3 hours / 13km
Growing up in the South of England, I’ve taken many walks along hills by the coast, but until recently I had not explored much of Dorset.
I moved west from Sussex in the spring of 2017 and absolutely fell in love with Dorset, its beaches, hills, cliffs and National Trust parks.
There is so much to explore, but one of my favourite walks had to be along the Purbeck Ridgeway from Corfe Castle to Swanage.
There are some steep ascents and descents but the majority of the walk is flat along the ridge. I recommend good, supportive footwear that you can get muddy.
The walk can be done in either direction as there is a gorgeous steam train that runs between the two, as well as a bus.
Check the timetable to make sure the train is running on the day you want to do the walk for the full experience!
The village of Corfe Castle is incredibly quaint and picturesque.
Nestled in a gap in the Purbeck Hills, almost all of the buildings and cottages are made from the local Purbeck limestone.
Towering over the village are the ruins of Corfe Castle itself, which I highly recommend you visit if you have time.
Pubs, tearooms and cute little shops can easily be found around the main area of the village square, directly below the castle.
This walk begins in Corfe Castle village and follows the ridgeway all the way to Swanage on the coast.
Start by walking through the village away from the castle along East Street, and turn left just before Castle Inn.
Walk through the car park and across the grass until you come to a railway crossing.
Take care in looking both ways for trains before crossing the tracks between the two kissing gates.
Continue across the field, through a gate and across the footbridge over the stream, then bear left and follow the edge of the field past the back of the houses and out onto a small lane.
Follow the lane to the left, past a small duck pond before turning right onto a walking track.
This track leads gradually up the ridge side to a phone mast at the top.
The Purbeck Ridgeway
From here, the track continues along the Purbeck Ridgeway on the Ulwell Ridge Path for some time.
You’ll be able to see Corfe Castle behind you, and Poole and Bournemouth down to your left.
As you continue along the ridge, make sure you’re following signs for Ulwell, Swanage or the Purbeck Way whenever you come to a fork in the path.
Eventually, you will notice the track start to descend.
Continue following signs for the Purbeck Way and, 250m after passing under some electric cables, turn left on a path that crosses a field towards a main road.
Carefully cross the road and turn immediately left. Turn right once you reach the bus stop to continue on the Purbeck Way.
You will now start to see signs for Old Harry Rocks; follow these along this track until you pass through some old City of London bollards, then turn left up the steps to the obelisk.
(Note: if you miss the steps to the obelisk, as I did, you can continue on the track and turn left up the hill a little later. This will mean you’ll miss the obelisk unless you turn back at the top.)
Now that you’re back on the ridge top, continue walking towards the sea until you reach an old trig point.
With Poole and Brownsea Island down to your left, the Isle of Wight ahead of you and Swanage to your right, I recommend stopping here and really taking in the view.
Once you’re ready to move on, you can decide whether you want to keep heading for Swanage (turn right along the fence line), or to make a detour for Old Harry Rocks (keep going straight).
When you reach the chalk formations popularly known as Old Harry Rocks, take a moment to look out towards the Isle of Wight.
If it’s a clear day, you may be able to see a similar set of chalk formations, known as the Needles, with a red and white lighthouse at the end.
Experts say that the Isle of White used to be connected to Britain’s mainland at the site of Old Harry Rocks until the last ice age, when the long chalk band finally eroded away.
Once you’ve taken in this geological masterpiece, turn around and head back towards Ballard Down.
The Descent to Swanage
Join the cliff path heading down towards Swanage and keep following it downhill.
You are now on the Coast Path to Swanage, so keep following this until you reach a National Trust sign for Whitecliffe.
If the tide is out, turn left here to drop down onto the beach and follow it along to Swanage.
If the tide is in, as it was when I reached this point, continue ahead across the bridge and keep following the Coast Path.
Eventually, the path will come out through an alleyway and onto a road, where you will need to turn left.
Continue straight along this road, through a barrier gate and keep going until you reach Redcliffe Road.
Turn left here and follow the road down to the seafront. The main town is along the beach to your right.
From here, you can catch your bus or train back to Corfe Castle.
Remember at the start of the post when I advised you to check the timetable before you go?
I didn’t do this and ended up walking the whole way back because the train wasn’t running and the next bus was well over an hour away!
So, learn from my mistake!
This area of Dorset truly is stunning. It’s also part of the Jurassic Coast so make sure you spend some time in the area and do some exploring!
Have you ever visited the South of England before? Is it on your bucket list? Let me know in the comments!
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