There’s few better spots to combine lungful’s of sea air and an excellent day’s walking in the UK, that the stunning southern county of Dorset!
From incredible coastline made famous by miles of dramatic cliffs, through to gorgeous sandy beaches and quaint thatched-roof villages that dot the rolling green countryside, this is one of my favourite parts of England to escape to.
Easily accessible from London, and reminding me slightly of my childhood home in Jersey (just 2 more reasons why I love Dorset!), my favourite way to experience this superb slice of the country is by enjoying a trip that features some great walks as a main course with a gorgeous glamping experience on the side!
Indeed, it seems to me, that Dorset was made for hiking and glamping, with this form of active yet relaxing, rustic yet comfortable trip perfectly accenting all the best bits this county has to offer.
The ultimate way to celebrate Dorset’s glorious countryside and UNESCO-listed coastline, hiking and glamping is the best combination when it comes to really feeling like you’re enjoying a “proper” holiday, whilst experiencing something totally individual and unique that will have your friends going wild over your snaps at the same time!
So without delaying you any longer, here’s my list of the top 5 Dorset walks that aim to show you just how great a hiking trip down here can be.
And after the walks, I’lll then list some of my top Dorset glamping recommendations too, meaning you really can have the best of both worlds – hurrah!…
This article was sponsored by Unique Hideaways but, as always, all views are my own.
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#1 Studland Circuit
One of the prettiest areas of Dorset, the Studland peninsula seems to have been made for walking!
With miles of beach and coastline, along with a delightful village – which makes the perfect place to wet your whistle after a striding (and likely windswept!) hike – this top Dorset walking area offers dramatic coastal views by the bucket load.
With a few routes to choose from, you should find something that suits you in terms of length and difficulty, however, the one spot you can’t miss is Old Harry Rocks.
An iconic cliff formation, which juts out into the sea and provides incredible views and photo opps, Old Harry Rocks are the jewel in the Studland crown.
One of the shortest ways to take these guys in, is to park at the South Beach car park and then simply walk out to the Old Harry Rocks and back following the well-signed coastal trail.
If you’d prefer a slightly longer route however – and I highly suggest you try this one if you have the time – then park at the National Trust car park near Knoll Beach Café and from there walk along to Middle Beach and then follow the coastal trail to Old Harry Rocks.
After snapping here to your heart’s content, head back towards South Beach, diverting onto Watery Lane, and make this a circular walk by looping back through the village of Studland to either ogle over The Pig – On the Beach here or to enjoy a drink at the Bankes Arms.
#2 Corfe Castle to Swanage
And coming in at number 2, it’s another absolute classic on the Dorset walking circuit!
Yes this gem of a hike takes in 2 of Dorset’s greatest icons and navigates you between them on 2 feet care of the Purbeck Ridgeway.
At about 15km long and taking around 5 hours, this certainly is a good old hike, so I suggest you set off early and allow the whole day for this one.
Doing so will give you the time not only to take a trip around Corfe Castle beforehand (which you definitely should), but also ample time to get back to your vehicle (via train or bus from Swanage Railway Station) at the end.
Because the Castle and accompanying village are totally worth a visit, I suggest starting this walk at that end and then finishing up at the coast – I mean who doesn’t want to end with their feet in the sea and an ice cream in hand after a big walk?!
Taking that as a given therefore, you can start this walk at the Corfe Village square and then head out along East Street and towards the Ulwell Ridge Path.
At Ailwood Down, the trail soon becomes the Purbeck Way, which you’ll follow until you reach the coast at Ballard Point.
To your left, you’ll see Old Harry Rocks, which you can detour to if you haven’t tried out walk #1 on this list of my top Dorset Walks!
If you have seen them before however, then head in the other direction, along the coast and on towards Swanage.
Finish up at the beautiful sandy beach and enjoy!
Definitely a top-rated day out in Dorset – this one should not be missed!
#3 Kimmeridge to Osmington Mills (inc. Lulworth Cove and Durdle Door)
This is another long walk, but thanks to the spectacular Southwest Coastal Path, it’s a really scenic one and well worth it if you have the stamina!
If not, then there’s some smaller options along this route too, which are more open to hikers of all abilities, as well as those who don’t have the luxury of a pick-up service!
And that’s because parking at Kimmeridge Bay is a bit of a nightmare (mostly due to difficult access and a lack of space) and is probably best avoided.
Given that there’s no bus service here either, unless you can get dropped off by someone, I’d suggest starting this hike slightly further along the coast at the famous Lulworth Cove.
Not only does this cut the walk down in length (which can be a blessing on the steep clifftops around here!), but it also means you can end your great Dorset hike at Osmington Mills, walk up to the village of Osmington and then pick up the X54 Jurassic Coaster bus from the A353, which will take you straight back to Lulworth.
