Walking Routes in Dorset

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 Dorset Walks
Route NamePicDistanceDescription
Arne Nature Reserve3 miles (5 km)This beautiful coastal nature reserve is located near Wareham in Dorset. There are miles of footpaths to follow through woodland, heathland and countryside to the stunning coastline. Here you can enjoy fabulous views of the islands in Poole harbour and look out for a wide variety of coastal birdlife. Visitors include wading birds, ducks, avocets, black-tailed godwits, curlew and brent geese. Ospreys are regularly seen on migration in late summer and in autumn.
With 1,392 acres to explore you can spend most of the day at the reserve. The area also has a large herd of Sika Deer which are usually seen in the fields but are often near the waters edge too.
There's a friendly visitor centre next to the car park where you can learn all about the reserve.
If you would like to continue your walk then the Purbeck Way runs through nearby Wareham. Here you can also enjoy a lovely waterside stroll along the River Frome. The Blue Pool is also nearby so you could continue your outing at this lovely turquoise lake and nature reserve.
Avon Valley Path34 miles (55 km)This wonderful path takes you from Salisbury to Christchurch on the South Coast.
You start by the magnificent cathedral in Salisbury and head south towards Downton. The path then continues through Woodgreen and Godshill Wood before you arrive at the lovely Hampshire town of Fordingridge.
The next section is particularly pleasant taking you along the River Avon to Ibsley where the path passes through the Blashford Lakes Nature Reserve which has a variety of wildlife to enjoy.
The final section then follows the river into Christchurch where you finish at the priory.
For more information on this walk please click here
Blue Pool Dorset2 miles (3 km)This extraordinary lake in Dorset is located near Wareham and Corfe Castle. Particles of clay in the water diffract reflected light, meaning the pool changes colour regularly. At any time it could be a 'cloudy' grey, green, or more typically a beautiful turquoise. Surrounding the lake are a number of sandy walking paths and peaceful woodland trails. Steps take you to a vantage point where you get great views of the pool and the surrounding Purbeck Hills. The Blue Pool is also a nature reserve. Look out for the Dartford warbler, nightjar, Silka deer, squirrels, rabbits and badgers. The site also contains a Giftshop, Museum, Tea-house and Plant Centre.
The Purbeck Way runs past the site so you could pick this up if you would like to continue your walk. Arne Nature Reserve is also nearby so this is another good option.
Bournemouth Coast Path37 miles (60 km)This super walk takes you along the beautiful Dorset and Hampshire coastline from Swanage to Lymington. You will visit the beautiful beaches at Sandbanks and Bournemouth while enjoying super cliff top walking at Swanage, Studland and Barton-on-Sea.
Other highlights include the delightful nature reserves at Studland and Hengistbury Head where you will see a variety of coastal birdlife. Also of note is the stunning Christchurch Harbour and the final section along the sea wall from Keyhaven to Lymington which has splendid views of the nearby Isle of Wight.
Brit Valley Way11 miles (18 km)From the cliffs of the Jurassic Coast at West Bay follow the Brit Valley Way to Chedington, near Beaminster. There is fantastic coastal scenery as well as splendid views of the River Brit to enjoy on this 11 mile walk through Dorset. The walk passes Wynyards Gap, Buckham Down and Beaminster before finishing at Cheddington with stunning views of the West Dorset countryside.
Brownsea Island3 miles (5.5 km)This circular walk takes you on a tour of the beautiful Brownsea Island off the coast of Poole in Dorset. The island is owned by the National Trust and has a number of delightful paths and tracks for walkers to follow. You will enjoy fabulous views of Poole harbour on the coastal stretches and see red squirrels and peacocks on the inland woodland sections. The island also has a number of bird hides where you can look out for the huge variety of birdlife that visit the island all year round. Also of note is the Baden-Powell Outdoor Centre where you can follow in the footsteps of Lord Baden-Powell and the very first Scouts who camped on the island in 1907.
Ferries can be caught from Poole Quay or Sandbanks - click here for information and times
Castleman Trailway16 miles (26 km)Travel from Ringwood to Poole along the disused Southampton to Dorchester railway line on this easy cycle and walking route. Route highlights include 3 lovely country parks - Avon Heath Country Park, Moors Valley Country Park and Upton Country Park.
