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Dorset

Hiking in Dorset

Hiking

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Photo: Danny Goodall

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A magnificent county halfway along England’s southern coastline, there are countless walks in Dorset for every whim, every ability and every weather condition. Much of the county’s exceptional shore is part of the Jurassic Coast UNESCO World Heritage Site, an area rich in fossils with rocks dating back 185 million years right there for you to touch. 

Inland, Dorset hikes can take you to crumbling castles, Iron Age hillforts, stunning river valleys, open heathland and golden beaches. Whether you’re after a summer’s day hike, a winter weekender, a child-friendly walk or a grand adventure, there’s more than enough choice in this rural county. 

While the far southeastern tip of Dorset dedicates its land to the conurbations of Poole and Bournemouth, only Dorchester and Weymouth are settlements of significant size in the rest of the county. Instead, you’ll find innumerable villages with thatched cottages, old post offices and a sense that time has forgotten them. It’s time for you to discover them.


Top 20 best walks and hikes in Dorset

    Map data © OpenStreetMap contributors
    1
    1
    Easy
    01:31
    3.13 mi
    2.1 mph
    550 ft
    550 ft
    Easy hike. Great for any fitness level. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.
    View
    2
    Intermediate
    02:41
    5.87 mi
    2.2 mph
    700 ft
    700 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.
    View
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  • 3
    Intermediate
    03:58
    9.06 mi
    2.3 mph
    675 ft
    675 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.
    View
    4
    Intermediate
    04:46
    10.4 mi
    2.2 mph
    1,225 ft
    1,225 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.
    View
    5
    Intermediate
    04:27
    9.89 mi
    2.2 mph
    950 ft
    950 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.
    View
    6
    Intermediate
    04:06
    8.92 mi
    2.2 mph
    1,075 ft
    1,075 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.
    View
    7
    Difficult
    05:57
    13.6 mi
    2.3 mph
    950 ft
    950 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.
    View
    8
    Difficult
    06:02
    12.9 mi
    2.1 mph
    1,750 ft
    1,750 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.
    View
    9
    Intermediate
    03:28
    7.66 mi
    2.2 mph
    850 ft
    850 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.
    View
    10
    Intermediate
    02:07
    5.15 mi
    2.4 mph
    75 ft
    75 ft
    Ferry
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required. The Tour includes a crossing by ferry.
    View
    11
    Intermediate
    01:19
    3.13 mi
    2.4 mph
    125 ft
    125 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Great for any fitness level. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.
    View
    12
    Intermediate
    04:01
    8.02 mi
    2.0 mph
    1,650 ft
    1,650 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.
    View
    13
    Intermediate
    02:55
    6.40 mi
    2.2 mph
    750 ft
    750 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.
    View
    14
    Intermediate
    04:10
    9.21 mi
    2.2 mph
    1,000 ft
    1,000 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.
    View
    15
    Intermediate
    03:05
    6.94 mi
    2.3 mph
    625 ft
    625 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.
    View
    16
    Intermediate
    04:51
    11.1 mi
    2.3 mph
    825 ft
    825 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.
    View
    17
    Intermediate
    03:58
    8.92 mi
    2.2 mph
    775 ft
    775 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.
    View
    18
    Intermediate
    03:58
    8.92 mi
    2.2 mph
    775 ft
    725 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.
    View
    19
    Difficult
    05:35
    12.1 mi
    2.2 mph
    1,475 ft
    1,475 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.
    View
    20
    Intermediate
    02:49
    6.32 mi
    2.2 mph
    600 ft
    600 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.
    View

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Explore a variety of landscapes

Over 40% of this stunning county is part of an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, making all the walks in Dorset rather gorgeous affairs.The underlying geology is part of what gives this area such phenomenal landscapes, with its vast chalk escarpments, limestone hills and prehistoric coastline. By the sea, you can see the natural arches, sea stacks and coves of Durdle Door, Lulworth Cove and the Old Harry Rocks. The immense shingle barrier of Chesil Beach and its companion, the Isle of Portland in the south, offer a completely different landscape from the rolling hills in the county’s north. 

On the Isle of Purbeck – which is not an island at all – you can explore swathes of heathland home to rare reptiles, butterflies and plants. Within the natural inlet of Poole Harbour, seek out the red squirrels on Brownsea Island or explore the dunes and nature reserve of Studland. 

Seek out history

You don’t need to go on many hikes in Dorset before you catch a glimpse of its ancient settlers. Neolithic remains such as long barrows, tumuli and hillforts litter the countryside and make for fun objectives to search for in the landscape. The county has no fewer than 35 hillforts, including a few of the most exquisite: Maiden Castle, Badbury Rings and Hambledon Hill. Elsewhere, Corfe Castle is one of the most iconic in the area and some of the best hiking trails in Dorset include it. Brownsea, Sherborne and Highcliffe Castles are each unique and fascinating in their own right.

Walking with wildlife

Thanks to its vast range of landscapes and habitats, Dorset is home to an immense array of wildlife, from reptiles and butterflies to hawks, deer, migratory birds and the adorable red squirrel. With binoculars, you might get particularly lucky and spy dolphins along the coast; these marvellous mammals make regular visits and are sometimes spotted in Poole Harbour as well as along the coastline.


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