the rock, which is not big but a little bit hairy depending on your experience.

11. This is for cyclists, an off-road route across forest and heathland to Wareham (12). About 1-2 hours one way. and stick the bike on a train back to Poole or Bournemouth if you’ve had enough biking for one day.

13. Lulworth used to be a gorgeous rural cove but is now over-touristed, though few can resist a look at monumental Durdle Door just a 20 minute walk away to the west ( near 13; not marked on the map).

14. Bovington Camp, a fascinating tank museum loaded with armoured beasts, trivia and live displays in the summertime.

15. Another breezy walk along the southwest coast path from Langton Matravers to Durlston Castle (16, photos at top of this page) and easily on to Swanage. It’s two or three hours depending on route there and back.