For more information about this route please click here
Durlston Country Park3 miles (5 km)This circular walk takes you around the beautiful Durlston Country Park, near Swanage, Dorset. The walk begins at the car park and takes you past Durlston Castle to the coast at Durlston Head. Here you join the South West Coast Path for a coastal section to Anvil Point Lighthouse via Tilly Whim Caves. You'll also pass the Great Globe - one of the largest stone spheres in the world.
From the lighthouse you head inland to the Townsend Nature Reserve where you will find a variety of wildlife including 33 species of breeding butterfly, over 250 species of bird recorded, 500 wildflowers, 500 moths. The walk then returns to the car park and the finish point.
With 280 acres of countryside, dramatic sea cliffs and a fantastic and informative visitor centre, Durlston is well worth exploring.
Ferndown, Stour and Forest Trail10 miles (16 km)This nice easy circular walk starts and finishes in Ferndown, first taking you through Ferndown Forest to Longham where you will pass the pretty Longham Lakes.
You then join the River Stour for a pleasant waterside stretch taking you to Dudsbury before heading around Holmwood Park and finishing in Ferndown.
Frome Valley Trail16 miles (26 km)This is a riverside walk along the River Frome from its source at Evershot to Dorchester. Once complete the walk will extend to the mouth of the Frome at Poole Harbour.
The trail passes through Maiden Newton, Bradford Peveril and Charminster following existing rights of way as close as possible to the Frome. There is plenty to enjoy for wildlife lovers with Kingfisher, Sandmartin, Otter, Water Vole and damselfly often sighted by the Frome.
Hengistbury Head4 miles (7 km)Follow the miles of walking trails in this stunning nature reserve on the Dorset coast. After a short climb to the summit of Hengistbury Head you will be rewarded with fabulous views of the Isle of Wight, Mudeford Spit, Christchurch Harbour and Priory, the Purbeck Hills and Bournemouth Pier and beach. You can also walk along the lovely Mudeford Spit with its gorgeous beaches lined with pretty beach huts.
The trails are on well defined gravel paths taking you through lovely heathland and sand dunes with views of freshwater ponds, reed beds and salt marshes. Over 300 bird species have been recorded in the area including Purple Heron, the Pink-footed Goose, the European Honey Buzzard, the Melodious Warbler and numerous Skylarks. There is also a wildlife pond where the country's rarest amphibian, the Natterjack Toad can be spotted.
The Bournemouth Coast Path and the Stour Valley Way both run past Hengistbury Head so you could pick up either of these long distance trails to continue your walk.
Jubilee Trail88 miles (142 km)This walk crosses from one side of Dorset to the other, taking you on a tour of some of the county's best scenery and prettiest villages. The Trail runs from Forde Abbey on the Somerset border in the west, across Dorset to Bokerley Dyke on the Hampshire border. You will pass through Winterborne Abbas, Upwey, West Knighton, Crossways, Moreton, Bere Regis, Milton Abbas, Winterborne Stickland, Durweston, Stourpaine, Pimperne, Tarrant Gunville, Chettle and Cranborne.
Kimmeridge Bay to Chapmans Pool9 miles (14 km)This circular walk takes you along the South West Coast Path to two noteable highlights on the Jurassic Coast.
Kingston Lacy3 miles (5 km)Explore the extensive parkland and gardens surrounding this lavish country mansion near Wimborne Minster in Dorset. Well laid out way-marked footpaths will take you across the wide lawns and through peaceful woodland to the beautiful Japanese Gardens with bamboo plants, granite lanterns and an authentic Japanese tea house. You can also follow the avenue of Lime trees to the arboretum known as Nursery Wood.  Here you'll find a beautiful collection of azalea, camellia, rhododendron and flowering cherry trees. Other features in Kingston Lacy Park include the restored Victorian Kitchen Garden, the ancient Egyptian obelisk, the Rose Garden, the South Terrace, the Parterre, the Fernery and the Cedar Walk.
You can also explore the Italian style house with its collection of ancient Egyptian artefacts and paintings including pictures by Rubens and Van Dyck.
If you have time you could also explore the wider estate which covers 8500 acres. Highlights include the nearby Bradbury Rings Iron Age hill fort and the delightful two and a half mile long Beech Avenue. The Stour Valley Way long distance walking trail also runs past the estate so you could pick this up and follow the River Stour into Wimborne Minster.
