Jurassic Coast

  • Durdle Door - © from Flickr user lamoney
  • Pulpit Rock, Portland - © from Flickr user Treehouse1977
  • Ammonite - © from Flickr user Andrew_Michaels
  • Beach, Hen Cliff, Purbeck - © from Flickr user Treehouse1977
  • England as Italy - © from Flickr user Lostajy
  • Fine seas at Portland - © from Flickr user youngie42
  • Fossil hunting, Charmouth - © from Flickr user Kevinzim
  • Lyme Regis sea wall - © from Flickr user Whipper_Snapper
  • Near Durdle Door - © from Flickr user Photography_Gal
  • Near Lyme Regis - © from Flickr user Jlcwalker
  • Old Harry - © from Flickr user Treehouse1977
  • Portland Bill - © from Flickr user Treehouse1977
  • Pulpit Rock, Portland - © from Flickr user Treehouse1977
  • The Cobb, Lyme Regis - © from Flickr user Jim_Linwood
  • The Undercliff Landslide, Lyme Regis - © from Flickr user Feather
  • Through Dorset - © from Flickr user Hardo

Key information: Jurassic Coast

  •  This National Trail and World Heritage Site is part of the 660-mile South West Coast Path.
  •  The route, from Exmouth to Poole Harbour, passes through some of the UKs most beautiful coastal scenery and of the worlds most important geological landscapes.
  •  Huge choice of walks, from easy tastes of the south-wests delicious coastline to strenuous 24+ km hikes through dramatic rifts, cliffs and rock strata.
  •  The backyard of evolution: fossils found here led to the birth of palaeontology, the classification of the first dinosaurs and inspiration for, among others, Darwin.

Walkopedia rating

  • Walkopedia rating86
  • Beauty31
  • Natural interest17
  • Human interest8
  • Charisma30
  • Negative points0
  • Total rating86
  • Note: Negs: pretty popular in high season

Vital Statistics

  • Length: 152km in total
  • Level of Difficulty: Variable
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Pulpit Rock, Portland - © from Flickr user Treehouse1977

WALK SUMMARY

The counties of Dorset, Devon and Cornwall are perennially popular British holiday spots: the combination of relatively good summer weather, a relatively low population and dramatic coastlines scattered with good beaches have made this area popular with leisure travelers since the Georgian spa vogue.

The Jurassic coast, which runs from the red-rock cliffs of Exmouth to the lovely limestone of the Isle of Purbeck in the east, has a particularly powerful charisma: its rugged landscape could be said to be the birthplace of palaeontology. Though the first classified dinosaur bones were discovered on the edge of the Cotswolds, the sheer wealth of fossils pouring out of the crumbling rocks of these cliffs continue to provide exciting discoveries today. This is a great place for dino-mad children, though getting them to quit the fossil-strewn beaches and actually take a walk might be a problem.

The Jurassic coast is, ultimately, a living geology lesson; a history of the earth over hundreds of millions of years. Indeed, the Devonian Period is named after the county, where outcrops of its typical iron-rich red sandstone deposits, riddled with the fossils of the earliest land-walking fish, are common especially in the area between Exmouth and Sidmouth, which, at the time, straddled the equator as part of the continent of Euramerica.

The Undercliff nature reserve, outside lovely Georgian Lyme Regis, is a picture-perfect landslide of sandstone over clay a celebrated event in 1839 which brought flocks of visitors, including Queen Victoria. Because of the instability of the land, Lymes beaches have surrendered remains of ichthyosaurs, dimorphodons, plesiosaurs and many, many more.

28km-long Chesil beachs collection of perfect round pebbles, which increase in size as you work your way eastwards, remains a geological mystery, while the Isle of Portland, rearing majestically from the sea, hosts petrified forests 135 million years old and ancient quarries. Further east, beyond the dramatic rock arch of Durdle Door, Lulworth bay is a fine example of rock vulnerabilities: when a stream broke through the coastal limestone barrier, the sea eroded a perfect horseshoe of softer clay all the way to the impermeable chalk cliffs behind. The Isle of Purbeck, a National Trust site covered in castles and home to a wondrous collection of wildlife, rises up over the inner marshland surrounding Poole harbor, passing the petrified footprints of gigantic dinosaurs and affording majestic vistas of chalk stacks such as the celebrated Old Harry, only a few thousand years ago a sturdy part of the mainland.

The breathtaking history of the earth represented by these features, however, cannot begin to communicate their effect on eye and heart. The whole stretch of the Jurassic coast is an admirable mix of rural and elegant, of mild and dramatic, overlaid with a powerful sense of Britains age-old relationship with the cradle of life itself, the ocean.

See Routes below for details of recommended walking: Seaton / Lyme Regis Undercliff / Golden Cap; Portland; and the Studland Peninsula.

Other accounts: share your experiences

Your comments on this walk, your experiences and suggestions, and your photos are very welcome. Where appropriate, you will be credited for your contribution.

PRACTICAL INFORMATION

We have a lot of helpful practical information and tips about this walk, covering everything from the best books and maps, to timing and weather, geting there, possible problems, whether you need a guide and where to find them, and useful websites. This section is only open to members.

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Safety and problems: All walks have inherent risks and potential problems, and many of the walks featured on this website involve significant risks, dangers and problems. Problems of any sort can arise on any walk. This website does not purport to identify any (or all) actual or potential risks, dangers and problems that may relate to any particular walk.

Any person who is considering undertaking this walk should do careful research and make their own assessment of the risks, dangers and possible problems involved. They should also go to “Important information” for further important information.

Anyone planning an expedition to this place should see further important information about this walk.

Beach, Hen Cliff, Purbeck - ©from Flickr user Treehouse1977

OTHER ACCOUNTS
share your experiences

Add your experiences, suggestions and photos. We would be delighted to receive your writing and ideas (which will be attributed appropriately where published).

Anyone planning an expedition to this place should see further important information about this walk.

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England as Italy - ©from Flickr user Lostajy...
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