Hiking on the edge of the cliff between sea and meadows
The Old Harry Rocks is one of those trails that all sorts of hikers will enjoy: it starts at the Studland car park from where you follow the yellow directions leading you towards Swanage, the Eastern part of the Jurassic Coast. This walk is perfect to breathe some fresh sea breeze, for birdwatching’s fans and enjoy in the far reaching views of the bay of Poole and Bournemouth; if the weather is particularly clement you can even see the Needles of the Isle of White!
Before starting the walk, on the Way to Studland, you can visit quickly Corfe Castle, a ruined Norman fortress overlooking the coastline, perfect for great shots! From Bath it takes a couple of hours to get here so get organised to start your hike early or it will be pretty hot during summer if you start your walk at 12 or so. Once you leave the car in Studland National Trust car park, follow the Old Harry Rocks National trust signs at the beginning to find the right path!
Here is the South West Coast Path’s map :
Facts About the Hike
Distance: 4.7 miles/ 7,5 km
Elevation Gain: 300 meters ascent
Time: 3 hours
Map: You can take a National Trust map of this hike at the tourist office for the first part and then continue your way on the Ballard cliff and Studland hill until you reach Swanage. The hiking trails are well marked and easy to follow.
When to go: This hike is at its best during the spring and summer months, when the wildflowers are in bloom and live cattle is grazing on the edge of the cliff.
Bring: Hiking shoes, water, snacks or lunch, a waterproof light jacket (remember you are in UK!), and of course, your camera.
Getting to the start of the hike
Once you have left your car at the Studland’s car park, pick up a map at the National Trust stall or download it.
By Car: it depends where you come from. I used to live in Bath and it takes two hours without breaks.
By Bus: From Poole take bus number 40 and from Bournemouth take bus number 50 to reach Studland.
On the trail
The trail starts near the Bankes Arms pub which is a fine option for lunch or dinner. A sandy beach and toilets are nearby too. Once you start the woodland path you will start to go uphill to reach the chalk cliffs. This trails is perfect for those who love birdwatching: here you can have a glimpse of Peregrine falcons or the House martins nesting during summer.
The Old Harry Rocks are chalk rocky formations which used to be part of the main cliff and that because of coastal erosion they went adrift. Going towards the viewpoint you will be able to see the whole coastline until Bournemouth!
Once you had enough of the majestic view (if you had enough! =p), turn right on the Ballards way. You will meet a narrow path on the ridge of the cliff where on you right you can see huge and friendly cows grazing and on your left you can witness spectacular sea views.
My favourite section of this trail is Studland hill: a panoramic point where it is possible to see at same time Studland bay and Swanage bay. This point is signalled by the National Trust stone giving you directions to reach the pretty seaside town of Swanage.
This hike starts and finishes with nice beaches showing off crystal clear waters and a sandy seabed! This is one of the reasons the Jurassic Coast is one of the favourite places for family holidays and romantic weekends in a quiet area.
Once you arrive in Swanage, take an ice- cream at Giggi Ice Cream kiosk to refresh and stroll on the promenade or on the beach where you can hire kayaks or a colourful beach hut. Enjoy the walk leading to the Pier and the old harbour. If you stay the night the following day you can organise a trip to Brownsea Island to see the rare red squirrels or explore the Durlston Country Park National Reserve to explore wildlife, history and nature all at once. A third option is to take the iconic steam train which will take you back in time on a charming journey all the way to Corfe Castle! An experience to do once in a lifetime!
More information on hiking in Dorset
If you liked this hike and you are spending a week-end in the area, check out these Dorset maps and guides pointing out the best panoramic hikes in this area!50 Walks in Dorset (AA 50 Walks) Dorset: 40 Coast and Country