Liberty Trail28 miles (45 km)Follow in the footsteps of the villagers that made their way to join the Protestant Monmouth Rebellion in 1685.
The route starts at Ham Hill Country Park where you will find splendid views of the Mendip Hills, Blackdown Hills, Quantock Hills and Dorset Downs. From here you head south through West Chinnock, Haselbury Plucknett, Misterton and Wayford before coming to Forde Abbey. This former Cistercian monastery has 30 acres of award winning gardens and is well worth a look. The route continues towards Thorncombe and then onto Fishpond Bottom via Lambert's Castle Iron Age hill fort. The final stretch takes you past Wooton Fitzpaine to Lyme Regis on the coast.
Lodmoor Country Park2 miles (3.5 km)Enjoy a peaceful walk around this country park and nature reserve in Weymouth. The park has a host of facilities with a cafe, outdoor gym, model railway and pitch and putt golf course. The adjacent nature reserve has an easy access walking path taking you through various habitats including  reedbed, open water, saltmarsh and wet grassland. The reserve attracts a wide variety of birdlife with Cetti's warbler and Little Egrets common visitors. A cycle path runs through part of the park and the south side of the nature reserve.
Lulworth Castle3 miles (5 km)Explore the beautiful grounds of this 17th Century castle on this circular walk in Dorset. You will pass the exquisite 18th century Chapel of St Mary's, the fascinating Lulworth Castle House and the recently restored Lulworth Castle.
Lulworth Cove to Durdle Door4 miles (6.5 km)Take in two of the Jurassic Coast's most spectacular natural features on this short walk in Dorset. The walk starts at the pretty village of West Lulworth where you will find rows of pretty cottages and the Castle Inn - one of the oldest pubs in Dorset dating from the 16th Century. The trail then takes you to the coast and the beautiful Lulworth Cove. This sheltered bay is enclosed almost in a circle and was formed 10,000 years ago by the combined forces of a river and the sea. Next to the cove you will pass the West Lulworth Heritage Centre which contains a museum about the coast and the village.
From the cove you follow the South West Coast Path west towards Durdle Door. This spectacular natural limestone arch also has an adjacent beach and caves. The walk then takes you back to West Lulworth along countryside walking trails.
There is ample parking at Lulworth Cove. If you are coming by public transport you could get the train to Wool and then a connecting bus to the cove.
Macmillan Way290 miles (467 km)This long distance path links Boston in Lincolnshire to Abbotsbury in Dorset. It is promoted to raise money for the charity Macmillan Cancer Relief.
The route starts from Boston and then runs across the Fens to Bourne before joining the limestone belt. You then head to Stamford and then along the shoreline of Rutland Water to Oakham. The trail then heads south and west via Warmington to Stow-on-the-Wold, then into the Cotswolds via Cirencester and Tetbury to Bradford-on-Avon. After leaving the Cotswolds you follow the path through Somerset passing Castle Cary before entering Dorset and the final section to Abbotsbury via Sherborne.
The route joins with other popular trails including the Viking Way at Oakham, the Thames Path National Trail near Thames Head and with the South West Coast Path towards the end of the route.
The Macmillan Way is well waymarked with a green and white disc.
Mapperton House1 miles (2 km)This Tudor mansion in Dorset is surrounded by stunningly beautiful gardens, perfect for a peaceful afternoon stroll. There are three levels of gardens descending from the manor house. Highlights include the beautiful Italianate garden with grottoes, stone ornamental birds, animals and fountains. ponds, an orangery and summerhouses. There is also a Wild garden with specimen shrubs and trees.
Mapperton is surrounded by lovely countryside and peaceful woodland. You could continue your walk along the Jubilee Trail which runs past the house. The gardens are open during the summer months - click here for details.
Monarch's Way615 miles (990 km)This incredible 615-mile walk approximates the escape route taken by King Charles II in 1651 after being defeated in the Battle of Worcester.
