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Explore Dorset's mighty chalk downlands — Purbeck Cycle Ride

JackPeasePhotography (CC BY 2.0)

Explore Dorset's mighty chalk downlands — Purbeck Cycle Ride

Bike Touring Collection by Kit P



1-2 h

/ day

50.0 mi

2,800 ft

2,800 ft

The Isle of Purbeck might not be an island but it is a truly extraordinary area and an absolute gift to cyclists. A geological marvel complete with vibrant chalk downlands and a UNESCO World Heritage Site covering its Jurassic coastline, you get to ride over ground almost 200 million years old.

The Purbeck Cycle Ride is a 47-mile (76 km) landscape extravaganza. This is a hilly route with some steep and sustained climbs but you’re always rewarded with fantastic views. The first section whisks you through the Purbeck Heaths National Nature Reserve, the country’s first ‘super-reserve’. An incredibly important system of habitats for rare wildlife and plant life, there are lots of opportunities for bird watching and nature spotting here.

I’ve split this ride into two stages to give you the option of staying overnight in Lulworth. While the route is certainly doable in one, quite challenging, day, there is so much to see that you might well want to take it at a more leisurely speed.

Some of the most impressive sights on this ride include Corfe Castle, the option to ride into the beautiful coastal town of Swanage, Lulworth Cove and the region’s sprawling heathlands. While fairly rural, Purbeck is home to its fair share of villages and excellent pubs, which will tempt you to take more than one cake stop.

Significant swathes of land in the middle of the ride are operated by the Ministry of Defence as live firing ranges. When the ranges are active, some of the route is inaccessible. They rarely operate on weekends but this is subject to change so always check the government’s website at gov.uk/government/publications/lulworth-firing-notice.

If you’re splitting the route into two stages with an overnight at Lulworth, you’ll find a variety of accommodation options, including a YHA and several campsites. The cove is picture-perfect, but hard to see on a bike without actually cycling down the hill to its shore. It’s worth locking up your steed in the village and walking down for a swim.

Whether you’re staying overnight or not, the route continues west past Lulworth and then north through the chalk hills to the flatter land above. At Moreton, you cross the River Frome again and pedal on packed gravel tracks through heath and forest. The route then leads you south east, all the way back on quiet roads to Wareham.

You can ride this route at any time of year but it’s very exposed to prevailing winds and rain, potentially making winter rides much more challenging. This area is understandably popular with tourists and roads around Lulworth and Corfe Castle, in particular, can get immensely crowded. To this end, avoiding absolute peak season is recommended if you want to avoid a caravan of, well, caravans.

Accommodation is easy to come by and small supermarkets and pubs are well placed too. You can reach Wareham by train from Bournemouth, Southampton and London Waterloo or drive; it’s reasonably well connected by road thanks to the A35 just to the north.

On The Map


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Purbeck Cycle Ride

48.2 mi

2,700 ft

2,700 ft

Last updated: November 16, 2021

Plan your own version of this adventure in the multi-day planner based on the stages suggested in this Collection.

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Tours & Highlights

  • Map data © OpenStreetMap contributors

    Stage 1: Wareham to Lulworth — Purbeck Cycle Ride

    26.1 mi
    9.6 mph
    1,750 ft
    1,600 ft
    Expert bike ride. Very good fitness required. Some portions of the Tour may require you to push your bike.

    The first half of the Purbeck Cycle Ride whisks you across some of Dorset’s most extraordinary landscapes. From Purbeck Heaths National Nature Reserve and magnificent castle ruins to vistas of the Jurassic Coast, this hilly adventure is packed with wonder.


    The route begins at the historic Wareham quayside

    by Kit P

  • Intermediate
    23.9 mi
    9.8 mph
    1,050 ft
    1,200 ft
    Intermediate bike ride. Good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    The second half of this glorious Dorset ride carries you away from the Jurassic Coast, through chalk downlands and into the lower-lying heathlands. Pretty villages punctuate the journey and the rivers Frome and Piddle make an appearance too, both with fun crossings. There are some hills en route, namely

    by Kit P

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Collection Stats

  • Tours
  • Distance
    50.0 mi
  • Duration
    05:10 h
  • Elevation
    2,800 ft2,800 ft

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