But outside of the practical aspects, it might be useful to know why else you should enjoy this hike!
And primarily that’s because it takes in one of the finest stretches of Dorset, if not the English, coastline!
Getting to tick a good number of bucket list spots off too (including Lulworth Cove, Durdle Door and Man O’War Beach), this is a tough hike but one which is certainly very rewarding!
#4 Isle of Portland
We now continue west on our journey through Dorset and past the city of Weymouth to the magical Isle of Portland.
Sitting out on the peninsula beyond Weymouth, this coastal spot again provides some incredible Dorset walking, including the big guy that is the 20km Isle of Portland Circuit, which basically follows the Southwest Coastal Path around the edge of this lovely natural area.
Start from either the Chesil Beach or the Ferry Bridge end, and then make your way along the beautiful limestone cliff paths here to enjoy stunning views, hidden coves and an assortment of beautiful plants, including some stunning wildflower displays in the spring.
#5 Abbotsbury to Hive Beach
And last but not least on this list of the 5 best Dorset walks, it’s the wonderful coastal stroll from the adorable village of Abbotsbury to the fantastic, family-friendly Hive Beach.
I love this walk because it combines some of Dorset’s wonderful-thatch-roof-cottage-come-quant-village-charm, with beautiful coastal views and some stunning sandy beach opps too – just about all I want from a day personally!
It’s also easy to access this walk, or at least get back to your vehicle at the end, care of the X53 Jurassic Coaster bus.
Given that I always enjoy ending my Dorset walks at the beach, I’d start this one in Abbotsbury – it’s probably easier to find a parking space here too as car parks aren’t as crowded as those at the beach.
Beginning this top Dorset walk in Abbotsbury also means you’ll still have the energy to check out this insanely pretty village (which you should def do FYI), along with its famous Abbey which is certainly worth a look in as well!
From here, head down Buller’s Way to join the coast and then the Southwest Coast Path all the way to Hive Beach.
This will take you about 2 hours and the beautiful sandy beach and great swimming spot at the end makes all the effort worthwhile!
Hive Beach also has a brilliant café and the nearby town of Burton Bradstock is also gorgeous if you get the chance to stroll around here too!
6 Other Brilliant Dorset Walking Options:
Now I know my top 5 list of the best Dorset walks has been rather coastal heavy and honestly, that’s because I just can’t resist the amazing sea air when I’m down here!
But that isn’t to say there’s no amazing countryside strolls to enjoy in this beautiful rural county too.
Taking in some of my top countryside Dorset walks, as well as some other coastal beauties that didn’t make the top 5, here’s my list of 6 other great additions to your Dorset walking repertoires…
- West Bay to Burton Bradstock
- The Frome Valley Trail
- The Wareham Forest Way
- The Stour Valley Way
- The Abbotsbury to Ferrybridge
- Lyme Regis to Seatown
Where to Stay When Walking in Dorset?
As you can enjoy all of the above 5 walks in Dorset as day walks, then probably the best way to cover as many of them as possible, or to see as many parts of this county as possible, is to base yourself in one place and then travel around from there.
This will save you the hassle of having to pack up each night and, as Dorset is easy to explore in a car, it makes a lot more sense in terms of a relaxing getaway!
And what could be relaxing for your Dorset getaway than staying in a Unique hideaway!
These glorious glamping properties are all cute, quaint and provide a huge level of privacy making them ideal for a weekend getaway.
If you want to be by the sea, then the stunning Chalet on the Beach – slap bang in the heart of the UNESCO World Heritage zone – is hard to beat for a romantic weekend escape in Dorset.
High on the bouji, boutique feels, there’s a wet room (including underfloor heating) here, but it has to be the comfy double bed, tucked up in its own shelf, and with its own hatch window for direct views out to the sea lapping just a few metres away, which seals the deal for me!
Alternatively, if you’d rather be inland and spend your evenings gazing at the stars amidst the rolling green countryside of Dorset, then it probably doesn’t get better than a stunning Shepherd’s Hut with a classic French twist!
Lying just outside the historic town of Dorchester, La Cabine Francaise is another romantic spot with stunning chic design features and furnishings, luxury linen, a king-sized bed, wood burner and views out over the west Dorset hills… just dreamy!
Otherwise, Toby’s Hut is another awesome country view retreat set in the midst of the undulating, verdant Dorset landscape.
Charmingly bright and colourful, this dog-friendly spot boasts a lovely kitchen, wood burner and even a fire pit, along with a private, outdoor hot tub, where you can really soak up (pardon the pun!) the stunning scenery!
You can book any of these amazing Dorset glamping spots right here.
5 Packing Essentials for Walking & Glamping in Dorset
#1 Walking Shoes
You can’t come to enjoy some Dorset walking and not come equipped with walking shoes!