The Monarch's Way starts at Worcester then travels north to Boscobel and then south to Stratford upon Avon. It then continues south through the Cotswolds to Stow on the Wold before turning south west towards Bristol via Cirencester. The route then heads south through the Mendip Hills to Wells and then on through Somerset towards Yeovil and then south west to Charmouth. You then follow the Dorset coast before turning north again to Yeovil, before heading east across the Downs to Brighton and then onto the finish point at Shoreham-by-Sea.
The walk also takes you through two World Heritage Sites, one National Park and six Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. For those interested in the history of the walk there is ample opportunity to learn and discover more with a series of museums and historical sites dotted throughout the route.
The walk is waymarked with a picture of the ship The Surprise, the Prince of Wales crown and the Royal Oak tree at Boscobel House.
The route has been split into two separate gpx files. The first includes the section from Worcester to Bridport via the Midlands and Somerset. The second runs from Sandford Orcas to the finish point at Shoreham-By-Sea.
Monarch's Way GPS 1 (right click save as)
Monarch's Way GPS 2 (right click save as)
Moors Valley Country Park3 miles (5 km)Moors Valley Country Park and Forest, is situated in Ashley Heath, on the Dorset/Hampshire border. The park has a number of peaceful woodland paths so is a great place for a safe and easy cycle or walk. There are a number of well waymarked cycle and walking routes through the park, while there is also cycle hire available throughout the year.
The park contains the Moors River and two Lakes where you can see Grey Herons, Great Crested Grebes, Mallards and Mute Swans. There is also a steam railway and a 'Go Ape' adventure park.
Moors Valley is situated right next to Ringwood Forest so there is scope for continuing your ride for several miles through more peaceful woodland.
North Dorset Trailway17 miles (27 km)This splendid walking and cycling path runs along a dismantled railway line from Stalbridge to Spetisbury in Dorset.
The path has regular views of the River Stour following it for most of the route. You will pass through a series of pretty villages and towns including Sturminster Newton, Stourpaine and Blandford Forum before finishing at Crawford Castle at Spetisbury.
NB - at the time of writing the path is only complete from Strurminster Newton to Spetisbury - the section from Stalbridge to Spetisbury is under construction. Click here for updates.
Purbeck Way15 miles (24 km)This beautiful walk takes you from Wareham to Swanage giving splendid views of the Purbeck Hills and the Dorset coast. The route below uses the South West Cost path and the Purbeck Way to create a super circuit of the area.
The route starts with a lovely waterside stretch along the River Frome from Wareham. You then enter Stoborough Heath where you will pass the Blue Pool Dorset - a flooded, disused clay pit. Shortly after you arrive at the pretty village of Corfe Castle with its ruined 10th century castle of the same name. The path then leads you through Corfe Common and onto the stunning Dorset coast where you join the South West Coast Path. The coastal section then takes you past the beautiful Chapman's Pool, through Durlston Country Park to Swanage. From Swanage you continue to Ballard Down where you join the Purbeck Way, crossing the Purbeck Hills to return to Corfe Castle.
The video below left shows the splendid view as you cross the Purbeck Hills from Ballard Down to Corfe Castle. On your right you can see Poole Harbour and Bournemouth, while on your left is Swanage and the Purbeck Hills. On a clear day the Isle of Wight is also clearly visible.
Rempstone Ride12 miles (20 km)This is a lovely, largely traffic free cycle or walk across Rempstone Heath.
The route begins at Norden Station and soon enters the peaceful Rempstone Estate with its woodland, fields and heathland. On exiting the estate there are two alternative paths you can follow. The first heads towards the Sandbanks ferry with splendid views of Poole harbour. The other takes you to Studland with its fabulous beaches and attractive coastline. Either of these make good alternative starting points for the ride although the Sandbanks ferry will be more accessible for most.
Cyclists should use a mountain bike or hybrid as the off road tracks on Rempstone Heath are quite bumpy and sandy in places. Most of this route takes place on the traffic free Rempstone estate so is also suitable for walkers.
River Parret Trail50 miles (80 km)Follow the River Parrett from the source in Chedington in Dorset to the mouth in Bridgwater Bay, Somerset.
The route first heads to Langport passing Haselbury and the 16th century English Heritage owned Muchelney Abbey. You continue north through Langport and onto Burrowbridge where you will pass the interesting geological and historical site at Burrow Mump. The river then takes you towards Bridgwater passing the Westonzoyland Pumping Station Museum. This Industrial Heritage museum is dedicated to steam powered machinery and makes for a fascinating few hours.
