One of Dorset, England’s most famous tourist spots is Durdle Door, near Lulworth.
This area is home to the Jurassic Coast, where you can find an abundance of fossils and interesting geological formations.
Durdle Door is certainly one of the most impressive, as the tough Portland stone has been carved into a huge arch, jutting out into the sea.
The name “Durdle” comes from the Anglo Saxon word “thirl”, which means a pierced hole or opening.
In the summer months this beach becomes very busy, so make sure you plan ahead if you’d rather avoid the crowds.
And be careful: people have been critically injured after jumping from the cliff into the ocean! Obey the signs and don’t climb on the rocks. Safety first please, people.
There is a car park at Durdle Door for those who’d prefer not to walk from Lulworth Cove; however, there is currently a one-way system in place for getting down to the beach, which adds approximately 20 minutes walking time.
In this article, I’ve detailed the loop walk from Lulworth Cove car park to Durdle Door and back. The one-way system is great because it meant that I discovered a track that I’d never known about before! Even if this system is removed in future, I think I’ll continue doing this loop walk as it’s so beautiful.
How to get there
From the direction of Poole and Bournemouth, take the A35 west to Lytchett Minster, then join the A351 to Wareham.
At the large roundabout after Wareham, turn right onto the A352 for just over a mile, then turn left onto the B3070 and follow it all the way through the Lulworth M.O.D ranges to Lulworth Cove.
You may hear gunfire from the training grounds on your way in and you could even see a tank! Although that hasn’t happened to me in the many times I’ve driven that road.
If you’re coming from the direction of Dorchester, follow the A352 east for about 9 miles, turn right onto Water Lane and follow it all the way to Lulworth Cove.
There is one bus service that stops at Lulworth Cove: the X54. It runs between Weymouth and Poole, so whether you’re coming from the east or the west, you can get there on this service.
Check out the timetable here.
As with most of the Jurassic Coast, Lulworth Cove is very interesting geologically: you can see rocks ranging from 65 to 150 million years old, which have been tilted and pushed up from the water by the colliding of the continents.
The cove is perfectly round with a small opening to the sea, which was cut through by glacial melt water 10,000 years ago.
You can walk along the beach or climb up the hill on the right-hand side to get a more aerial view of the cove. You can also see across to the Isle of Portland from the top.
Right next to the viewpoint is Stair Hole, The different types of rock here have been worn away at different speeds, creating quite an interesting formation.
The harder Portland stone has withstood the erosion a lot more and continues to stand in the middle, although small caves and arches have been worn away.
The rocks to either side with vertical lines wear away much faster as they are a combination of alternating hard limestone and soft shale; when the shale is washed away, the limestone falls to the beach.
The rock behind the little beach is the Wealden Beds – soft clay which is easily eroded.
There are information boards around this area to tell you all about the geology.
The little village at Lulworth Cove is very quaint and beautiful, with lots of old houses, holiday houses and little shops selling fudge and ice cream.
There’s also a pub, and this whole area can be very busy on summer days. Lulworth Cove car park is huge, but the village is very small, meaning that a lot of tourists become crammed into a small area.
If you don’t mind missing the shops or you’re just there to see the cove or do the walk, I recommend either visiting in the early morning or the early evening.
The hike to Durdle Door
The track starts at the top of the overflow car park and is a wide, paved path that climbs steeply up the hill, heading west.
This first section of the track is the hardest part due to its steep descent. Once you get to the top you’ll have a lovely view back over Lulworth Cove behind you and along the coast towards Portland ahead of you.
The track then gradually descends until it reaches Durdle Door car park. The walk would normally only be 1 mile long, if you were to descend straight down to the beach from here.
However, with the one-way system in place, you’re directed not down to the beach but straight ahead through the field. There’s a grassy track that follows the fence line, before curving round to the right.
This takes you past the end of the holiday park and into a little wood, before turning left out of the trees and into a grassy valley.
Follow the valley down and around to the left. You’ll come out near the cliff edge, where you’ll be able to see down onto the beach.
Turn left here; the track climbs up a short way and then you’ll find yourself on the cliff top with a stunning view of Durdle Door in front of you.
Keep going until you reach the steps that will take you down to the beach.
At this point, it’s no longer one-way as this is the only access point for the beach.
Just before the final set of steps down, you can take a look out over Man of War Bay on the left, which is nicely sheltered and may be better for swimming.
The Return Path
Once you’re on the beach, you can walk quite a long way down and there are small caves in the cliffs. Just be sure to keep an eye on the tide if you’re walking all the way down as you could get cut off!
When you’re ready to head back, climb back up the steps and follow the track to the right.
There’s a bit of a climb to get back up to the Durdle Door car park but it’s not as difficult as the first hill was. When there’s no one-way system, this is the path that everyone uses to get both down to the beach and back up again. The round route I’ve described above adds about 20 minutes onto this.
You’ll see the path that you came over on heading off to your right. When I’ve visited before this has always been the way I’ve walked back, too.
For the loop walk, keep heading up to the car park. At the back, where the road leads out, there’s a track that leads to the right, directly towards the village.
Follow this path all the way along; you’ll pass through a couple of fields which may have livestock in, so be careful if you have a dog.
Just as it looks like you’re going to descend down towards the farm, the path curves round to the right. Don’t follow the sign to West Lulworth or go through the gate here. Stay on the same side of the fence and follow it to the right.
Eventually, you’ll drop down the bank and find yourself at the very first gate, next to Lulworth Cove car park.
The Lulworth Cove to Durdle Door loop walk is not a big hike, but it was a very nice way to spend a morning.
Once again, I do recommend starting early to avoid the crowds; the car park was very quiet when we got there but was much busier when we left around midday.
If you enjoyed this walk and would like to do a longer hike in this area, check out my post on hiking from Corfe Castle to Swanage.
This area of Dorset truly is incredibly beautiful and I feel very lucky to have it almost on my doorstep!
Have you visited the Jurassic Coast? Would you visit here for the loop walk? Let me know in the comments! 🙂
Want more like this? Check out these articles:
- The Purbeck Way: Corfe Castle to Swanage
- Snowdon Summit Route: The Pyg Track
- Day hike essentials: what to pack
All images in this post are the property of lastminutewanders.com
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I’m all about day hikes and would love to explore this area. Beautiful views!
The views are incredible and it’s fantastic for a short day hike with plenty of time to spend at the beach! 🙂
Super helpful! Me and a friend are heading here tomorrow. Can I ask how long the walk took you?
Yes of course! Normally it would be about a 20 min walk to Durdle Door, but with the added section on the one-way system it’s now about 40 mins to get there. On the way back it’s more like 30 mins as you don’t have to do the extra section but it is a slightly longer way back than over the cliff top. I hope you have a lovely day – the weather’s looking perfect for it! 🙂
Great post – helpful for our upcoming trip there this weekend 🙂
Thanks Loredana, I’m glad I could help. I hope you guys have a great time! 🙂