We had been waiting until August to do this walk, because this is when the X43 bus runs. It delivers you straight to Lulworth Cove from Dorchester and/or Weymouth. We caught the first bus and arrived in Lulworth Cove just before 10.30. It was a lovely sunny day with a much appreciated breeze which prevented us from overheating. Lulworth Cove and Durdle Door were very busy but, beyond that, the path was fairly quiet. We strolled down to the Cove with the crowds, before retracing our steps to join the South West Coastal Path.
I have seen this stretch described as the most picturesque of the entire South West Coast Path and it certainly is very beautiful and not a little strenuous. The route out of Lulworth is very clear. there is a white scar extending up the hill from the back of the large car park, heading west, as this photo shows.
This is a fairly steep climb of about 100m vertical nearly to the top of Hambury Tout. The path has been expertly graded and the views at the top are magnificent. In front you have the view along white cliffs with St Oswald’s Bay in the foreground and Bat’s Head Point in the distance. Behind Lulworth and beyond are the Army ranges.
The path then descends to Durdle Door, where there was a large crowd taking photos. It must be one of the most photographed scenes in England. Here is mine!
The sea all along the first part of this walk was crystal clear and looked very inviting. After the descent to the Door, the walk is quickly followed by another climb. This thinned the crowd out dramatically. This climb is probably steeper but not as high as the one from Lulworth; probably about 80m vertical. This is followed immediately by an equally steep descent into Scratchy Bottom and another steep climb.
The following descent is less steep; down virtually to sea level and a bay with a small chalk stack in the water and a mini “door” in the cliff. The headland is called Bat’s Head and the door is called Bat’s Hole.
I guess it is no surprise when the next stage of the walk goes up again. This time the ascent is less steep, but it is a long one, to the highest point in this walk, the White Nothe, at around 150m. You walk past a stone pillar on the way, called Beacon on the OS map. There is another “beacon”, further inland, but in sight from the path and they apparently line up to allow ships to identify the main channel into Portland Harbour. One of the surprises of the walk, for me, was the collection of extremely isolated cottages on White Nothe. They were built for coastguards and are still occupied. Despite having no mains electricity or gas or water and no road access one was recently on sale for £240,000. I think it might suit a hermit!
The coastline from here to Weymouth is much gentler and from White Nothe there are good views across Ringstead Bay towards your destination. As you descend to the Bay there are some very obvious signs of coastal erosion, a feature of the landscape that continues all the way to Weymouth. The path joins a road/track and passes a shop and some public toilets in Ringstead
From Ringstead you become very aware of the extensive camp sites and holiday centres which, when we passed, were very busy indeed. The path is now at a lower level and there is more evidence of erosion.Soon the path reaches Osmington where it passes right through a pub garden, very convenient! After skirting an outdoor adventure camp and several camp sites you approach Bowleaze and the rather grand white Riviera Hotel, built in the 1940s and owned by Pontins from the 50’s until the 90’s the impressive building is still a hotel and is now Grade 2 listed.
After following the coastal path over Furzy Cliff, we joined the main road into town and took advantage of the beach to have a swim and catch a bus back to Weymouth. Our total walk was about 15km and it was a great day out.