The final section takes you through Bridgwater and Combwich before finishing at the beautiful Steart Nature Reserve on Bridgwater Bay.
Rodwell Trail2 miles (3 km)The Rodwell Trail is a nice easy off road trail through Weymouth using a disused railway path. After passing through the Rodwell district of Weymouth you join a lovely coastal stretch at the ruins of 16th century Sandsfoot Castle and the beautiful Sandsfoot Cove. From here the path runs along the coast to the Ferry Bridge that you can cross to the Isle of Portland.
There is a variety of wildlife to be found on the trail, including Kingfishers, Redwings and Great Crested Grebes. Plantlife includes Foxgloves, Bluebells and Meadow Buttercups.
The trail is suitable for walkers and cyclists looking for a safe off road route.
Sika Trail7 miles (11 km)This signed off road trail takes you on a tour of the peaceful Wareham Forest in Dorset.
You will pass through the high forest and open heath of the area with its variety of wildlife. Look out for crossbills and sand lizards as you make your way around this 7 mile circular ride.
This trail is suitable for families with older children as the trail is relativley flat but has a couple of climbs. The trail is signed for its duration and though it is advertised as a cycle trail it is also suitable for walkers.
Stour Valley Way60 miles (97 km)This splendid walk takes you along the River Stour from Hengistbury Head on the Dorset south coast to Stourton in Wiltshire.
You begin at Hengistbury Head and head inland through Christchurch and then on towards Wimborne Minster via Canford Magna. At Wimborne Minster you'll pass the beautiful Kingston Lacy with its acres of beautiful parkland and gardens. The route continues through Blandford Forum, Child Okeford and Sturminster Newton. The final section passes Gillingham before finishing at Stourton near the splendid Stourhead Estate and gardens.
Upton Country Park2 miles (3 km)Upton Country Park, consists of 100 acres of parkland situated on the north west edge of Poole, Dorset. Attractions include formal and informal gardens, open parkland, woodlands, farmland and the Grade II listed Upton House. There are also fine views towards the town across Poole Harbour. The route can be extended to Poole town centre by cycling or walking along the Holes Bay path.
Wareham Forest Way13 miles (21 km)Follow the Wareham Forest Way from Wareham to Sturminster Marshall on this pleasant walk
You start on the River Frome in Wareham and head north to Wareham Forest for a lovely wooded section through the heart of the forest. This section takes you through Wareham town, Wareham common and the River Piddle Valley before passing through the conifer plantations of the forest and its abundance of wildlife.
After leaving the forest behind you pass through Old Park and East Morden before coming to the finish point at Sturminster Marshall.
This walk is waymarked with signs along the length of the route.
For more information on this walking route please click here
Wessex Ridgeway137 miles (221 km)This wonderful trail runs from Marlborough in Wiltshire to Lyme Regis on the Jurassic coast in Dorset. You will pass:
- Overton Down
- The mystical Avebury stone circles
- The White Horse at Bratton
- Wardour Castle ruins
- Ibberton Hill with splendid views
-The Vale of Pewsey
- Salisbury Plain
-Pilsdon Pen - with panoramic views of Marshwood Vale
- Cerne Abbas Giant.
Wessex Ridgeway Trail62 miles (100 km)Follow the Wessex Ridgeway Trail and enjoy specatular views of the Dorset countryside on this shared walking and cycling path.
The trail begins at Tollard Royal in Wiltshire and heads to Hambledon Hill passing through Ashmore Wood and crossing the River Iwerne on the way.
A short section along the river Stour and a wooded spell through Blandford Forest take you to Ibberton and then onto Up Cerne and Maiden Newton. You then head to Beaminster before passing through the beautiful Marshwood Vale and finishing on the jurassic coast at Lyme Regis.

 Dorset Walking Links
Dorset AONBQuality site that covers the area in depth
Dorset Cottage HolidaysGreat selection of self-catering holiday cottages in Dorset
Dorset for youCycling and Walking information in the area
Jurrasic CoastThe Dorset and East Devon Coast World Heritage Site is England's first natural World Heritage Site - it is known as The Jurassic Coast
Lulworth EstateInformation on this beautiful estate in Dorset

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