« Good Practice Guide
With breathtaking views, walking along the Dorset coast is extremely popular with locals and visitors. It’s a great way to experience the local wildlife and see the geological features of the famous Jurassic coast. There are many circular walks, with detailed descriptions, directions and maps, marked on the iCoast website. Walking routes range from short and easy to long and hilly, and everything in between. Choose a walk that you feel is within your limits with scenery you’ll enjoy.
What do I need?
- No matter how much planning is done, weather can always take a turn for the worse. Pack warm/waterproof clothes just in case.
- Make sure you wear shoes you are comfortable walking distances in, and possibly over different terrains – walking boots are ideal.
- Bring water to keep yourself hydrated.
- Food – many walks have great places to stop for a picnic.
- Camera – you may want to take pictures of the wonderful views.
When is the best time to do it?
Walking in Dorset and the coasts within can be done at any time of year. You should check the weather using the iCoast map to make sure you can plan your walk for favourable conditions.
Dogs are welcome on many of the listed walks, as long as the owner controls the dog in a responsible manner;
- Pick up any dog litter and dispose of in a dog bin or a normal bin (only if it’s wrapped).
- Remember that you share the paths with other people and other dogs; make sure your dog is trained to behave appropriately around others.
- If you are passing through a field where there is livestock, make sure your dog is under control and doesn’t cause any disturbances. If your dog is chasing livestock, the farmer has the right to shoot it.
- Take special care on cliff-tops. Even well-behaved dogs have been lost over cliffs chasing a rabbit or just meeting an unexpected drop. You may want to put your dog on a lead to be sure of their safety until you reach a lower part of the coast.
- If you are visiting on holiday, attach the address of where you are staying so you and your dog can be reunited if you get separated.
The Dorset Dogs website gives lots of information on taking your dog into the countryside.
Go with a group
You might like to go walking on the Dorset coast with an organised group. Dorset has many different walking groups covering almost all parts of the county. They offer a range of lengths and types of walk. Some groups are quite local in nature, others cover a wider area.
Walking for Health encourages more people to become physically active in their local communities offering regular short walks over easy terrain with trained walk leaders. Walking for Health (WfH) has over 600 local schemes contributing to improving the health of over 75,000 regular walkers nationwide. Their website has a walk finder facility.
University of the Third Age (U3A)
U3As are “self-help, self-managed lifelong learning co-operatives for older people no longer in full-time work, providing opportunities for their members to share learning experiences in a wide range of interest groups and to pursue learning not for qualifications, but for fun”. Many U3As have walking groups. The U3A website has a facility to find a U3A in your area.
Other rambling / walking groups and clubs
Walking the whole of the Dorset Coast
- The South West Coast Path in Dorset is nearly ninety miles long, extending from the Devon border near Lyme Regis to South Haven Point near Poole. While some people complete this in sections spread over a long period of time, others walk it over consecutive days, staying overnight at points along the path.
- To walk it in one go, you can organise this yourself – the South West Coast Pathand South West Coast Path Association websites have suggested daily sections and lots of useful information. Several companies offer luggage transfers so you don’t have to carry your bags. Alternatively, a number of walking holiday companies offer a range of guided and self-guided options.
- In planning your walk you will need to be aware of firing times in the Lulworth Ranges. You can only use the path here when the range is not in use. The path here is very dramatic and highly recommended so it is suggested that you plan your walk for a period when the ranges are open – most weekends and holidays. Firing times can be found here. If firing is taking place, red flags are flown and the gates are locked. The alternatives are either a 13-mile detour around the ranges (partly on roads) or a more attractive option is to catch a bus (see Traveline) from West Lulworth to Corfe Castle and then walk along the ridge (which has great views) to the road near Great Wood and then descend down to rejoin the Coast Path at Kimmeridge. Details of the Corfe Castle to Kimmeridge walk can be found here.
Watch out for wildlife
- The Dorset coast has many areas that are important for wildlife and birds. These areas have restrictions at certain times of the year to help to protect the wildlife. On iCoast please turn on the restricted areas icon to show these areas when planning your activity.
- Don’t linger for too long when you are close to wildlife – by all means look, but then move on.
- Avoid damaging plants. Stay on the marked footpaths.
- Report live strandings of cetaceans, and injured/entangled marine mammals to British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) on 01825 765546 (24 hours). Report all other live injured or entangled animals to RSPCA 0300 1234 999.
Watch out for the environment
- Take home all your rubbish – discard rubbish spoils people’s experience of the Dorset coast and can harm wildlife and birds. Find out more about Marine litter in Dorset.
Please follow the following rules to ensure the safety of yourself and others;
- Please follow the Countryside code
- Some sections of the coastal paths are used by the military as training areas. Walks that are affected are marked on the iCoast website as well as times they are available to the public. Lulworth Ranges opening times
- Stay away from cliff edges, some are unstable and a trip or a slip could be fatal.
- Make sure your dog is under control.
- Be sun smart and wear sun protection. Coastal winds can sometimes mask the effects of the sun.
- Always tell someone where you’re going, mobile phone signals aren’t always reliable in some areas.
- In case of an emergency dial 999 and ask for the coastguard.
Explore the Dorset coast with iCoast