As such, I highly recommend these lightweight and comfortable ones from North Face, which are perfect for the job, with a great level of support for those clifftop ascents!
#2 Waterproof, Windproof Jacket
Look, as paradisical as I’ve made Dorset sound (and it is), it also is England!
And that green around isn’t green for nothing!
Nope, it’s green because it rains a lot.
A lot of the year!
So bringing a good waterproof and windproof jacket with you, no matter what time of year you’re coming, is just plain sensible!
#3 Swimwear & Towel
You can’t go on all these amazing Dorset coastal walks and not enjoy some time at the beach while you’re at it!
Which is why I thoroughly recommend taking swimwear and a travel towel with you on your walking and glamping trip, especially if you’re coming in the summer!
Having an excellent camera to snap Dorset in all her glory and preserve the memories is an absolute given.
I love my Sony A6000, which never leaves my side during my travel adventures.
I also enjoyed having a GoPro when I was in the Dorset to capture all the hiking and beachside action.
#5 Portable Charger
There’s no denying, power can be an issue when walking in Dorset, especially if you’re out snapping and hiking all day.
Even with power in your cabin, remembering to charge stuff up and constantly rotating electricals can be tiresome.
My solution: Come armed with 2 fully charged Anker portable chargers, so you can fire up your phone, camera or other devices whenever and wherever you need.
Top Dorset Travel Tips
When to Visit Dorset?
There’s no question the best time to go glamping and walking in Dorset in my opinion is between the months of June and September when the weather is at its driest, sunniest and warmest.
Not only does this make for a more pleasant glamping experience, but the better weather at this time of year will also allow you to enjoy more of the region’s beautiful landscapes too – whether that’s walking, cycling, hitting up the coast or just staring out your glamping cabin door!
Within the summer months, do remember that the school holidays and sunny weekends will be by far the busiest months down here, so if you want to get the best prices or the thinnest crowds, it’s probably best to avoid these times!
As an FYI, I visited Dorset in mid-April and experienced idyllic weather that saw me hiking and glamping under brilliant blue skies every day, but this isn’t a given!
How to Get to Dorset?
Situated in the south of England, Dorset’s main city is Bournemouth and this place has the most regular train connections from London, along with frequent services from the nearby coastal cities of Southampton and Portsmouth.
Otherwise, the larger Dorset towns of Dorchester, Lyme Regis, Poole, Weymouth and Swanage also boast train stations and you can choose between them depending on where you are coming from and where you are basing yourself when you’re down here.
Regardless of which station you choose to arrive at, my top tip is to use Trainline to find the cheapest deals on rail tickets across the UK, as these guys use split-fare technology to get you the best prices.
Booking in advance with Trainline can throw up some surprisingly cheap fares, especially as this site also allows you to easily compare routes and journey times.
Alternatively, you can drive to Dorset – this will grant you the most flexibility when you are down in this rural county, especially if you are planning to hike and glamp off the beaten track.
If you don’t have a car, you may consider renting one and I highly recommend Discover Cars for the job, as they offer some super deals on short-term hires and are very reputable.
Learn more about how to score a great deal when renting a car in the UK, thanks to these handy top 12 tips I swear by!
How to Get Around Dorset?
There’s no doubt that the easiest way to explore Dorset is via 4 wheels, however there are several good bus services (especially in the summer) that can help you get around if you don’t have a vehicle.
The Jurassic Coaster and Purbeck Breezer buses are probably the most useful for walkers, especially those who want to enjoy parts of the Southwest Coast Path.
These tourist-friendly routes are also ideal for those who just plan to sightsee, and sitting on their top deck sure does give some epic views!
Learn more about the Purbeck Breezer here.
If you don’t want to catch public transport, then cycling is also an option for getting around Dorset.
Although there are some designated trails, as well as calm and quiet country roads to enjoy, do beware there’s plenty of hills too!
Where to Travel After Dorset?
If Dorset has wet your appetite to explore more of the south of the UK (and who can blame you?!), then you’ll be glad to know it’s just a hop, skip and a jump to several other stunning areas around.
To the south, the wonderful Isle of Wight can easily be accessed by ferry and offers more great walking and glamping opportunities. Learn more in this list of the top things to do on the Isle of Wight.
Otherwise, to the west you have Devon and all the coastal hiking wonders this county provides or, to the east, the magnificent New Forest provides loads of great walks and cycling opps, as well as some fab pubs too!
Alternatively, to the north, the county of Somerset with the magnificent Cheddar Gorge and historic icons of Glastonbury and Wells shouldn’t be missed. Check out my list of the top 10 things to do in Somerset for more ideas.
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So there you have it, my list of the top 5 Dorset walks, plus all you need to know to enjoy them!
Have you hiked any of these before?
Which was your favourite?
Or have I missed your top pick out?
Please join the conversation in the comments box below…