Dorset is beautiful – so much so that it's hard to choose where to go, especially when you're down for a short break. From unique geologic sites to wild habitats, and from coast to countryside, here are our top spots for the best walks in Dorset.
Hardy’s Cottage Woodland Walks, 0.6km from Greenwood Grange
The birthplace of the world-famous novelist, right by our holiday cottages, backs onto Thorncombe Woods, where you can follow walking trails taking in some of the places that influenced Hardy when he was young and that later made it into his writing. For those with kids, there’s plenty of scope for den-building plus an interactive discovery trail helping you all to learn about the wildlife and plants you’ll see en route.
Cerne Abbas, 14km from Greenwood Grange
This 4km walk takes you to the famous hill figure of the 55m Cerne Abbas Giant, sculpted into the chalk, and then on to the charming village of Cerne Abbas itself, once the site of a Benedictine monastery.
Chesil Beach, 27km from Greenwood Grange
Another easy 4km walk, this one starts at West Bexington Beach car park and takes you along the South West Coast Path in the area around iconic Chesil Beach, which shelters Weymouth from erosion. Behind Chesil’s pebble bank, the Fleet is one of Britain’s most wildlife-rich lagoons, with a particular wealth of birdlife.
Burton Bradstock, 29km from Greenwood Grange
This very short (1.6km) circular walk along Burton Cliff takes rewards you with breathtaking views of the Jurassic Coast – England's only natural World Heritage Site – including the old smugglers’ beach of Hive Beach with its great fossil-hunting and beach café with fantastic local seafood.
Corfe Castle to Ballard Down, 29km from Greenwood Grange
This 14km stretch of the Purbeck Way takes you from the village of Corfe Castle with its ruined fortification of the same name. You head along the Purbeck Ridge to Ballard Down (a great butterfly-spotting site in summer) then follow the South West Coast Path to Swanage. And you don’t have to walk all the way back – just hop aboard the heritage steam train from Swanage to Corfe Castle.
Portland Bill Lighthouse, 30km from Greenwood Grange
This 5km stroll brings into focus the landscape of Portland Bill with its quarrying heritage, along with wonderful birdlife (especially during the spring and autumn migrations). You’ll also spot the towers of three other lighthouses – this area was very perilous for seafarers.
Hodd Hill, 32km from Greenwood Grange
This National Trust site set on chalk downland offers spectacular views over the River Stour and wider Dorset over the course of a 1.6km, hilly walk. En route, you’ll spot a Roman fort, deep ramparts dating from the Iron Age, and stunning flowers and butterflies in season.
Worth Matravers and Dancing Ledge, 35km from Greenwood Grange
An 8km walk across a landscape that inspired Scottish architect, designer and artist Charles Rennie Mackintosh, this route takes you along the Purbeck limestone coast between Seacombe and the former quarry of Dancing Ledge then back along the historic Priest’s Way, named after an ancient track taken by a local cleric.
Studland and Agglestone, 35km from Greenwood Grange
Dorset’s renowned heathland can be seen at its finest on this 5km walk from Studland Middle Beach, taking you through Studland and Godlingston Heath National Nature Reserve. In summer, you can cool off with a swim or sunbathe on Studland’s long sandy beach.
Melbury Downs, 37km from Greenwood Grange
This walk takes you further into Thomas Hardy country (see above) in search of more of the landscapes that inspired his his semi-fictional ‘Wessex’. You’ll venture through the ancient downs in which his Blackmore Vale novels are set, enjoying glorious views as you walk.